Each morning our inboxes are flooded with emails containing an immense volume of data tracking our organization’s performance. As business analysts, we are tasked with making sense of the information on hand and to use it to drive strategic decisions. Often times the presentation of the data makes it difficult to navigate and it is our job to find a way to humanize the data. Numbers have an important story to tell and it is up to us to give them a voice.
Data storytelling can be interpreted as simply finding a way to visualize data, such as dashboards, charts, graphs, or maps. While the organization and presentation of data is important, it is only one element of how we can effectively communicate the overall story. In fact, when you combine the right visuals and narrative with the right data, you create a complete picture that will resonate with your audience.
The first step in building your story is the exploration of data. For analysts, this is predictably the most innate phase. Data scientists naturally gravitate to math and find comfort in the sea of numbers and large spreadsheets. When analyzing it is important to look only for data that affects your organizations key metrics, stay focused on the problem at hand, and to remain objective.
Once the data is compiled, the next step is finding how to present the data. The presentation phase is crucial in how information is visually interpreted. Design decisions directly impact how fast and successfully the audience receives your message. Effective data visualization helps communicate the analytical findings in a way that both corporate executives and business managers can easily understand. It can increase the reach of the analysis and drive a broader usage of the learnings.
The final and most important step is creating the narrative. While data scientists may believe that the numbers hold all the answers, the data is useless if we are not able to extract insights, communicate them to the decision makers, and translate them into actions. The development of the narrative should clearly identify “What is the story?” Similar to how books have a defined beginning, middle, and end, an analytics story is no different. Below are some helpful hints on how to lead the audience through your story.
- Set the stage by defining the problem and how you intend to find the solution
- Create momentum by asking questions and keeping the audience engaged
- Use visuals and design elements to enhance and simplify key points
- Highlight strategies and business impacts
- Quickly summarize and close
When all is complete, return to the story and edit. While it can be difficult to discard pieces that we work hard on, the value of the information should not be measured by the effort that we put into it. It is important to remind ourselves that we simply do not need, what we don’t need. Providing too much information can be distracting and may overwhelm the audience.
So before clicking send on your weekly report or presenting your next analysis, ask yourself “What is the story?” If you have found a way to transform complex data into insight and action, then you have successfully mastered the art of Journalytics.