Visualizing your data in Xpress Insight

Blog Post created by brucewatson Advocate on May 9, 2018

The data used and generated by Xpress Insight apps can vary from a few kilobytes to several gigabytes. Given all this information, it is key to be able to make sense of this data and analyze and display it in a way that others can understand. This can be done by visualizing the data and allowing the user to interact with the visualization; the buff word for this at the moment is ‘business intelligence’. Xpress Insight provides two mechanisms through which this can be achieved – Tableau and VDL Charts.



Tableau is a business intelligence and data visualization tool that focuses on data visualization, dashboards and data discovery. It has been placed in the leader’s quadrant for the sixth year in a row in 2018 in the Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms by IT research firm, Gartner. Tableau provides a wide range of support for multiple types of charts, maps and plots. Due to the number of visualizations available, it can lead to a quandary over which one is best to use. When trying to decide, it is worth reading Which Chart or Graph is best? A guide to data visualization, as this article provides valuable guidance regarding which type of visualization to choose in specific scenarios.


Building your data visualizations is achieved using Tableau Desktop. Here, you can connect to Xpress Insight’s mirror database and construct the data you wish to use in the visualization. Once this has been done, you are free to create your visualizations. A visualization can either be a single view onto the data or multiple views combined into a dashboard.

Single View



Multiple Views Combined into a Dashboard



All of this is done via an intuitive drag and drop interface. Out of the box statistical summaries, trend analysis, regressions, and correlations are available to aide statistical understanding. Reference lines and forecasts can also be added to views to aid understanding. Tableau maps have built in postal codes for more than 50 countries worldwide with definable custom geocodes and territories available to generate personalized regions.




If you don’t have Tableau Desktop, then workbooks can still be created via their web interface. Although the web interface is not as feature rich as Tableau Desktop, it does provide adequate functionality to create simple and averagely complex workbooks. The main drawback of the web interface is that you cannot create data sources. The user must select from the ones that have been published to the Tableau server. Via the Insight application companion file, it is possible to create simple data sources which will be published to Tableau when you import or upgrade the application.


For more detail on how to create Tableau views in Xpress Insight see Insight Developers Guide - Adding a Visualization Using Tableau for FICO.


VDL Charts

The View Definition Language (VDL) is a markup language within Xpress Insight designed to allow views to be authored using an XML notation. Markup tags are provided to define basic page structure and to incorporate and configure components such as tables, forms and charts. The language has syntax for referencing scenario information, and for enumerating content over data sets from the scenario. For more detail on how to create custom views in Xpress Insight, see Insight Developers Guide - Authoring Custom Views.


A component within VDL are VDL charts. VDL charts are a lightweight alternative to Tableau charts built using a leading open source, client side data visualization library to provide a range of visualizations. VDL Charts provide support for bar, stacked bar, line, scatter and pie charts, with plans to extend this in the future.


Using a combination of standard VDL form elements with VDL Charts it is possible to provide an interactive experience through which the user can apply filters to the data visualizations. Within a single VDL view it is also possible to display multiple VDL Charts.


Data is passed into the chart by either using model entity arrays directly or using JavaScript to combine data from multiple entity arrays. When developing a view with one or more VDL Charts, you should take care around the amount of data being pulled down to the client with regards to how it will perform across your network and how much memory it will consume in the browser.



So, should you use Tableau or VDL Charts?

If you are looking for ad hoc data visualizations that either use the existing model entity arrays as is or require a small amount of data manipulation client side, then VDL Charts are the ones to use. If you are looking for more sophisticated visualizations with a wide range of chart types, or you are dealing with high volumes of data, then Tableau is the one to use. Both options are seamlessly integrated into Xpress Insight.


If you have any questions or opinions on data visualization, I'd love to hear them in the comments section below. You can also check out our FICO Xpress Optimization Community for more resources and information.