Our increasingly digital world is flooded with data. Every day, 2.5 billion gigabytes of information are pouring from our homes, offices, computers, mobile devices, and interactions on social media – virtually everything. But for all that’s being created, it’s widely accepted that data itself doesn’t provide executives and other decision makers with valuable, actionable insight.

In response, many companies are dedicating an enormous amount of time to gathering, organizing, presenting, and analyzing structured and unstructured data. For some, using different types of Excel charts and graphs to deliver insights is the answer. For others, some other spreadsheet application is the way forward. But either way, the result is the same: Inaccurate decisions based on outdated, erroneous information.

Business leaders need to access, evaluate, understand, and act on data faster and more effectively than ever. Are you still asking yourself, “What can I use instead of Excel?” Here are seven reasons why data visualization is the answer to dramatically improving your ability to grasp information hiding in your data.

1. People are visual by nature and prefer new, constructive means of looking at information.

Biologically, our brains are hard-wired to process images. In fact, 65% of what we see can be recalled, versus 10% of what we hear. With a choice of heat maps, fever charts, and other rich graphical representations, decision makers can clearly see connections hidden in multidimensional data sets. They can understand the relationship between operations and business conditions, for example, from a high level and all the way down to the nitty-gritty with a single click.

2. Interactive data experiences are always more interesting than static reports.

Canned reports such as spreadsheets can tell you that performance is down or rising, but they cannot tell you why. Interactivity allows users to play with the data directly, sorting, filtering, and viewing parts of the data that adds meaning to the overall story. Decision makers can assess up-to-date data that reveals many aspects of the business, such as why revenue is lagging and why certain inventory items are outperforming other product lines.

3. Good decisions are based on immediate clarity on relationships and patterns.

Sometimes data has to be visualized for it to make sense. Data visualization tools enable users to effectively see connections occurring between operating conditions and business performance, identify the root cause of emerging problems, and simulate actions to remedy them. More important, data discovery becomes a transparent exercise that goes beyond information silos to show what’s happening across the entire enterprise.

4. Growth requires the ability to seize emerging trends faster than competitors.

Spotting opportunities in a mountain of data is like finding a needle in a haystack. The volume streaming through business systems is just too immense. Data visualization allows decision makers to quickly pinpoint and know how shifts in customer behavior, new competitors, regional economies, and resource availability. By diving deeply into such trends, companies can quickly move and launch new products and services before their rivals do.

5. Every line of business is interconnected with each other.

Engaging decision makers with visual reporting opens up new perspectives on the business and its operations. To communicate these insights, all functions must communicate with the same language and view. Everyone – from the CEO to the IT analyst to the machine operator – can use analytics to get a better sense of how to perform better, gain first-mover advantage, and innovate new ways to service the customer and generate revenue.

6. The credibility of every decision, strategy, and action is at stake.

Credibility is always on the line when sharing information. Decision makers expect nothing less than data that is trustworthy, accurate, secure, and above all, relevant. Data visualization tools linked seamlessly with enterprise information management solutions can deliver insights that are meaningful, well-rounded, and error-free through data integration, master data management, and information governance.

7. The secret to future success is to keep looking ahead.

Worse, the data may not provide an accurate account of the company’s current state. All too often, it can take as much as 65 work hours to generate one report, which means the report provides a perspective that is nearly two weeks old! The strength of data visualization is found in predictive models that help decision makers make sense of the business in the moment. Not last week, and not even yesterday. Right now.

For more data visualization strategies, see How To Create Story-Driven Data Visualization In 5 Steps.