Integrating Data Visualization and Process Automation Tools into Business Courses
Victor Berardi Kent State University at Stark
Gregory Edgar Blundell Kent State University at Stark
Abstract Modern organizations are inundated with data from a myriad of sources ranging from internal ERP systems and databases to the internet, social media, and messaging services. A common and traditional approach to data analysis by non-technical specialists might consist of downloading data from the relevant system or database, then manipulating it to create charts, sparklines, or other visual graphics via a spreadsheet or other data graphics tool. While this may suffice in many instances, and is usually taught to students, it misses out on useful insights and actions that might be possible with more sophisticated analyses. In addition, it is essentially static in nature, requiring manual interventions to update the data and diagrams. Creating dynamic, data driven, automated diagrams, processes, and analytical tools has long been the purview of software engineers, database administrators, and more recently, data scientists and machine-learning specialists. Newly available tools—and enhancements to others—are making leading-edge capabilities available to the non-technical masses. Sophisticated drag-and-drop graphics tools, such as Visio, SmartDraw, and Lucidchart, make it easier than ever for managers and other business types to create sophisticated and often dynamic, data-driven diagrams and dashboards. Process automation tools, such as IFTT (If-This-Then-That) and Microsoft Flow add the ability to tie together hundreds of different services into automated workflows. This presentation considers how to integrate data visualization and process automation tools into business courses. Business students have exposure to—and basic to intermediate skills with—computer software applications such as spreadsheets and databases, but they usually lack programming and other advanced technical expertise. Furthermore, most business courses are already packed with content, precluding significant and time-consuming development activities, while instructors are often not technically oriented themselves. All these factors make it essential to get the implementation mechanisms and support material correct so meaningful learning about the transformative possibility of these tools, can occur. Considerations for the instructor, students, and course content are discussed. In addition, applications in operations management, supply chain management, human resources, accounting, and marketing are explored.
Recommended Citation: Berardi, V., Blundell, G. E., (2017). Integrating Data Visualization and Process Automation Tools into Business Courses. Proceedings of the EDSIG Conference, (2017) n.4465, Austin, Texas