The high value of advanced data visualization

September 3, 2014




Successful business strategies are built not only on robust datasets and sophisticated analytics, but on compelling visualizations. According to our Digital IQ Survey of nearly 1,500 business and technology executives, only 31% of respondents are investing in data visualization. This could be the reason behind why 65% of respondents also agree that moving from data to insight is a major challenge. We believe data visualization is key to solving the big data puzzle. And that’s why PwC created “the Wall.”

Brought to life through a joint venture through one of our many university research relationships, the Wall is about the size of a movie screen with a setup of eight 55” monitors, arranged in a 4×2 format, with the ability to display images within or across the screens. The Wall’s advanced data visualization capabilities can help companies make strategic decisions in any number of areas such as the development of new products and services and improved operations.

Data visualization with PwC's "The Wall"

There are three reasons why large-scale visualization provides value:

  1. Visuals can help people achieve more insight into the nature of a problem and discover new understanding by observing patterns, trends, and outliers in the data.
  2. Successful visualizations are efficient — they enable people to look at – and quickly absorb – vast quantities of data, often spread across different charts, tables, maps, etc.
  3. Finally, large visuals can help create a shared view of a situation and align folks on needed actions. They are useful in driving collaboration around complex analyses.

Let’s say an insurance company is looking to expand a particular customer segment. Presumably, the company will want to focus initially on those geographies that represent some combination of high market potential, strong agency presence, attractive customer behaviors, and favorable competitive environments. The company can use the Wall to prioritize geographies, using a combination of individually selected and weighted metrics under these categories.

As for exploring what investments to make (e.g., customer prospecting, agency education, etc.), the company could also use the Wall to identify potential agent partners for testing out new investment ideas and its simulation capabilities to test the national impact of investments under different scenarios.

The Wall is a complex tool that allows for an almost infinite number of analyses. It can prioritize geographies based on selection and ordering of 39 variables across four categories. To inform this, we can conduct analysis over multiple visuals, including national and local maps, as well as various charts (e.g., bar charts, scatterplots, and time series).

The brain reacts much more efficiently, effectively and rapidly to the graphical representation of data. Large-scale visualizations enable data scientists to quickly detect patterns in big data that would otherwise go unnoticed, helping companies to close the gap between information and insights. Have you experienced the power of data visualization?


Trevor Tan contributed to this post.



Chris Curran

Principal and Chief Technologist, PwC US Tel: +1 (214) 754 5055 Email

Vicki Huff Eckert

Global New Business & Innovation Leader Tel: +1 (650) 387 4956 Email

Mark McCaffery

US Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Leader Tel: +1 (408) 817 4199 Email