When a Chart Is Worth a Thousand Words

Business analytics companies Tableau and Qlik have enjoyed increased demand for chartmaking software

A decade ago, data analysis was a chore. Workers poured figures into Excel and then spent hours searching for patterns. That process is getting less cumbersome, thanks to a handful of companies selling visualization software that can help even neophytes turn data—from hospital readmissions to call-center traffic—into colorful, interactive bar graphs and pie charts. “It just happens to be the perfect tool that allows us to answer most folks’ questions,” says Christine Birtel, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo, where some 1,500 employees in her Wholesale Internet Solutions group use data visualization software developed by Tableau Software.

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