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How To Select Data Visualization Software

Ready to pick out your data visualization software? Make sure you’ve covered all eight of these steps first.

Dylan, Founder and Managing Partner at ClearPoint, has over 25 years of experience working with organizations to improve their performance management and strategy execution processes.

If you need to take very large data sets and configure them in simple, digestible, and engaging ways, you may be searching for data visualization software. Many are drawn to this kind of software for its modern visual appeal, as it allows you to create data visuals far more advanced than basic bar charts. For example, if you want to see what a particular demographic of your customers bought on a specific day, data visualization software could provide you with great results. 

Below, we’ve provided a number of simple steps to help you select the tool that will best meet your needs.

1. Determine why you need software.

First, you need to determine who will actually be interacting with the software regularly, as the person responsible for software selection may not be the end user. Be sure to talk to these individuals and detail out what they are looking for in data visualization software and the context behind those needs.

2. Figure out the end-user requirements.

Once you’ve determined who is going to be using the data visualization tool, begin surveying the individuals to create two lists: “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Ask those that will be using the software what problems they’d like to solve and how they think data visualization software will play a key role.

3. Determine your budget and project timeline.

Based on your requirements, does this seem more like an 18-month project with a $500,000 budget or a one-month project with a $10,000 budget? There’s a huge difference between the two—and these things should be determined before you begin shopping for software.

There are tons of things that can affect pricing, including the hardware, number of user licenses, upgrades, maintenance, training, integrations, modifications, conversions, implementation services, and more. (Your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves will come in handy once you start shopping in the next step!)

Find out what you should ask a potential software vendor to ensure they’re right for you.

4. Conduct RFP or research as you are required.

You’ve now figured out who will be using the software, what they need, how much you can spend, and how quickly the project should be completed. Now it’s time to research your options!

We suggest narrowing down your search to organizations that fit your budget and have (or have nearly all of) your must-haves. All data visualization software companies are different; some will post pricing directly online (or send it to you via email after an inquiry).

If you are a public sector organization—say, a municipality—you may have to write a request for proposal (RFP). You can read all about that in this article. Once you have the capabilities and prices of some vendors, you can whittle down the list.

5. Make a short list of possibilities.

You won’t want to waste your time parsing through a huge list—and you won’t want to waste a software company’s time either—so we suggest only presenting upper management with two or three favorite data visualization options. If you have done your search right, you will be excited about a few possibilities (and hopeful that they surprise and delight you in the next step).

6. Provide some of your information and ask for a mock-up.

You’ve likely seen some examples of what the software can do to data in general—but it’s important to see what it can do with a sample of your data. Some organizations may simply collect that information and send you a mock-up, while others will walk you through a live guided demo. Others still may provide you with a free trial period of their software and allow you to use it for a limited time. This article describes how to use that time wisely and to your advantage!

7. Be sure their support team fits culturally with your organization.

This is easily (and frequently) overlooked, but it is important when you’re considering your options. Do you mesh well with the individuals who will be providing you with technical support? If the product is top-notch but the customer service is despicable, you’re going to want to go with another option. Choose a software company (and support team) that seems to cares about your organization’s challenges as much as you do.

8. Select the software that best fits your needs within the budget you have.

With all of the information you’ve now collected, you should be able to make an informed decision about a software that fits your budget and meets your requirements.

Stuck between two options? Check out the online reviews! Between Capterra and good ol’ Google, you should be able to track down a number of satisfied (or unsatisfied) customers.

Before moving forward, consider these cautions.

First, don’t become enamored with features you don’t need. If a software company doesn’t meet your must-have list and tries to sell you on a number of other features, it’s best to walk away. Companies often do a great job selling these features—but it’s important to stick to your guns.

Additionally, make sure you do have a plan for maintaining the software. Once you have the software, will there be a lot of maintenance required? Does an IT person from your team or their team need to be involved, or is the interface simple enough for anyone to take care of it? Additionally, can you afford the software maintenance? 

So long as you select your software wisely and heed these cautions, you’ll end up with a piece of software your organization loves and benefits from!

How To Select Data Visualization Software