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Could Data Storytelling help accelerate your business decision-making process?

 10th Jun 2020

 
Welcome to Pivotal Insights, a series of industry articles, comments & interviews from different contributors within Pivotal’s community of over 5000 Digital Marketing & Media professionals.
 
 
Could Data Storytelling help accelerate your business decision-making process?
 
“If you want people to make the right decisions with data, you have to get in their head in a way they understand. Throughout human history, the way to do that has been with stories,” Miro Kazakoffan 
 
Today more than ever, this statement makes a powerful point and one which is pertinent for the data-fuelled industry we work in. Wherever in the food chain your business operates, making key decisions from data can affect implementing campaigns through to optimising them during and afterwards. Data is simply everywhere, influencing every decision along the way however all too often it can become a burden on our teams trying to understand and manage it. A very frustrating experience for all involved.
 
For as long as I can remember in my (sigh,15 years) experience within media and marketing we’ve used traditional tools like Excel, Powerpoint and Dashboards to extract value from data. Up until a few years ago, this was fairly effective but as the industry has evolved and the volume of data has increased, our methods haven’t kept up and it’s become increasingly difficult to find and communicate insights at the speed our businesses need. Of course, more recently we have been thrown an unforeseen curveball and forced into a shift of our working habits as globally we adjust to working from home. This in itself puts a heavier importance on making sure we can universally understand and share data easily.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a sweet pivot table for quickly manipulating data and creating graphs (I am a searchie at heart) but they rely on the users' skill to interpret what the data means. The same can be said about traditional dashboards, the next iteration of pivots. They do an amazing job of aggregating the data and framing it in graphs and charts, but as the data gets increasingly complex they can leave a lot of the team feeling pretty confused. (And seriously... have you ever tried presenting from a dashboard in a meeting?)
 
Teams looking at data in these traditional formats have to work to figure out and explain what the numbers mean. This manual pressure is not only a drain on business resources but it also drags out decisions and slows down their speed to act. It’s little wonder businesses are looking for new ways of handling their data that can help communicate insights more effectively. 
 
Data Storytelling is one method that many businesses are turning to. According to SearchCIO, ‘Data storytelling is the process of translating data analysis into layman's terms in order to influence a business decision or action’
 
The basic idea is that humans are hardwired for stories. Since the beginning of time, we’ve used storytelling to share lessons, concepts and new ideas. Data Storytelling applies this principle to large amounts of data, combining key story elements to showcase what’s going on in a way that resonates on a human level, making it easy for everyone to understand. There are three critical components to a Data Story… Data (obvs), Visualisation and Narrative. It’s the combination of this magic trio that makes it so effective.
 
After years of watching people get confused and frustrated by data, seeing the difference in the way people respond to Data Stories has been really rewarding for me. By adding this narrative and helping people to focus on the key data insights and understand what it all actually means you can see people having lightbulb moments and growing in confidence using data.
 
Of course, creating data stories can be done manually but the process is no quicker than building traditional reports and you need to be careful on how you interpret Data Storytelling. In a Forbes article by Brent Dykes, he hits the nail on the head with this statement, “Too often data storytelling is interpreted as just visualizing data effectively, however, it is much more than just creating visually-appealing data charts” Luckily there are some great tech companies out there now that offer ways of automating the entire process beyond just visualizations. With the help of a Data Storytelling tech company, you can create and share data stories at any scale, each one tailored to exactly what the audience needs to know in any given situation. That’s the key. 
 
By giving the end-user data in a consumable format, with relevant as-they-happen insights, you’re empowering that person to use data in a whole new way. Suddenly, mid-campaign optimisations and fast decisions are a reality. It’s always worth remembering that businesses are made up of folk with a huge variety of skill sets. Even if the organisation claims to be ‘data-driven’ in reality it’s the people within it that need to be confident and comfortable using data. 
 
If you would like to know more about Nugit’s data storytelling technology, feel free to connect with Darren or contact Pivotal for an intro.
 
Darren Jacobs
VP International at Nugit