It’s time for T-SQL Tuesday again and this time around the topic is “Data Presentation”. The host for this month’s revolving blog party is Robert Pearl (Blog|Twitter) who stresses the need to efficient data presentation techniques… To which I can just sit and say “+1” or nod my head in the affirmative. However, I shall add my $1 worth of thoughts to the topic:
Just presenting raw data to an end-user will create much of an impact for two reasons:
a. The end-user may not be in the same line of work or hail from the same technical background as you.
b. Even if he/she was, the data representation will be viewed by additional people who shouldn’t have to depend on you or the single end-user who understood the data presentation. I shall limit this post to data representation done using Excel/Powerpoint or event Reporting Services. The underlying data does come from a data source (facts and figures) but it is the job of the presenter to spruce the raw format into something presentable.
If you have seen the Mask of Zorro, you will remember that Diego De La Vega (Anthony Hopkins) taught the disheveled Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) to fight. But before sending him in the lion’s den, he taught him the finer skills of acting like a gentleman i.e. act the part of Don Alejandro! I view raw data as Alejandro Murrieta (a.k.a. Zorro) and the visual representation of that data as Don Alejandro!
Let me explain this with a SQL example. Let’s say the SQL Server CPU utilization and the system idle CPU utilization is being tracked using Ring Buffers. I had blogged about this in the past. Now the raw data retrieved needs to be show in the format of a report. Here is a crude pivot chart graph that I generated based on the output of the query:
select EventTime, system_idle_cpu, sql_cpu_utilization
where EventTime is not null
order by EventTime
It is quite obvious from the report that the SQL CPU usage increased between 2:15 PM to 2:59 PM. However since I have made this chart, it is quite obvious to me. For an end-user looking at this, it might not be pleasure to look at in the first place and for a non-technical person, this might require more time than he/she would want to invest in deciphering the graph. The second graph shows some basic aesthetic changes to the graph which makes it more readable at the first glance. If you looking into the Bottleneck Analysis report of SQL Nexus, you will find that a more refined version of this graph is provided.
While creating a report or summary which has visual representation, always think from a third person’s view! Effective visualization can really help boost the value of your presentation and drive the point home! An ineffective representation of data will just de-value your content, no matter how relevant it is!