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Data visualization helped Madras Cements turn big data into big ideas

Varsha Chidambaram | Nov. 1, 2013
Information can be presented in many ways. But complex information such as a salesperson performance or cement outlet performance benchmarking or location mapping of the company's wagon movements are best understood not through numbers but through color coding and representation on a map.

Let's put some commonly held myths to rest. Big data doesn't reveal earth-shattering information about your customers or about your business. In fact, big data doesn't reveal anything. If anything, big data is term to describe the current state of the digital world which is creating, and capturing digital data made possible by technology.

What's the big fuss about big data then? Service providers want you think it's huge because they want to sell you solutions that will help you do capture and store data. They however, will not help you decode the various cryptic patterns and lead you to discover what your customers want or the market is demanding. Even Dan Brown can't help you with that.

The fundamental problem is that traditional forms of data interpretation have stuck to text or table based report like Excel sheets. But humans are visual creatures. Our ability to quickly interpret visual information is far greater than that of written words. The data deluge we are witnessing further compounds the problem. Our attention spans are shrinking, there's a constant overload of information and our ability to retain what we read is abysmal.

Data visualization or the art of interpreting data through info graphics, color-codes, geo-mapping, and 3D modeling among others is paving the way to make complex data into simple, consumable information sets. And N. Vardarajan, AVP-IT of Madras Cements is one of the few Indian CIOs who has successfully embraced it to spectacular business results.

Madras cements is the fifth largest cement manufacturer in the country and second biggest in Tamil Nadu. It had all the traditional IT instruments that it needed to function efficiently. An ERP, business intelligence software, a great supply chain, and an efficient workforce, and yet the top-line didn't grow as much as expected. It's true in cement industry; supply has always been higher than demand and competition is tight. But the demand too was growing, so how could Madras Cements leverage Information Technology to tap the potential for top-line and bottom-line growth?

This was the challenge faced by the company. The IT Team of Madras Cements knew there was lot of scope and untapped potential in managing information. Their ERP was generating rich data but the lack of visualizations was hindering the company's ability to leverage it and get better insight. It led to the conclusion that the only way to avoid it was to radically change the way the end users saw, read and interpreted data on any device, whether it was desktops, laptops, mobiles ot tablets.

Information can be presented in many ways. But complex information such as a salesperson performance or cement outlet performance benchmarking or location mapping of the company's wagon movements are best understood not through numbers but through color coding and representation on a map.

 

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