The article makes the same conflation, but while reading it I noticed something interesting. The concrete examples cited are of clever consultants who crafted innovative data visualizations on the fly, to make conclusions patently apparent to even mathematically-challenged decision-makers. That kind of thing is important, and has been going on for over 140 years.*
*Yes, I’m trotting out the Florence Nightingale example again. I continue to be in awe of her.
What worries me is the article’s suggestion that the best data visualizations are done by visualization experts, as ways of making information apparent to other people. For as long as data visualization relies on hotshot visual-design experts doing one-off projects, its impact on enterprises overall will remain extremely limited. In other words, to the extent it is incorrect to conflate data visualization and data exploration, data visualization will remain a fringe technology.
To be fair, a primary decision support/business intelligence usage cycle has always been — where by “always” I mean “for at least the past 35+ years” —
- Data exploration. Power user uses technology to find something interesting.
- “Look what I found!” Power user then shows a report, chart, or other summary/representation to colleagues.
So to the extent modern interactive data exploration/visualization technology fits that paradigm, great. But to the extent that visualization experts are somehow integral to the technology’s use, it will remain stuck on the analytic fringe.