Business intelligence expert Stephen Few goes on another rant about information graphics — mainly about the work of David McCandless, designer of The Visual Miscellaneum. Few’s post is in response to another from Teradata marketing director Mario Bonardo, praising innovation and new ideas, etc for business intelligence.
Bonardo wrote: “Being asked about the differences between traditional information graphics and his own ones, McCandless said he is aiming to remove as much irrelevant information as possible to get to the core of things, discover new correlations and challenge traditional views.” My dismay does not stem from McCandless’ words, but from his actual practices, which don’t deliver what he claims and certainly don’t point the way to a productive future for analytics.
Normally, I take the let’s-agree-to-disagree route, as these types of arguments always end up going in circles, but I actually agree with Few. Not because I don’t like David’s work (I do), but because David’s work is a cross between news and entertainment. Business intelligence, which really is just statistics for business, is analysis. It’s not entertainment.
Few ends with:
Rather than trying to innovate in the realm of analytics without the required expertise, it’s time for BI companies, consultants, and thought leaders to first learn the basics of data sensemaking and communication—analytics—and only afterwards to try their hands at creating something new.
It’s the nature of technology to highlight and bring hype to bright and shiny tools, but in the end, the tools are just that. You still have to learn data. Whether a tool works or not depends on the purpose and context.
[Visual Business Intelligence | Thanks, Jan]