data storytelling

Data alone is not enough, storytelling matters - part 1

Crafting meaningful narratives from data is a critical skill for all types of decision making, in business, and in our public discourse

As companies connect decision-makers with advanced analytics at all levels of their organizations, they need both professional and citizen data scientists who can extract value from that data and share. These experts help develop process-driven data workflows, ensuring employees can make predictive decisions and get the greatest possible value from their analytics technologies.

But understanding data and communicating its value to others are two different skill sets. Your team members’ ability to do the latter impacts the true value you get from your analytics investment. This can work for or against your long-term decision-making and will shape future business success.

There are between stories and their ability to guide people’s decisions, even in professional settings. Sharing data in a way that adds value to decision-making processes still requires a human touch. This is true even when that data comes in the form of insights from advanced analytics.

That’s why data storytelling is such a necessary activity. Storytellers convert complex datasets into full and meaningful narratives, rich with visualizations that help guide all types of business decisions. This can happen at all levels of the organization with the right tools, skill sets, and workflows in place. This article highlights the importance of data storytelling in enterprise organizations and illustrates the value of the narrative in decision-making processes.

What is data storytelling?

Data storytelling is an acquired skill. Employees who have mastered it can make sense out of a body of data and analytics insights, then convey their wisdom via narratives that make sense to other team members. This wisdom helps guide decision making in an honest, accurate, and valuable way.

Reporting that provides deep, data-driven context beyond the static data views and visualizations is a structured part of a successful analytic lifecycle. There are three structural elements of data storytelling that contribute to its success:

  • Data: Data represents the raw material of any narrative. Storytellers must connect the dots using insights from data to create a meaningful, compelling story for decision-makers.
  • Visualization: Visualization is a way to accurately share data in the context of a narrative. Charts, graphs, and other tools “can enlighten the audience to insights that they wouldn’t see without [them],” Forbes observes, where insights might otherwise remain hidden to the untrained eye.

  • NarrativeA narrative enables the audience to understand the business and emotional importance of the storyteller’s findings. A compelling narrative helps boost decision-making and instills confidence in decision-makers.

In the best cases, storytellers can craft and automate engaging, dynamic narrative reports using the very same platform they use to prepare data models and conduct advanced analytics inquiries. Processes may be automated so that storytellers can prepare data models and conduct inquiries easily as they shape their narrative. But whether the storyteller has access to a legacy or modern business intelligence (BI) platform , it’s the storyteller and his or her capabilities that matter most.

Who are your storytellers?

"The ability to take data - to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it - that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades."

Hal R. Varian, Chief Economist, Google, 2009

The history of analytics has been shaped by technical experts, where companies prioritized data scientists who can identify and understand raw information and process insights themselves. But as business became more data-driven, the need for insights spread across the organization. Business success called for more nuanced approaches to analysis and required broader access to analytics capabilities.

Now, organizations more often lack the storytelling skill set - the ability to bridge the gap between analytics and business value. Successful storytellers embody this 'bridge' as a result of their ability to close the gap between analytics and business decision-makers at all levels of the organization.

Today, a person doesn’t need to be a professional data scientist to master data storytelling. 'Citizen data scientists' can master data storytelling in the context of their or their team’s decision-making roles. In fact, the best storytellers have functional roles that equip them with the right vocabulary to communicate with their peers. It’s this “last mile” skill that makes the difference between information and results.

Fortunately, leading BI platforms provide more self-service capabilities than ever, enabling even nontechnical users to access in-depth insights appropriate to their roles and skill levels. More than ever, employees across business functions can explore analytics data and hone their abilities in communicating its value to others. The question is whether or not you can trust your organization to facilitate their development.

This is the end of part 1 of this article. To continue reading, you can find part 2 here.

Author: Omri Kohl 

Source: Pyramid Analytics