Use case for a Drill Down Graph PRO visual: analyzing internal email communication

Sep 22, 2020

With the latest 1.6 release (September, 2020), ZoomCharts Drill Down Graph PRO has become more powerful than ever, enabling users to detect patterns, relationships and outliers with ease and unseen level of interaction.   While Graph structures are all around us, in this article we will be looking at one particular use case – using Drill Down Graph PRO to analyze internal e-mail communication of the company. 

You will learn:
  • how to build a graph visual from scratch
  • how to use latest features of the graph for your benefit
  • and how to use graph visual for analysis of internal communication
Whether its sales, finance, HR, security or operations, all of these are not possible without a communication. This very fundamental information exchange process can be invisible in day-to-day business cycle; however, it may reveal many important aspects about your company. 

For instance, do you know who is communicating with whom in your company? How often? How much of communication is happening outside the working hours? Communication frequency or lack thereof can help you identify the true inside-influencers, that may to help accelerate projects or, on the contrary, put your company at risk. Lack of communication may shed a light on slackers and help identify problems early on.
With these few examples in mind, let’s look at how you can use Drill Down Graph PRO visual already today to explore the true communication of your company.

1. Setting up data 

As digital communication is an important everyday component of every-size business, communication analysis is critical to identify the true communication channels in your organization. In the graph context, every email address should be considered as a vertex (node), every related email (recipient, cc, bcc) should be considered as a related vertex (node), and the email then determines the relationship among those email addresses. For example, if [email protected] sends an email to [email protected], both John and Sue would be vertices (nodes) and they would be linked together with an edge (link) which represents this particular email.

To proceed with the visualization, we therefore need data. Microsoft Power BI provides you countless data-connectors making it connectable to virtually anything (databases, APIs, spreadsheets, etc.). For this example, we will use a basic Microsoft Excel file that contains the list of emails that have been sent for the period of interest. Each row contains, sender, recipient and date. Note, there may be multiple recipients in the same column separated by comma.

In addition, we have multiple columns with data, that will help to customize the graph visual and analyze data from multiple aspects. These are fields such as sender and recipient topic, recipient’s department, node colors and sender/recipient image. 

We are also using additional data tables that will help customize the graph. Once set up in the Power BI, the data model will look like this:

To proceed, we need to start Power BI Desktop or Power BI Service and add data (Not sure how to add data? Read more here). Now, with data loaded in Power BI, it’s time to build the report with the Drill Down Graph PRO. You can add the visual from the in-app marketplace (here is how). Once, added it will appear on the Visualizations block as yellow mini-network on a black background:

Next, click on that new icon to add the visual to the report. Once that is done, you need to setup the data for the visual – drag “Sender Name_Surname” into “source nodes”, “Recipient Name_Surname” into “target nodes”. Finally, we need a value – in this case we will simply use count of the rows – to do that, just drag “Sender e-mails” in “Value” field and choose “count”. (Download the Excel file with data and sample .pbix file to see the data set-up in detail.)

Now you have created a basic graph visual. To make it more attractive, we will add images for email senders and recipients. You already noticed that there are columns in the dataset, listing image urls.

Please note! Power BI recently has blocked image url use in certified visuals due to security reasons. Drill Down Graph PRO visuals offers a workaround for this limitation – you can still add images to the graph visual by converting them to base64. 

In this case we already had a data table with image urls. To replace them with corresponding images in base64, we are adding additional data table to the report that will take care of replacing urls with base64. 

Once it is done, add image uri to the corresponding data fields: “source node image” and “target node image”.

As a finishing touch, let’s add additional information in the graph’s tooltip by dragging sender email data into Tooltip Content data field.

Your graph visual is ready and you can already identify the following:
  • Who is sending emails to whom?
  • How many emails person has sent?
Now, let’s add additional Drill Down Visuals to further analyze the data. In this example we are using:
  • Drill Down Donut PRO for grouping emails by sender / recipient and email topic (we will use this visual as slicer/filter)
  • Drill Down TimeSeries PRO for grouping emails by time and day (this will act as time slicer/filter as well)
If you need help with setting up with these visuals, take a look at the.pbix sample file.

We suggest you also take a look at the customization option tab. ZoomCharts Drill Down Visuals offer rich customization options. The sample file will show you which ones are used in this use case and will help you get a better idea of what can be achieved in terms of design of your Power BI reports.  

2.  End report and interactions

Now, this is the end of result of the sample use case we created. 

In this report you can see:
  • Senders by amount of emails sent and the topic of emails
  • Recipients by amount of emails received and the topic of emails
  • Graph structure among senders and recipients.
  • Emails by date (you can change this to days/years/hours/minutes/seconds, depending on how detailed your time data are). 

 As all Drill Down Visuals support cross-filtering, we can analyze data using filtering with a simple touch. Let’s say we want to explore the emails sent only by Aurora Camilleri.
  • Select Aurora in the Senders by Topic Donut. Now, in the recipient chart, let’s select Maxine to reveal how often they communicate
  • Now, in either of donut chart lets select HR topic to see, how often they communicate about this topic.
  • Notice that TimeSeries visual also has been filtered to show respective dates of communication. You can use it to further filter data and analyze communication only for a specific time period, e.g., April.

3. Same data – another use case

We can also use the same data to build a slightly different communication analysis, focusing on communication among departments.
In this case we are grouping email senders/receivers by department, utilizing graph customization options to color code employees by department, and using Drill Down Combo Bar PRO for additional filtering options.

For example, in this version of report you can:
  • quickly map communication among different departments
  • further analyze communication down to particular employees
  • apply additional time filter
  • spot what amount of communication happens outside business days (thanks to holiday highlight feature of Drill Down TimeSeries visual)
Let’s see one example – communication of operations departments:
  • Click on Operations department to see with which other departments they communicate
  • Click to turn off Finance, Legal and Sales in the graph legend, to see what communication happens only between Operations and IT department
  • Or select a person on a bar chart to see what communication operations department has with that particular person

For further details on how to build this particular chart combination, please refer to the sample .pbix file.

4. Live demo

Now, that you know how to use Drill Down Visuals, we welcome you to explore this example to get a taste of the possibilities that these visuals unlock.

We welcome you to download the sample .pbix and data file as well, to see how exactly these use cases are build, what customization options used and what other features applied.

5. Conclusion

Connections can be observed in every aspect of business. Exploring and understanding the connections is tricky, but the Drill Down Graph PRO in combination with other Drill Down Visuals makes it simple, powerful and productive. Just imagine what else you could explore with this approach in your company and what new improvements could become possible. We welcome you to start using the Drill Down Visuals today, by simply downloading the visuals from Microsoft AppSource.

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