A different kind of pivot

BI is as much about making sense of information as getting the right information to the right people.  I am still amazed at the amount of reports and spreadsheets that are pure numbers, however amazement would turn to fear if pilots were using spreadsheets to look at heading altitude, climb rate, bank angle as per these examples

Factor Reading
Heading 180
Altitude 3000.00
Climb rate 5
Bank 4.5
lateral G 0.1
Speed 600


which looks a bit like

Factor Reading
Heading 18
Altitude 300.00
Climb rate -5
Bank 45
lateral G 0.3
Speed 160

but in the bottom example the aircraft is very low & slow while turning hard and sinking.  Pilots certainly aren’t stupid but they have a lot of decisions to make and so need to see their key information and their cockpit layout is full of visual  queues, so surely the same would apply to any decision maker with a lot on their plate.

This is why I have blogged a fair bit about different visualisation over the last couple of years, and after a confusing chat with my manager Marc Holmes I discovered Live Pivot.  I was confused because I thought Marc had simply got the the name of PowerPivot wrong but he was actually referring to something new namely Live Pivot from Microsoft Office Labs. It’s a very visual BI tool which groups and categories images based on their metadata.  A good existing example of this on the Live Pivot site is the new car collection.. 


It’s a bit like a cheat system for Top Trumps where you can rank cars based on price, insurance group, fuel costs etc.  The collections are there to stimulate thought, but what would be the practical implications? My initial thoughts were:

  • Performance management of people , like sales staff, children , doctors etc. would come to life more if you saw who you were dealing with in the context of their peers rather than just looking at the numbers.
  • Product performance , availability in store etc.
  • competitor analysis would also benefit for this sort of visualisation.

I have to confess I am not sure how this will play out commercially; at the moment it’s all free for you to use.   The process of building a collection is all a bit manual although  there are full instructions on the site (here) plus a tutorial. Like PowerPivot there is also an add-in for Excel, but this one for Live Pivot helps you to round up the metadata for each image, and the path to the relevant image for that row of data. It wouldn’t need a rocket scientist to write  a query against a database with these images in and surface that in Excel for this template to use.

So definitely worth a look as it shows a completely new way to work with visual data, at worst you’ll spend an afternoon on it and realise that although it not for you it is very cool, and there’s nothing wrong with being the cool person in the office who tried something new.