Businesses everywhere are obsessed with data — how to find it, how to store it, what to do with it. Data is often referred to as the new currency. Yet data alone, trapped in endless rows and columns without an easy way to understand it, is worthless.

For business users, making data actionable requires visualizing the data so it can be easily interpreted. As a developer, it falls on you to make that possible when you’re designing data aggregation applications. Finding the right solution — inexpensive and powerful, yet flexible enough to serve the needs of the end user — can be challenging.

In this post, we’ll highlight several criteria to consider when selecting a tool for embedding visualizations in your apps.

Make navigation easy for your end users
The best visualization tools provide a simple and intuitive UI that allows end users to quickly extract meaning from data and build dashboards that present the data in useful formats. This can’t be too technical; tools that require any coding or understanding of SQL, for example, are generally poorly suited to business users. Simple drag-and-drop functionality helps end users get the most out of a visualization tool.

Save your users time
Hopping back and forth from one application that houses the data to another that creates the data visualization is cumbersome and time consuming. Having visualization capabilities embedded within the application itself provides a much more convenient and seamless user experience. Additionally, having all critical visualizations available on a single page whenever possible greatly simplifies navigation and makes information consumption more efficient.

Allow customization for users
Data is constantly changing, and your users need to be able to access the right data at the right time. That’s why it’s critical to use dashboards with a live connection to the data and dynamic rendering capabilities that your users can customize to their specific needs. Executives often reference dashboards during meetings and presentations, so the ability to sort, filter, and drill down into the data to address questions on the fly can mean the difference between delivering the information an audience needs or leaving them scratching their heads.

Avoid hidden costs
As is often the case with software, purchase price is only one factor in determining the true cost. Things like contract requirements, data integration requirements, implementation time and complexity, and ongoing maintenance can all drive up the amount of resources required to implement a solution. A solution that you have to code yourself, for example, will require additional coding for any updates or new feature requests. However, a solution that’s quick and easy to implement up front, and that won’t require hours and hours of development time for maintenance and change requests, helps eliminate those hidden costs.

The right solution is out there
By basing your selection on the criteria listed above, you’ll find a solution that meets the needs of your end users without breaking the bank or requiring significant development resources.

Check out IBM Cognos Dashboard Embedded for free today by clicking here.

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