What is a sankey diagram?

Sankey Diagram is kind of a flow chart that has multi-purpose use. It can be applied in lot of different domains. Even though they are popular to visualize manufacturing flow or energy flow diagrams, there are other domains like HR, Finance, Web analytics etc where you can find the benefit of using Sankey visualization. As part of data visualization best practices, it is highly recommended to incorporate Sankey Visualizations as your new pie chart replacement.

A nicely build Sankey flow chart can replace 100 pie charts on a dashboard.

Build Sankey Diagram using InfoCaptor
In this tutorial, we shall learn about creation of Sankey diagrams using InfoCaptor. Using the tools you can visualize the flow from one node to another. It is a part of the visualization library, hence user does not to have to work on the complicated scripting. [NOTE: InfoCaptor is more than a sankey diagram creator, it contains other visualizations from d3.js charts]

Steps for creating Sankey diagram
1) In the window, click on the Data tab on the top left corner of the tool


2) There are various pre saved data sets which can be easily used. Select the infocaptor_online_retailer_csv data set.


3) There are various ways through which you can build the Sankey diagrams. They can be created using flowcharts, specialized software, JavaScripting ec. Using Infocaptor you can simplify the process. [Just point to your data, drag your columns and pick your sankey visualization. Infocaptor takes care of your aggregation and visualization]


5) Create a simple pivot table using the dimensions available. The simple pivot table consisting of cross between the customer class and the Product line is displayed


What does a sankey diagram show?

6) Let's create a Sankey diagram. You can view from and to nodes in the diagram. On the left hand side is the customer class, and the product line on the right side.


7) The node corporation represents the total sale of the customer class corporation node. On the right side, the paper stuff node represents the total sale of the Product line paper stuff node. The flow between the customer class and product line represents the complete information


8) You can view difference when more nodes are added. Add a third dimension as warehouse. It automatically adds a Sankey to the existing diagram


9) Add fourth node as Ship Priority, it adds a list of Sankey to the existing diagram.


10) Let's get rid of the nodes product line and customer class, you can view the following Sankey diagram.


11) Switch to the Sankey level flow visualization. Add the third dimension as Product line to view the difference.


12) Add the fourth dimension as Region Lookup and you can view the difference and the detailed flow from the nodes.


13) The diagrams are very useful for visualizing the energy flow diagrams, budget information, etc.

14) Let's visualize the prebuilt data sets. Select the sankey_energy_data set.


15) Once added, it contains of only two dimensions as from and to and value.


16) Add from and to dimensions and you can view the Sankey flow.

17) Add the value bucket and you can see the complete information about the flow from each node to node.


18) You can highlight a particular node. For example, I click on the node Solar PV. It automatically highlights all the nodes from the left to the right connected to it. You can toggle between ON and OFF.

19) Click on the International aviation node on the right, all the nodes connected to the source are highlighted


Here is a complete video instructions for creating sankey data visualization.

If you are looking to build sankey diagram in excel [only the data needs to be sourced from Excel xlsx or csv file], the process is same, you copy/paste your data from Excel or point to the CSV file and select 'Sankey flow' as your visualization.


Posted in analytics, bigdata, dashboards, Excel, How-to | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Every often we would get users asking us 'How different is your dashboard software from XYZ Business Analytics?'


The XYZ spans across the entire Business Intelligence umbrella and often into the Website development and applicaton side as well.

Some of the questions are like

'How different is infocaptor dashboards from Tableau?"

'How is it infocaptor unique from Qlikview'

'How is it different from Oracle BI or SAP BI', the list goes on. But these are the questions we are prepared for and have very good value propositions. We do have a general understanding for most of the top business intelligence tools so we are perfectly comfortable with such questions.

The tougher questions are when the users want to understand how different are we from different charting software like d3js, Highcharts etc.

"Why should we use your dashboard app and not just build our dashboard with say Highcharts, FusionCharts or just d3js?"

To understand the difference let us understand the basics...

Back in 2005, there were only handful of charting engines and most of them were Flash based. But now there are so many free and open source charting engines that you can hardly keep track of them. One of the leading chart engines that has revolutionized Data visualizations is d3js.

So what is a charting engine in simple terms?

ImageIt is actually a programming interface to build variety of charts for your chosen platform. Depending on your platform whether it be a browser, java server, java client or Windows you can pick and choose which programming library you want to code your charts and pick the right library. Every chart library provides atleast the basic charts like bar, line, pie etc. Today, everyone prefers a javascript library as it is completely browser based.

How does the charting engine work?

Basically the engine provides programming API that you can call to construct your desired chart. The charting engine takes care of rendering the charts and provide needed interaction.

What does charting engine do not provide?

Everything from server interaction, fetching data and aggregating the data is left out and the implementer has to figure how to deal with data and provide the data in the correct format so that the charting engine can understand.

You need to have solid architecture knowledge and experience in building true dashboard like application using just the charting framework. The knowledge also includes interfacing with the database, writing SQL queries and providing real time or static feeds to the charting engine.

So How is an Analytics software different from the charting engine?

Analytics software like infocaptor, includes a charting engine as one of its components(infact infocaptor has two engines one is HTML5 canvas based and second is d3js based home grown library). A true Business analytics tool or any mature business intelligence software takes care of database connections, perform aggregations on the dimensions and measures and much more.

The aggregation part is quite underrated but it is a big time save to let the analytics platform handle the summation, calculations etc and render into beautiful visualizations. You should start getting the idea that having to hand code your charting calls does not give you the freedom to perform data discovery. When you have your requirements already defined and if you are simply replicating an Excel based dashboards to a web based dashboards, and when budget-affordability is an issue, in such situation it might be okay to just hand code your dashboard or analysis using a charting library.

In every other scenario it is always better to have a real BI tool do the job. Every decent analytics software provides the ability to publish your analysis into dashboards. A dashboard is not just a grid containing different charts and widgets. Ofcourse you can call anything a dashboard but the true value of a dashbaord comes from the interactivity and drill downs. The various placements of parameters, filters and drill down make a dashboard come alive. [Read more: You Dashboard! Show me the Money ]

Inner workings of InfoCaptor as Data visualization, Analytics and Dashboard platform

Now we will delve into the inner workings at a very high level.

There are three main components.

1. Dashboard Editor: This is a very user friendly drag and drop dashboard builder. Even if you don't have any data, you can simply jump in and start building your dashboard. As it is built on top of a wireframe engine, it allows you to simply jump into building your dashboard prototypes. There are over 200 widgets from icons, charts, flow chart lines, maps, gauges and other html elements that you can simply drag/drop and call it your dashboard mockup.

Now here is the magic bullet, every widget that you drop into your dashboard canvas is "Data-Aware". This means you can right click on the widget, select data-source and drop your SQL query and bang the widget displays the live data from the SQL query. This is the power of a SQL dashboard where every widget sings data. Even the flow chart lines can display data from SQL queries.

So by the power of simple SQL queries and Dashboard editor you can publish and deliver working dashboards in no time.

What happens when you submit your SQL query?

Each widget remembers the connection and the SQL query. When the dashboard is invoked, it submits the query along with all the dashboard parameter to the infocaptor server. The server constructs constructs appropriate database connections to either MySQL, Oracle, SQL server, Hadoop Hive, Impala etc and once the data is retrieved from the database, it constructs a JSON object that is sent back to the Dashboard widget. The widget decodes the JSON and renders the information into the appropriate visualization that it is meant to do.

2. Data Connector: This is the main interface where you define a database connection handle. You pick your database driver, credentials and when you are done, it registers the connection information with the infocaptor server so that next time a query comes in with just the connection handle, the server exactly knows which database to talk and what protocol to use.

3. Visual Analyser: This is the interface that truly gives you the freedom and power to understand your data. You start by copy pasting your data or providing your database connection handle, pick the table and now you are ready to explore and visualize. The visual analyzer is very intuitive and if you have dealt with Excel pivot tables then you should be already familiar with the interface.

The top contains "Rows", "Columns" and "Values"

On the left you have all your table columns grouped into Dimensions and measures. Measures are simply your numeric fields that you wish to analyze on.

How does the Visual Analysis work with the Database

Every time you drop a dimension into the Rows or Columns bucket, the analyser performs the aggregations either using its built in browser based SQL engine or if you are using a database connection then it delegates the aggregations to the database.

Once the database sends the aggregated results back to the Visual Analyser, it constructs a hierarchical map of all the data points. It then performs further calculations within the browser engine. Once it constructs the calcuated Tree data set, it passes on to the infocaptor charting engine.

Here is some few words for the infocaptor charting engine.

When we released the Visual Analyser, we built the complete visual language api in d3js. This charting API is capable of rendering anything and extremely expressive. This engine takes the data and the type of visualization requested by the user and renders it in the browser.

So every time you click or spin a different dimension or visualization, the journey from the user's click goes all the way to the server, to the database, back to the browser in fraction of seconds.


This completes a very high level view of the inner workings of infocaptor analytics and dashboard tool. Write to us if you need more informatioin.

Posted in analytics, bigdata, business intelligence, Charts, dashboards, data warehouse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In fact, the question should be "What should be the true benefit of Dashboards or Business Intelligence software? "

excel dashboard exampleWhether you are using dashboard in excel, Dashboards in Microsoft Access, Quickbooks, business objects, Salesforce or big ERP like Oracle EBS or SAP, there are numerous tangible benefits of using InfoCaptor as your primary BI and dashboard app compared to other business intelligence software or reporting tools.



InfoCaptor Dashboard's key selling point is "User Experience". That is your number one aspect for ROI in Business Intelligence and Dashboards.

Now, well-designed dashboards are more interesting than most "old-fashioned" tabular reports [lot of the old sytle reporting software vendors have begun calling themselves dashboard bi tools] but we are not interested in just fancy looks. So let us see several notable benefits and also certain features or aspects within InfoCaptor that help you achieve them.

How can InfoCaptor help you with improved decision making and performance?

  • It provides the ability to perform improved analysis through visual presentation of performance measures
  • It provides the ability to easily identify negative trends
  • It provides the ability to make better informed decisions based on collected BI
  • It provides the ability to measure the organization's efficiencies and inefficiencies
  • It provides the ability to align strategies and organizational goals

How can InfoCaptor help improve Employee efficiency ?

  • It increases your productivity
  • It saves time by eliminating the need for multiple reports
  • It reduces the need to create and maintain large numbers of static reports
  • It has low training requirements, and easy to learn (you can learn it in 45 mins)

"Five minutes into using InfoCaptor and you will know that you found a mission critical product. InfoCaptor helps you see your data from different angles like a CSI investigator on a crime scene. It helps visualize endless data, perform real time analysis and tell you where to focus your attention, what are the opportunities to invest your capital. The return on your InfoCaptor investment is guaranteed on your first project"

ImageIf you have used complex Business Intelligence tools like OBIEE you know the hair pulling user experience stories. These BI systems are out-dated and have lot of legacy UI and architecture. More and more organizations are staying away from such beasty applications and leaning towards Self service / Data Discovery applications. Both kind of BI applications have their place in the enterprise depending on the maturity of the business and how complex the needs are. [More.. Does your BI tool pass the "show me the money" test?]

InfoCaptor belongs to the "Self Service/Data discovery" category and even though there are several products in this area, InfoCaptor provides a complete end-to-end web based experience. There are no Desktop components needed [for e.g Tableau Desktop or Qlikview Desktop].

Having pure web based experience has the added benefit of building a data driven culture and I will tell you why in the following section. The main benefit of web based dashboard/data visualization is that there is no additional cost in maintaining the licenses on user's machine. This eliminates extra licensing cost and also puts additional strain on your IT resources.

Now, coming back to our data driven culture point. How does a web based data visualization tool/dashboard app help in building a data-driven culture?
Imagine this, every employee in your organization is able to jump in to a system any time and is able to analyze whatever data they wish to. Any time they receive excel data as attachments, or when they find interesting data sets on the web, they can hook it up and visualize the dataset. This freedom allows them to think proactively about the datasets they receive and start asking the right questions. You see, it is not necessary to have every analysis published into a dashboard, there are cases for one time analysis/visualizations and their purpose is served once the insight is delivered.


So an organization's goal is to provide such instant accessibility and reduce the cost of producing this one-off insight(s) and this can be achieved easily using a web based front end that does not require any desktop install.

Just login, point to the data, click , analyze, Done!

If you are evaluating affordability of BI solutions [ Tableau Vs Qlikview Vs infocaptor vs other_bi_tool] in terms of pricing then you would be missing out on other important benefits listed above. Pricing and affordability is just one aspect of all business analysis tools.

There are other important considerations like

How easy it is to deploy the business intelligence system?

  • Can you install on cheap Linux VMs?
  • Does it require costly windows servers?
  • How easy it is to scale to 100 or 1000 users?
  • Does the licensing cost ramp up quickly when you need to add more capacity?
  • Does it need additional desktop licenses for each developer?

For any organization that is striving to leverage data, business intelligence needs to be embedded in all levels of the organization, allowing anyone that needs to make a decision-operational, tactical, or strategic decision-to make it based on the best data available. Business Intelligence is the combination of tools, processes and skills that help us turn the data deluge into better and faster decisions. Every employee should have this power as they are already making some form of decisions on a daily basis.

Posted in analytics, business intelligence, dashboards, Excel, visualization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Have we lost the true meaning and purpose of Business Intelligence



Companies in a variety of industries are still data-rich but information-poor and this ratio keeps increasing every day. The rate of data generation is so high that organizations simply cannot keep up with generating insights out of it.

These enterprises lack the kind of actionable information and analytical tools needed to improve profits and performance. Business intelligence (BI) is the next logical step by management to start thinking about how to capitalize on the potential of BI to improve profit and performance.

Many companies have embarked on the journey of data warehouses and yet failed to use them to achieve BI. If you think the purpose of data warehousing (DW) efforts is to simply keep producing more reports then the organization has failed to achieve true BI.

The bottom line for any Business Intelligence is to increase profit and performance and if done wrong it is absolute waste of time and money.

So if your management is hooked on the Big-Data wagon and fantasizing about the hidden gold behind the untapped data sources such as social media, click stream, web logs etc then it is time to keep the focus on the main purpose of "Business Intelligence". All these systems help us to analyze big data or small data but whether they really impact our bottom line is the question that management needs to keep it as the top priority. Every decision should flow and trickle down from this focus point "Show me the money!!"

For e.g Consider the case for Hadoop

Large enterprises have several data platforms such as Oracle, IBM, Teradata, Microsoft SQL server etc and companies literally bleed through their nose whenever they have the need to expand the storage or compute capacity for the Data platforms (think several thousand dollars for each Terabyte of additional storage). So for companies that already pay several million dollars for platforms like Oracle or Teradata, it makes sense to adopt Hadoop just to utilize the cheap storage. This is true bang for the buck!

Now, not every decision is that easy or relatable to the ROI. But with decent amount of due deligence on the management part like

  • Do we need another BI tool?
  • Do we need another Data mart
  • Do we need this report or dashboard?

If you are an organization under 20 or 30 people, you may not have any of the above issues to deal with. A simple excel based dashboard system may just be sufficient and this is all there is in your BI world. But there are several huge companies where every department has their own flavor of BI tool. One department may want a complex business intelligence system like OBIEE or Cognos whereas other department want more Tableau or Qlik like experience. So these huge companies end up having multitudes of data-warehouses, multiple BI tools and it is a complete BI medley that does not bake well.

On top of that there are new dashboard and BI vendors popping every day [due to the excess venture capital investment] and these in turn lead to confusing the management and doubt their existing infrastructure [all the VC money is spent on hiring the best sales agents whose job is to sell their BI tool as a complimentary thing to whatever the customer has].

If you look closer, every big organization has this BI Medley going on that is a serious mess and a big drag on the bottom line.

Is it not the job of the CEO/CIO/CXO to question every tool acquisition and what is the team going to exhibit to prove its true worth? Like, give me two good reasons why you need this new analytic package that works exactly like the one we already have but also has an extra pony tail?

Business Intelligence is not just a single bi product, or a technology or a methodology. BI combines products, technology, and methods to organize key information that management needs to improve profit and performance.

  • A data warehouse is not BI but part of Business Intelligence system that handles and stores data efficiently. Hadoop is a newer, efficient and cheaper way to store large amounts of data.
  • A Data visualization tool cannot simply be called BI by itself. It is an important aspect that enables the analyst to point at any data and see it from different angles like a CSI detective. Modern Visualization software are extremely powerful and play a very significant role in the whole BI ecosystem.
  • A dashboard tool in the same manner is one aspect of BI that allows the company to organize multiple analysis or metrics in a single view and that can be shared easily with larger audience. Modern Dashboard software have gone beyond their primary role and embraced data visualization, data discovery aspects as part of their workflow. It also contains in-built data-warehouse to store spreadmarts [excel and csv data].

Posted in analytics, business intelligence, dashboards, data warehouse, datamart, Excel, visualization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Google has acquired around 184 companies as of October 2015, with its largest acquisition being the purchase of Motorola Mobility, a mobile device manufacturing company, for $12.5 billion. Not all the acquisition figures are available but aggregating all the public known amounts, Google has spent atleast 28 billion USD on acquisitions.

With the recent re-structuring, Google became a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., which now owns most of the parts.

Using infocaptor dashboard software, we analyze the list of companies, products and services that Google has acquired since 2001.

A To Z List Of Companies Acquired By Google [Now Alphabet]

We extracted the first letter of every acquired company and plotted them as a simple bar chart. Google indeed has acquired A-Z companies.


[click to see list of all companies]

Google acquires companies in order to fill gaps in the product line or merge/integrate with their existing product lines.

Let see which companies have been integrated into multiple products and which products have consumed more than one acquired companies/products.

Starting with the largest acquisition

Acquisition of Motorola Mobility


The below sankey diagram maps out the complete picture of all the acquired companies and which products/services they have been integrated within Google.


[click to see interactive version]

Another interactive Circle pack viz showing the number of acquisitions by year and the business category


Top list of acquisitions [based on publicly known figures]


Here is the full interactive dashboard Google acquisition and mergers

Posted in analytics, bigdata, business intelligence, dashboards | Tagged , , , , , ,

Has InfoCaptor Convinced you?

If so, click to buy now, including 60 minutes of dashboard development for free!