Collaboration tools are an unsung, yet crucial, part of effective data storytelling. Good visualizations are rarely created by one person alone; they rely on multiple people and teams throughout the process—from extracting the data effectively, to selecting the right visual format for presentation and fine-tuning the end result.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of your options for collaboration tools when building great data visualizations.
5 Types of Collaboration Tools for Data Visualization
Visual Analytics Tools
First of all, many of the most popular and feature-rich data visualization platforms come equipped with their own collaboration functionality themselves.
Tableau, for example, allows users to publish their dashboards online with Tableau Server, letting them instantly share their work and get feedback. Microsoft Power BI also allows for multiple collaboration opportunities, including sharing and annotating dashboards and reports, embedding them in portals or websites, and bundling them into apps for wider distribution.
Instant Messaging Services
When you need a quick answer ASAP, instant messaging services are the collaboration tool of choice. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack allow users to create and join different workspaces and channels, ensuring that messages are contained to the appropriate topic. Both Microsoft Teams and Slack also integrate with visualization tools that make it easier to communicate about a given project.
For example, Microsoft Teams is fully integrated with Microsoft’s Office 365 ecosystem—including Microsoft Power BI for building interactive dashboards, reports, and visualizations. Meanwhile, third-party services such as PushMetrics and Kiwi can deliver Tableau reports directly into a Slack channel.
Video Conferencing Software
When a quick instant message isn’t enough, video conferencing software like Zoom and Google Hangouts can serve as a platform for longer meetings and discussions. Zoom includes third-party integrations with cloud hosting services such as Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box, letting you easily share external documents with attendees.
Project Management Tools
With longer data visualization activities, project management tools such as Asana and Trello are a must.
Project management tools allow the members of a given team to break up a project into tasks and subtasks, set tasks for each other, group tasks into sections and columns, assign task deadlines and start times, create links and dependencies between tasks and much more. For best results, look for dedicated project management tools with extensive features and functionality, such as:
- Calendars for quickly viewing tasks and deadlines.
- Kanban boards for visualizing a project workflow (e.g. displaying tasks that are completed, in review, in the backlog, in testing, etc.).
- Gantt charts for visualizing a project schedule, with activities displayed as bars along a given timeline.
Not only can you use project management tools to stay on top of your data visualizations, but you can also reverse the relationship by visualizing your project management data. Tableau, for example, can also analyze and visualize data from Asana, e.g. to see how well team members are meeting their assigned deadlines.
Real-Time Coding Platforms
Last but certainly not least, real-time coding platforms are a tremendously valuable collaboration tool for building data visualizations—at least among your technically minded team members.
Real-time coding platforms, as the name suggests, allow multiple users to view and work on the same code base remotely at the same time. Together, team members can jointly edit and debug code, share the same resources (e.g. terminals and servers) and more. Not only can real-time coding platforms be used for collaboration and pair programming, they’re also highly useful for demonstrations, presentations, and remote technical interviews.
Your options here include Microsoft’s Visual Studio Live Share, as well as the Teletype package for the Atom text editor. Websites such as Codeshare and CodeBunk also offer real-time collaboration—but they lack the robustness of other solutions and don’t save your data long-term, so they’re best to use in a pinch.
By dramatically improving your employees’ productivity and efficiency, good collaboration tools are worth their weight in gold. Not only can you use them for data analytics and visualization projects, you can also employ them throughout the rest of the organization as well.
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