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Chapter 19. Adding Charts and Graphics t... > In the Real World—Visualizing Data

In the Real World—Visualizing Data

Database developers, who deal with tables and query result sets on a daily basis, tend to forget that consumers of their products aren't necessarily fond of tabular data. Having to scan—let alone digest—reams of tabular data, whether on paper or PC monitor, is one of the curses of the cubicle. Management executives primarily are interested in trends and exceptions. Only when trends go the wrong way or exceptions hit the bottom line are suits or pinstripes likely to be interested in detail data. (The term suits has come to mean middle management; pinstripes distinguish top executives, bankers, and eastern venture capitalists.)

Meaning, Significance, and Visualization

Data becomes information when one grasps the meaning and significance of the data. Well-designed charts and graphs based on summary queries make the data contained in millions of rows of transactional tables meaningful. The significance of information is in the eye of the beholder. If your bonus is based on sales, trends in sales determine much of your income; if you're a profit-sharing participant, it's the bottom line that counts. As noted at the beginning of the chapter, time-series graphs and charts are most common, because spotting trends and taking action based on trends is one of management's primary responsibilities. Trends inherently are historical in nature; regression analysis and other statistical methods enable projecting historical performance to the future with varying degrees of risk. In many cases, the experienced eye of a seasoned executive can better project future trends than the most sophisticated statistical algorithms.


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