Visual Analytics

What it is, why it matters, and best practices.

Screenshots demonstrating a rich Qlik Sense dashboard on both desktop and mobile devices

Visual Analytics Guide

This guide provides examples and practical advice to help you perform world-class visual analytics of your own.

What is Visual Analytics?

Visual analytics is the use of sophisticated tools and processes to analyze datasets using visual representations of the data. Visualizing the data in graphs, charts, and maps helps users identify patterns and thereby develop actionable insights. These insights help organizations make better, data-driven decisions.

Sometimes confused with data visualization, visual analytics isn’t simply a matter of representing data graphically. Rather, modern, interactive visual analytics makes it easy to combine data from multiple sources and deeply analyze the data directly within the visualization itself. Further, AI and machine learning algorithms can offer recommendations to help guide the user’s exploration.

Visual Analytics Benefits

The overall benefit of visual analytics is that it helps turn massive data sets into business insights which can have a major positive impact on your organization.
  1. Share findings and track progress: Interactive reports and dashboards help users track, organize and share key performance indicators across an organization.
  2. Make faster decisions: Users can understand data insights much more quickly by seeing and working with data sets when they are in a visual format.
  3. Explore data more easily: Self-service analytics tools which allow users to interact with data in a visual context allows them to discover hidden relationships and patterns in the data without relying on help from IT.
  4. Promote data literacy: Making data easier to work with and understand democratizes data analytics, getting more people across and organization involved.

Visual Analytics Examples

Explore these examples based on KPIs relevant to specific roles.
  • Screenshot of a Qlik Sense Marketing dashboard


    In this example, visual analytics helps a marketer boost ROI by letting them see and understand each phase of the customer life cycle. This is made possible by connecting data from the CRM, advertising tools, and web analytics platform.
  • An operations dashboard helps you explore relationships between complex data sources to improve planning, increase performance and monitor risk.

    Supply Chain

    Big data visual analytics can help supply chain managers immediately find connections between complex, disparate data sources by surfacing KPIs and allowing interactive exploration.
  • Screenshot of a Qlik Sense Sales dashboard


    Sales managers benefit from the clean, organized presentation of sales data to increase revenue, improve forecasting, and identify key trends.
  • An executive HR dashboard provides all critical KPIs in one place and the ability to drill into the data

    Human Resources

    Visualizations can provide HR executives the ability to review and analyze KPIs in a single dashboard. This example shows data on employees by role and by location, plus key data such as gender ratio and training progress.
  • Finance

    In this example, a loan manager at a consumer bank can explore how different regions, product and loan officers perform over time and drive the biggest impact on revenue and margins.
  • IT Visual Analytics

    IT managers can leverage data analytics and visualization to better anticipate upcoming technology needs and identify underused systems and applications.

Visual Analytics Best Practices

To help you be successful with visual analytics, we’ve compiled the following key best practices to be aware of.

Define goals

Before you begin, be sure to define specific goals for your visual data analysis work. What specific questions are you trying to answer?

Integrate and manage the data

Your source data needs to be transformed into clean, business-ready information. You’ll need to combine and replicate data from a variety of sources and then bring it into standardized formats stored in a repository such as a data lake or data warehouse.

Simplify visualizations

Choose the right visual technique to present your story in the simplest way possible. Learn more about visualizing data.

Get Inspired

See the ten most compelling and interesting data visualization examples from recent years.

Visual Analytics Software Capabilities

With so many vendors offering visualization features as part of their software, it can be difficult to select the right tool to meet your needs. The best data analytics tools include the following capabilities:

Integrate and manage big data

The best tools can combine and manage data from multiple sources to give users the full picture.

Allow free exploration

Your tool should allow you to freely explore data in whatever direction your intuition leads. Static charts and linear drill-downs make it harder to answer your questions.

Suggest visuals with AI

Augmented analytics recommends visualizations which help even novice users build their own analytics views and discover hidden insights.

Embed everywhere

Your software should let users explore visual data analysis from within whatever websites, portals, apps and business processes they use to make decisions.

Analyst Perspectives on Visual Analytics

Compare the best analytics software with the latest analyst reports.

BARC: The BI & Analytics Survey 2021

See how top dashboard and analytics tools stack up in the world’s largest independent survey of BI users.

  • Image displaying the comparative matrix of BI vendors from the BARC BI & Analytics Survey 2021.
    Qlik Sense earned 11 number one category rankings including Dashboards and Customer Experience and 44 leadership positions.
  • Image displaying the comparative ranking of BI vendors for dashboards from the BARC BI & Analytics Survey 2021.
    93% of surveyed users rate Qlik Sense’s functionality for creating dashboards as excellent or good.

Learn More About Visual Analytics


7 Tips for More Effective Visualizations


5 Visualization Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)

How-to Guide

Design Best-in-Class Dashboards

Vendor Evaluation Guide

How to Choose a Modern Analytics Platform

kpi dashboard examples

Take visual analytics to a whole new level with Qlik

Self-service big data visual analytics is just one way Qlik Sense® sets the benchmark for next-generation data analytics technologies. Our one-of-a-kind associative analytics engine and sophisticated AI empowers people at all skill levels to freely explore data, make bigger discoveries and uncover bolder insights that can’t be obtained using other analytics tools. With Qlik, you can support nearly any use case and massively scale users and data, empowering everyone in your organization to make better decisions every day.


  • The term data visualization typically refers to the graphical depiction of data, or representing data in bubble charts, heat maps, and other visuals to help people better understand the patterns, relationships, trends, and other meaningful insights in datasets. Visual analytics refers to the use of an analytics program to perform advanced analysis of complex datasets and allow users to explore and interact with dynamic visualizations.

  • Bar charts, line charts, pie charts, cartograms, donut charts, heat maps, histograms, radial maps, streamgraphs, scatter plots, timelines, treemaps, and word clouds are some of the many ways data can be presented visually.

  • It is important because it allows users without data science skills or experience to combine, manipulate, and explore large, dynamic, multi-dimensional, and multi-sourced datasets. In a world in which big data becomes the norm, visual analytics becomes an essential tool.

  • Business users can leverage visual analytics to more easily explore and understand large volumes of diverse data and gather the insights they need to solve problems, identify key opportunities, optimize performance, and inform strategic and tactical decision-making. It can also be used to create interactive dashboards and support collaboration amongst teams working with the same datasets.

Get ready to transform your entire business with data.