Data visualization tools, once eye-catching and new, are now commonplace in business. If your job intersects with data (and most do), you will be expected to understand how to use these tools. The difference between being average at your job and being a superstar could lie in your data visualizations. Most accounting and finance undergraduate programs incorporate data visualization into their curriculums, but other disciplines also depend on data visualization to communicate and make complex data more digestible. You can say far more with data visualization than without it. For example, during the pandemic, people of all different educational backgrounds consulted the CDC’s COVID data tracker and understood the data.

Today, there are countless data visualization tools on the market, but Forbes Advisor’s 2024 list of the best data visualization tools can help you discern the difference between them and choose the tool best suited for your purpose, whether you want to use data visualization to transform financial planning & analysis (FPA) presentations, show various cost allocation methods to your CFO, track performance on business units, or manage earnings in real-time.

In accounting and finance, there are a limitless number of uses for visualizations. For example, if you want to dig deep into a business’s revenue, forecast performance, understand pricing trends, and product margins, Tableau can be a powerful tool. If you are responsible for creating and managing a balanced scorecard, Microsoft’s Power BI (Business Intelligence) visualization tools may be useful. Microsoft offers a full range of visualization tools related to performance monitoring, like the Power KPI Matrix, Multi KPI, Dual KPI, Power KPI, and others. Performance dashboards specifically designed for users in accounting is what Klipfolio offers while those who prefer an AI solution may like Qlik Sense. AI is reputed to provide more interactivity and context as well as rapid calculations and the ability to handle data from hundreds of sources when incorporated into a data visualization tool.

Building a data visualization based on a hobby, passion, or pastime can be a good way to learn if you are still shaky with the concepts and the digital tools. Some fun examples of data visualizations include:

Data rules the world and visualizations bring it to life. In accounting and finance work, you can use data visualizations to communicate financial information to a wide variety of stakeholders who may not necessarily have a background in accounting and finance. Data visualizations have been game-changers for accounting and finance teams who are charged with harnessing data to help everyone in the organization make better decisions. Visualizations offer new ways of seeing trends and organizational dynamics leading to insights that may improve the business. Before your next presentation, enhance your data visualization skills and make them say, “Wow, I never saw that before!”

About the Authors