Post by Rob Collie
The Models We Build in Power Pivot are the Prime Movers. Visualization is “Just” Where the Information (Output of the Model) Meets the Humans.
A Comment Plucked Straight from My Brain!
Avi’s post last week was deliberately thought-provoking (and to some, perhaps outright provoking, heh heh). It drew a lot of views, shares, tweets, and comments.
My favorite comment, by far, was this one by Andrew. Here’s a slightly condensed version of it:
“Five years from now, I envision a time when awesome visualization tools and incredible and beautiful charts are common and very cheap. Everyone will have those and they will be easy to make. What will still be rare is what Power Pivot does and the role that it plays along with Power Query. The real action is in prepping data and turning it into information that can be visualized… not the actual visualizations. Unfortunately, so many get lost amid a sea of pretty bars on maps and dynamic spider webs…
It’s the model stupid! It’s the ease of crunching numbers and aggregating millions of rows on the fly! It’s the simplicity of turning trash data into sparkling clean information and not having to go through red tape clogged and extremely expensive departments to do it – do it yourself!…
Hear hear, Andrew! Salute! We park our cars in the same garage, as the movie producer said to Christian Slater in True Romance. As I’ve said before, even the phrase “let’s look at the data” sets us up for failure.
Visualization: NOT Unimportant. Just Easier to Replace!
Just Like Light Bulbs: Crucial, But MUCH Easier to Replace than the Wiring.
In short, my observations today come down to these three things:
- RVOE: Replacement Value Over Excel. Excel is essentially free, and is incredibly under-rated as a viz tool. If you measure any Viz tool’s true value through this lens, it’s much harder to justify the price of most of them.
- It’s Relatively Easy for Software Firms to Build a Viz Tool. Compared to modeling and calc engines like Power Pivot, at least. And Power Pivot is the best such engine on the market. So, I think it’s sensible to start with Power Pivot as your core “commitment,” and then pick your viz layer – there are many available, and many more to come as time goes on.
- Don’t buy a “full stack” Analytics Tool Just Because of its Viz capabilities. This is kinda the corrolary to #2, but it also helps us understand why certain “Viz” tools are so stinking expensive.
- My parting thoughts on the ways in which Viz tools ARE important.