Project Manager, FPS Economy
Business Analyst, FPS Economy
Improving insight into Belgium's economic situation
Immediate access to easily comprehensible data
The Belgian Federal Public Service (FPS) Economy committed itself to creating a more powerful and transparent presentation of the Belgian economic situation for the general public, statisticians, and university students, among many others. Together with SAS, it created a single web portal that offers visitors direct access to the principal indicators of the Belgian economic situation. All indicators are visualized in graphs for better comprehension and are fully customizable so that users can immediately consult the indicators in which they are interested. The portal not only created a user-friendly statistical environment, it also opened up possibilities for new business opportunities within other Directorate Generals within the Belgian federal government.
From now on, finding information on Belgium's economic situation is easy. The Ecozoom tool on the FPS Economy website gives immediate access to the twenty main economic graphs.
Users can select the indicators they are most interested in and save this information. Each time they subsequently consult the tool, they will immediately start with their desired information.
Scattered information creates time-consuming research
One of the main missions of the FPS Economy is the generation and publication of statistics and figures characterizing the Belgian economic situation. Until recently, this information was accessible through various sources: Statbel, be.Stat, Belgostat, and the National Bank of Belgium. In such a situation, it is difficult for students, researchers, journalists, and the many other users to find the required information to answer their specific questions and draw accurate conclusions. Hence, the FPS Economy initiated a project to improve the user-friendliness of economic data.
Multi-departmental collaboration rationalizes and improves statistics
The first goal of the project was to increase the value of information. This proved to be an intense, but truly indispensible process bringing together FPS Economy business analysts and statisticians. The process led to the development of graphs depicting economical information, as well as metadata that users can consult to better understand the information being presented. "As a result, some twenty graphs were selected and then subdivided into eight categories, including among others, energy, gross domestic product, and consumer price index," states Vincent Vanesse, Business Analyst at the FPS Economy.
A single portal for all economic indicators
Next, the FPS Economy teamed up with SAS in order to make the economic indicators accessible via a user-friendly tool. "We have been working with SAS for quite a long time now. As a result, we are thoroughly familiar with their competence. The exceptional statistical capabilities, robustness, and extendibility of their solutions made our choice of SAS for this particular project obvious," notes Caroline Denil, Project Manager at the FPS Economy.
The collaboration resulted in the launch of a single web portal (Ecozoom) where various users can find all of the economic indicators they need in just a few mouse clicks. "From now on, finding information on Belgium's economic situation is easy," observes Caroline Denil. "The Ecozoom tool on the FPS Economy website gives immediate access to the twenty main economic graphs. Those who want more detailed information can still click-through to the traditional Statbel, be.Stat, and Belgostat websites."
Visualization facilitates comprehension
The online portal presents the economic indicators as graphs that make the information much easier to interpret quickly and accurately. Caroline Denil points out that deducing trends based on a graph is far easier than using a table or a long series of figures.
In addition, the tool is able to visualize four graphs simultaneously. This facilitates comparisons between various types of data to verify the magnitude of the effect of, for instance, the number of company failures on the unemployment rate.
The old adage that "a picture is worth a thousand words" certainly holds true for the FPS Economy confirms Caroline Denil. "Our graphs can often convey much more than a lengthy text or series of tables. In our specific situation, the graphs certainly help users to more easily and precisely evaluate the economic situation in Belgium."
Customization enhances userfriendliness
Vincent Vanesse is quick to point out that the four graphs that are depicted on the Ecozoom homepage are fully customizable. "Users can select the indicators they are most interested in and save this information. Each time they subsequently consult the tool, they will immediately start with their desired information."
Opening up new opportunities
Although the Ecozoom tool has considerably increased the userfriendliness of economic data, the FPS Economy is already looking into possibilities that will extend its userfriendliness even further. "We are currently testing geo-visualization in order to visualize data for specific Belgian regions," illustrates Caroline Denil. "On top of that, we are also planning to make the tool accessible for mobile use on smartphones and tablets."
The Ecozoom tool might potentially even open up new business opportunities. "The tool has generated interest in other Directorate Generals, up to and including the top management level. This could intensify the collaboration between the various FPS, and even create a new type of service," concludes Caroline Denil.
Creating a visually strong and user-friendly dashboard of Belgium's major economic indicators.
- Better insight into Belgium's economic situation through visualized indicators
- Improved user-friendliness through customization and centralization of the principal economic indicators
- Increased credibility and visibility at all management levels
- Carefully consider all of the indicators before you start defining them. Include IT specialists as well as business analysts in the process to ensure a clear, complete, and correct definition of the indicators.
- It is crucial that everyone is assigned well-delineated tasks to facilitate managing a multidisciplinary project team.
- Keep your eyes open for future opportunities. They are bound to pop up during the project and need to be registered for later incorporation.