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Power of Sankey Diagram in Data Visualization

Data Visualization is one of greatest way to simplify the complexity of understanding relationships among data. Sankey Diagram is one such powerful technique to visualize the association of data elements. They are named after the Irishman Matthew Henry Phineas Riall Sankey, who first used them in a publication on energy efficiency of a steam engine in 1898. They can be difficult, time-consuming and very tedious to draw by hand, but now a days we have various tools to generate these diagrams automatically such as Business Intelligence technologies like Tableau, Google Visualization, and D3.JS etc.

So what are Sankey diagrams and how can they be useful?

Sankey diagrams are basically flow diagrams, in which width of lines associated with two different nodes are proportional to value of metric or key performance indicator. We can also present this kind of information using neural networks and association analysis diagrams. They provide

  • flexibility,
  • interactivity for business user to get insight on data at fast pace

They are  a better way to illustrate what are the departments which are holding strong association, thereby we can  improve our promotion mix by launching various loyalty schemes with sales kit, which contains products from these two departments at competitive price or we can also take steps to improve the association between departments where we don’t have much penetration.

Below diagram depicts a strong association among different departments in retail organization and we have drawn this diagram using Google visualization library, we can also create this diagram using S.Draw, Visguy, Fineo, Parallel Sets, Sankey Helper, D3 Sankey Plug-in etc. This is being widely used in energy sector to analyze flow of transmission, and also being used to illustrate anomalies in money and material flow in business organizations.




Putting this tool into the hands of the people who have the knowledge rather than having a graphic artist in the process allows users the opportunity to visualize a wide range of processes  such as

  • production cost optimization by understanding process flow at ease.
  • energy losses of particular machine.
  • material flows within specific economic sectors.
  • improve operational efficiency and support a more sustainable business operation.
  • effective cash flow analysis in business organizations.

Adding your own visual graphics to the Sankey Diagram gives rich interactive visualization, resulting in attractive graphics for information materials and effective visual data exploration practices!


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