Three Success Factors to leverage Data Visualisation to Support your Digital Transformation

Being in the middle of the Digital Transformation means to be in the middle of a multifaceted change process. Although the first challenges which might pop-up in your head might relate to leveraging new technologies or upskilling your existing workforce – the most fundamental and often underestimated success factor is that your corporate culture and organisational design needs to be geared towards agility and support this change where it matters most: among the people who will make this change happen through their day-to-day actions.

Creating and establishing new habits is at the core of any change process. No matter if it’s a personal one where you try to lose weight or a professional one where you want to be more productive at work or establish norms and values within a team: it all comes down to creating new habits successfully, which helps you achieve your objectives and basically operationalise the willingness to implement a new and different behaviour.

Designing new habits is for me one of the most interesting design challenges of all and it has a lot to do with data, analytics and really good data visualisation. When you think of the blueprint of a new habit, you can break it down into three fundamental components: triggers, routines and rewards. Triggers making sure to be reminded of the new behaviour you want to implement, routines helping you to simply execute consistently what is required to achieve your objectives and ultimately the reward to help you stay motivated and going through the pains of change.

Data Visualisation plays a key part in implementing successful triggers, routines and rewards, because there is nothing more powerful than showing humans real data about their behaviour, the progress they make and how far they are still away from achieving what they want. If you get the Data Visualisation right it will resonate deeply with the humans who want to implement the new habit and it will inspire action and the desired change naturally.

This can be done in a personal and professional context alike! Let’s take a look at a simple but extremely effective example of a Data Visualization, which has the all key ingredients you need to change the behavior of human beings.

The three Activity rings of the Apple Watch.

They have the potential to go down as one of the biggest change enablers for personal health in human history and there are so successful, because they qualify for the same three success factors to leverage Data Visualization for a Digital Transformation. Each of these factors are universal an can be applied in this very personal context of an Apple Watch, but also to the Digital Transformation process many corporations go through right now.

1. Visualize Actionable Proxy Metrics

The three rings – Apple is asking millions of people to close everyday – measure your movement, training and standing time. But your objective is to become healthier! Good KPIs to determine if your health actually has improved over time would be things like your change in BMI, resting pulse or cholesterol level. So why are the rings not showing that directly?

While these are good indicators for your underlying goal, they are relatively slow changing and complicated to measure and therefore not suited to drive the adoption of a new habit. For a Data Visualization to be powerful in supporting a transformation process you have to select the right metrics for Visualization first.

Selecting actionable proxies translating the change you need to implement are key. How much you move, train and stand every day is one key part of the equation to live a healthier life. While only representing a part of the bigger picture, we know that people who will make progress on these metrics, will also quite likely improve other required behaviours like improving their nutrition.

What is great about these proxy metrics are basically three things:

  1. Influence: You can influence these metrics directly and they are truly under your control without dependencies
  2. Measurability: The metrics are easy to measure with the watch and there is no complicated process involved in getting the data acquired
  3. Frequency: The metrics can be measured very often in short time intervals to get an indication for progress frequently

Data Visualisation can fuel a transformation process and keep it going if the Visualisation is constantly triggering and rewarding people to establish new routines. This will only work out if we visualise metrics we can actually influence, measure and see progressing frequently.

2. Keeping it simple and focused on progress

While the Apple Watch has picked three great proxy metrics to help forming new habits which help you to achieve the underlying goal to live a healthier life, it also managed to choose one single visualisation which is reduced to the max and focused on progress.

During the day you will check your watch multiple times and you can answer within a second without a lot of computing in your brain three key questions:

  1. Status Quo: Am I making progress? It is extremely easy to see where I stand during any given time of the day and I don‘t really need to read or process anything. The circles are so simple yet powerful that I can assess my situation within a second.
  2. Action Area: Where do I need to take action, to achieve my goal? The Color coding of the rings is learned very quickly and no further annotation of the data is needed. I directly know what do and where my focus should be to achieve my goal.
  3. Forecast: Will I be able to achieve my goal today? We have not only set clear goals, but we can also intuitively put the data into our day-to-day context and forecast ourselves if we are on a good track and will be able to make it.

All these three things are essential to optimise the routines which are connected to this new habit. We not only get triggered and rewarded, we can adopt our routines to actually achieve what we need to achieve, as we know immediately where we are, where we need to act and how far we still have to go.

3. Embedding you Data Visualisation in your Day-To-Day Life

Depending on the watch face you select you will see the three rings progressing dozens of times a day and they will fire triggers four your change process without thinking about it by just moving your wrist and taking a look at your watch to check the time or a notification.

It’s probably the most simple and powerful embedding of a Data Visualisation into Day-to-Day Life you can possible think of, which is key to it’s success. You don’t need to unlock your phone, open an app, navigate through it and check out different graphs and use any filters or drop-down. It’s right there where you need it and helps you to form your new habit.

Three aspect in the design process of a powerful Data Visualisation which can support your change process are key therefore:

  1. Mobile First: You need to design for mobile devices first, as not matter where your digital transformation is heading, you want you team to be as close to the data as possible to fire the triggers, start routines and get the rewards for the new habits they need to implement.
  2. Embedded in other routines: one of the key tricks here is, that the three rings are popping up in other routines. You for example check for the time or a notification and your rings are right there as part of the other routine and are truly embedded in different regular appearing activities.
  3. Fit for context: it’s key to envision the context in which people will be accessing the Data Visualisation so it’s perfectly designed to answer the key questions you have exactly in that moment and to keep the access barriers as low as possible, so no further activity is required.

You obviously never design anything in isolation, but you always think of the context of where and how something get’s used. That is no different for any Data Visualisation and becomes even more important, when the underlying objectives is to form new habits, to unlock change and support your Digital Transformation.

How to apply this to your Digital Transformation

Taking the Apple Watch is a great example, nevertheless you still have to transfer the above into the context of your business and your Digital Transformation. I hope while reading through it, you already could make the first connections to your individuals business context and that the first ideas on how this can be applied in a professional context came to mind.

Any form of a digital transformation will change not just the technologies in use and the skills required, but more importantly will need a whole organisation to be rewired. No matter if you transform your Marketing, Sales, Products, Business Model, Recruitment, Procurement, Collaboration or any other area of your business: you will bust silos like crazy, confront your organisation with new ways-of-working, with an increased and sometimes unwanted transparency, with the possibility to automate new processes, which might be right now other peoples jobs and you need to evolve first and foremost quite likely your corporate culture, which is the ground in which you plant the digital transformation seeds.

You will need to break this change down into new structures, behaviours, objectives and in the end new habits and I can only encourage you to see Data Visualisation as one of the key tools to help driving this change and unlocking your digital transformation. More about that soon here on LinkedIn.


team_sebastian-cac88d3a3d05c33fd00b366170069d7f7ce8a7821071d3aa1d03af0d9f03bfebWritten by Sebastian Küpers

Chief Intelligence Officer Publicis Emil

Sebastian has 19 years experience in creating, selling and managing digital projects in all shapes and sizes. Expert in marketing related usecases like personalization, marketing automation, conversational interfaces, media optimization & business intelligence, Sebastian is a trusted advisor on varied security, data protection and scalability requirements.

For the past seven years at digital agency Publicis Pixelpark, Sebstian has led a team of Data Analysts, Scientists, Engineers & Architects to transform marketing in an AI first world. In parallel, he has founded several companies himself.

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