The ‘Before’ Chart
The chart above was shown to me by an ex-colleague of mine. Details were modified to protect the confidentiality of the original company. It displays six pie charts representing the KPI (key performance indicator) performance of departments of a division in August 2006. The chart shows the percentages of each department’s KPI performance in four categories represented by colour codes.
The KPI Status Dashboard is a static dashboard I developed for an organization I used to work for with the purpose of visualizing the general trend of individual group’s (in this case, department) performance relative to others, using the widely-used Key Performance Indicators (KPI) traffic light system of green, amber, and red.
The Tender Compliance Dashboard is a static dashboard that I designed for use in a tender evaluation process for an organization I worked for. Naturally, the details of the information in the dashboard were changed to protect the confidentiality of information within the dashboard. The modified data do not hamper with the dashboard design and thus, valuable design principles can still be gleamed and learned from it.
At its core, every chart, every graph, every visualization that we make, it is all about one thing, and that thing is communication. Communication to our audience, even communication to ourself. If the audience does not understand with relative ease the chart or the graph presented, then we have not been clear in our communication of the chart or graph. Granted, a chart is only one medium of communication. There is also the context in which the presentation of the chart is made, how it relates to the whole message of the particular presentation, and how the presenter verbally communicates the chart and hence its message. However, that topic is best saved for another time.
As the topic indicates, we are going to touch on the aspect of communicating clear message in charts. A chart is like a visual picture, and as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and so it does with a chart. Unlike a painting however, it should not take a person more than just a few moments to correctly identify and understand the message that a chart communicates. A chart needs to be simple enough to communicate its message almost instantaneously. Ideally, if the audience can understand a chart without the need for the presenter to explain it further, then that is the ultimate success in communicating clear message.
This principle is important when a person needs to communicate a message using limited medium, say a brochure for example. A typical brochure has very limited space. Plus, it is normally meant for mass distribution, which means the message originator would find it hard to communicate their message face to face. However, in the corporate setting, like the one I am used to, this is not so critical. More often than not, the presenter would have ample opportunity to explain his or her chart. Yet, this does not mean that one should care less about the way one presents the information.
As this is my first entry on visualizing data through analytics, I believe it is fair to start with a story that is close to my heart. At the time of this writing, I am pursuing an MBA with Manchester Business School, of the University of Manchester. I made the decision to pursue an MBA with this business school due to a number of factors, and they were all derived using some simple analysis, which I will share in this post.
MBA Rankings Overview
Those of you who are familiar with MBA programmes may have heard about MBA rankings, published by a number of organizations. There are many arguments for and against MBA rankings. Each publication has its own unique methodology which may lead to certain criteria being weighted higher than others. Moreover, certain parties may choose to game the ranking system by focusing on heavily weighted criteria which gives them favourable ranks. However, this post is not about debating the merits of the ranking systems. If you are interested, you may read this article by Poets & Quants, which discusses the pros and cons of MBA ranking publications.
There are a number of publications that rank MBA courses from business schools all over the world. Arguably, chief among the ranking organizations are BusinessWeek, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Financial Times, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal. Naturally, the rankings among all of them differ due to the different methodologies used. There are a few reputable articles comparing the methodology, dimensions and criteria used by these publications in order to come up with the best, unbiased ranking system. The one I like best is again from Poets & Quants, which you may read in this article.