Each day at Toucan Toco revolves around a simple mission: to share knowledge. The French start-up helps make data visualisation easier and more accessible for its clients – and internally, its growing team lives by the proverb, “Each one, teach one.” It’s no coincidence that they are currently partnering with Audencia Business School’s Full-Time MBA programme in a new course on data visualisation.
“We have learned a lot from people who have done academic review and scientific research,” explains cofounder Baptiste Jourdan. “And what we have learned, we want to share.” This applies to Audencia students and Toucan Toco’s own clients.
Transparency is key
Jourdan says that starts with helping Toucan Toco’s clients feel comfortable being more open with their data. When a company keeps information only in the hands of its data scientists and analysts, he says, that limits the possibilities.
“Transparency is the new way to develop people, develop teams and align teams around the strategy of a company,” Jourdan says. “It’s key in order to make your company more powerful.”
Because Toucan Toco empowers clients to create their own visualisations without coding, the platform can be used company-wide. The app, Jourdan says, helps “people like CMOs, HR and CFOs get a clear view of what is happening in their business, without having technical knowledge … We democratise access to data and information to everyone in the company.”
While Toucan Toco’s platform is mobile-first, Jourdan believes it’s transparency, rather than a specific technology, that represents the next frontier of data visualisation.
But empowering people to use data visualisation requires more than transparency and the proper tools, Jourdan says. Clients must also learn to “speak the language” – and know how to choose the right visualisation for their message. A pie chart, for example, is best to convey some details, while a bar graph is best for others.
“We have lots of data, but you have to make good use of it to create knowledge from it,” Jourdan says. “You are using data visualisation to tell a story … Two people who have the same data but not the same visualisation won’t share the same message.”
Jourdan says understanding the value of comparisons is also critical. Clients might not always care about the raw numbers as much as they care about overall trends – and about seeing improvement. “Even when you don’t think you can trust the data, if you dig into it, you may still be able to create new knowledge,” he says.
The next generation
One way Toucan Toco is sharing its vision for the future of data visualisation, Jourdan says, is by speaking directly to the business leaders of tomorrow. The company has partnered with Audencia’s Full-Time MBA programme on a new course that teaches students how they can use data visualisation in their future careers.
“We want to show them that data can be simplified and well-understood if you have the right tools and logic,” Jourdan says.
The course includes hands-on experience creating persuasive “data stories,” and a team project in which students implement their own data visualisation tool, taking it from ideation to roll-out. The goal, Jourdan says, is to prepare students to make meaningful contributions to their future employers – across a broad range of roles and fields.
“We can recreate a strategy with data; we can improve a process with data,” he says. “They are going to be the next leaders in their companies.”