Data Visualization, SQL Saturday, SSRS

I’m speaking at SQL Saturday #190 in Denver

sqlsat190speakerI’m looking forward to speaking at SQL Saturday #190 in Denver, Colorado. This will be my 6th SQL Saturday at which I have spoken. It’s becoming a habit! The title of my session is The Accidental Report Designer: Data Visualization Best Practices in SSRS. Here is the description of my session:

Whether you are a DBA, a developer, or an analyst, there is a good chance that you will have to create reports for coworkers, company executives, or clients. As with any UI design, careful consideration should be given to your data visualization design to ensure you are effectively communicating the intended message and providing a good user experience. While the principles are applicable across reporting platforms and tools, this session will contain demos and examples implemented in Reporting Services using SQL Server Data Tools. Learn how to make information (not just data) the focus of your report and provide your audience with something better than just shiny!

I’m passionate about data visualization. Data professionals work so hard to gather, integrate, cleanse, aggregate, and deliver data to users. Creating a good report turns that data into actionable information, taking it the last mile. Consequences of bad report design range from failure to provide appropriate business insights to misleading users and causing them to draw incorrect conclusions. As much as I enjoy my job as a data professional, my job does not exist simply for my enjoyment. My goal is to create solutions that provide timely, accurate, usable information to ultimately help businesses cut costs or create new revenue. I’m missing the mark if I allow poor report design to jeopardize my efforts.

Report design is not just for BI professionals. Pretty much everyone (business users, data professionals, developers, managers) has to create a report at some point in their professional lives, whether it is built in Excel using static data or embedded in a web page using .NET and javascript. While there is no one true way to design a report, research (and some common sense) shows that some methods are more effective than others. I frequently encounter two common mistakes. In our strive to make things visually appealing, we often lose sight of the goal of effective communication of the appropriate information, opting for bling over business insight. On the flip side of that, many people default to a wide table full of hundreds of lines of data rather than spend the time to plan our graphs or charts to highlight the important trends and indicators.

When I began learning data visualization best practices, I felt like my eyes had been opened to a facet of my work that I had been unintentionally ignoring. I realized I had been making several common mistakes simply because I did not understand the user experience I was providing through my design choices. If you are a developer, it is important to realize that reports/dashboards/data visualizations require as much planning and thoughtfulness as any other user interface design. It is not enough to slap the graph on the page and move on.

Here are some online resources for those who would like to learn more about report design and data visualization best practices:

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