An abundance of data insights is not the only element that ensures a successful data-driven decision. Data storytelling is a necessary boardroom strategy today.
The atmosphere is tense as the data analytics dashboard demonstrates a downward graph, numbers show up in red, and several other seemingly unrelated statistics pop up on. The analyst pips in, “The sales dropped by 10 per cent last month.” While the analyst continues to shoot more data and numbers, the business decision makers are stumped. How did the sales drop? They struggle to find a context in the cluttered dashboard.
Our retention rates improved by 20 per cent this month since we began to focus on higher efficiency. As estimated, it also led to a 10 per cent drop in sales as you can see through this pictogram.
For a deeper understanding of anything, storytelling is the answer. While an organisation might have enough data insights for a successful business decision, it might not be enough to convince the decision-makers without accompanied data storytelling.
With insights about the possible reasons for the sales dip, the C suite might find themselves in a better position to make an informed decision and improve sales. Data need not just be about numbers and charts. It can be a story with actionable insights.
Why Does it Work?
Gartner states that only 20 per cent of data analytics projects can deliver the expected business result.
When companies fail to quickly act on the data insights and fail to provide relevant context, the results it may garner becomes a useless piece of data. Experts believe that only when data analysts, marketers, and customer success teams can receive, understand, and act on the data insights in real-time can the company make good data-driven business decisions.
Several business intelligence tools have been leveraged to tackle the data problem, but the only technique that holds the most promise and value is data storytelling. Not only does it come with faster goals but it can democratise data for the entire organisation.
Ultimately, with compelling data storytelling, the company knows where it stands, where it is placed in the market, and what business decisions should be made. Data experts believe that the best way to tell the story is to keep it simple, and not let the data insights get lost in the words and emotions, and vice versa.
Tools that Help Tell the Story
Exasol conducted a survey among 500 business leaders with over 1,000 employees. About 82 per cent of them claimed that although they used dashboards to share data insights, they were insufficient in certain key areas. The bottom line was that powerful data analytics capabilities exist but they do not deliver anticipated results.
Experts agree that the dashboards are cluttered. The survey also pointed out that 53 per cent of the respondents believe that the dashboards were pushed into a corner if it took a lot of time to interpret the graphs and numbers. A majority of these respondents believe that it lacked the impending insight that could actually be the key for taking a productive business decision.
Common analytics dashboards are not always enough to orchestrate the perfect data storytelling session. A random graph would only show a drop or spike in sales or revenue but to demonstrate clear content, deeper insights and extensive tools are necessary.
A compelling story requires certain elements that can offer support to the data analytics project and portray business value. Data visualisation tools create a visual representation of the story through charts or maps and storytelling tools that create a vivid explanation of the analytics. These two core elements are vital for holistic data storytelling.
PowerPoint presentations and whiteboards are passé. In the digital era, the tools required for productive storytelling are offered by several data storytelling platforms. There are many components, from easy-to-learn authoring and integration of texts and visuals to the narrative flow that make up a good data storytelling session.
A guided analysis is one of the prominent tools. Combining exploratory data visualisation with graphical elements and text creates a lasting effect on the audience. Experts recommend interactive data storytelling applications such as Juicebox, Nugit, and Toucan to create a holistic visualisation and a built-in no-code framework to support the storytelling. Additionally, the presentation of data is an obvious supporting tool. Platforms such as Infogram, Visme, and Piktochart can be leveraged.
Yellowfin launched a data storytelling tool called Stories in 2018. Relatively a new concept then, Stories required the user to juggle between the data dashboard and the storytelling tool. Realising the need for greater and quicker context, they recently released an update that allows Stories to be directly incorporated on the data dashboard. The platform plans to release another update with self-service analytics by the end of the year. It’s another important update as self-service analytics has always been complicated to achieve due to the varied data literacy levels of business users.
Narrative Science is another data storytelling platform that began 11 years ago with an aim to use data through stories with automatic data-driven articles. As technology and the digital landscape evolved, the company realised the need for data reporting. With their customers’ continued demand for stories, today they create data storytelling extensions.
A survey revealed that 82 per cent of decision-makers are already familiar with data storytelling and the available tools and platforms. While most of them also agreed that the storytelling skill can play the deciding factor of every C suite discussion forum, not many organisations are actually doing it.
Mistakes to Avoid
Being a new technique, data storytelling can go very wrong. Apart from missing context, one of the easiest errors to make is to not use visual cues. Good storytelling and reporting require visual elements to create an impact and leave little room for self-interpretation. The mission should always be to create better engagement with wedge metrics.
The art of storytelling always involves setting the tone. Similarly, the tone of data storytelling is essential, and setting it late might not create the expected impact. Experts believe the first statement of the data storyteller should be powerful enough to lay a general context for the dashboard.
The more complicated digital marketing gets, the more intense will the data storytelling sessions be. While the storytelling parallels the amount of data insights present at the marketers’ disposal, experts warn the storyteller not to dilute the main takeaways.
Also Read: The Analytical Ladder of Success
Bigger Than a Boardroom Tool
Data storytelling can become the bridge between the available data insights and its interpretation. Many experts have begun to consider the concept as a core element of data literacy. Data education must now include data storytelling as well.
With its increasing power, experts predict the need for data culture to be inculcated in every organisation. It will help nurture data and storytelling workplace conversations will prove to be beneficial. Data experts estimate that a data storytelling session can lead to innovative solutions and accurate business decisions with a positive atmosphere.
Practising the inverted pyramid strategy to imbibe data culture is an effective approach. It represents the flow of data stories from decision-makers to the remaining employees to create a vision for the company and inspiration for the employees. With a positive data culture environment, big data will become the core of company decisions in the era of data-driven business. No wonder, data storytelling is a lucrative career option today.