Organizations are beginning to lean on data visualization tools more frequently as they discover the tremendous advantage it has over narrative text to compare, analyze and report on actionable insights and performance metrics.

But how do you best communicate the import of those insights and how they fit in to the overall scheme of business objectives and strategies?

To begin with, it is helpful to know how to best use basic data visualization tools and to understand which ones are best suited for which types of data sets. Here are four tips:

Use pie charts to illustrate values of the parts relative to the whole. But pie charts have their limitations. When you have more than five categories to compare, however, your reader is more challenged to decipher your graphic’s meaning at a glance. When too many sections are included, interpretation becomes more laborious.

Use a tabular format only when exact numerical figures are being reported. But tables won’t help your users recognize trends or compare sets of data. This format also becomes unwieldy with larger data sets.

Use bar charts to compare categories of data. Most frequently, one axis of the chart lists the categories being compared, and the other axis represents discrete values.

Use line charts to represent continuous data over time. They are ideal for showing trends over time. You can add a trend line to point out performance within a certain period of time, set against a benchmark.

These fundamental data visualization tools can help get you started communicating your data and insights in more precise and impactful ways.

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