Data Management

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Data's New Look: Demand for Visualization Tools Is Coming

Business users and executives in financial services will eventually demand data visualization to make their workflow more productive.

Data, data and more data. All we seem to hear about is how data is growing exponentially. This column is essentially data, since it's being delivered to you electronically. So yes, Wall Street & Technology is helping to grow the amount of data in the marketplace.

More seriously, however, data is becoming a larger challenge for all companies and especially for financial services organizations. They traditionally have been able to handle large amounts of market data. As data volumes increase, which they have been doing for years, and as new types of data get thrown into the data analysis mix, financial firms are facing additional challenges. For instance, what can they actually do with all of the data?

Big data technologies and strategies are helping financial firms deal with data in new ways. Just a few short years ago, many firms never even considered using big data on an enterprise level. New regulatory requirements, however, are demanding that companies report enterprise-wide data to improve financial transparency. Big data strategies help aggregate information from across the enterprise, analyze it and generate reports to senior executives.

Other specialties inside of financial organizations are looking to use data from social media, mobile, retail, weather information and other consumer channels to help define strategies, pick stocks and set guidance for investors. These types of information represent a growing overall percentage of data that IT shops must manage. As one New York-based CIO of a large brokerage firm told me recently, "Once users get a taste of big data, they want more and more."

A Better View

However, managing the data is only part of the challenge. Most business users aren't Excel aficionados or stat gurus. While some members of the C-suite love to dive into spreadsheets and crunch numbers, most prefer snapshots that can represent data visually. Heat maps and dashboards that present fixed data points have been around for a while, and most firms use these tools in a variety of areas -- on the trading desk and for portfolio and wealth managers.

[How To Select The Most Accurate Data Visualization]

Modern data visualization tools, however, take the heat maps of yesterday to a new level. Users can manipulate data to show different outcomes, or "what if" scenarios. Often these tools are in 3-D, and can be manipulated on screen or even on an iPad without having to contact a data analyst to rerun a report, or modify an algorithm.

Still, data visualization is complex and requires organized data to show realistic outcomes. As the technology continues to mature and become more user friendly, more business users and executives will request, and eventually demand, data visualization to make their workflow more productive and, hopefully, their customers more profitable.

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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