The Data Narrative

These days, “data science” has become a strong buzzword; CEOs and decision makers of companies are quickly realizing that data is an important foundational piece to any business. Data can feed into your company's biggest decisions about marketing, forecasting, employee management, as well as allow you to communicate KPIs to your customers.

Companies ha decision to either work with a company like Lofty Labs in order to build the systems that will provide them with this data, or to build an internal analytics team. There are many factors that can go into this decision, including overhead as well as a desire to trust the experts in the field so that you can have the insights that you need without having to understand the intricacies involved; allowing you to focus on the things that your business does best. There are multiple tools out there that can give you the ability to extract data that is easy to interpret and use as the basis for your decisions. New technologies in the field of analytics such as machine learning make it easier to identify the focus of the story and reduce the odds of human error in interpreting data. However, as we are a communal species some amount of human interaction needs to be involved in conveying the message that the data is telling us.

Okay, so you have your data, now what? Once your business has started collecting and combining all kinds of data, the next big step is to extract value from it. Your data may hold tremendous amounts of potential value, but not an ounce of value can be created unless insights are uncovered and translated into actions or business outcomes. Stories have always been effective tools to transmit human experience; those that involve data and analysis are just relatively recent versions of them. Narrative is the way we simplify and make sense of a complex world. It supplies context, insight, interpretation—all the things that make data meaningful and analytics more relevant and interesting.

Here are a few keys steps to take in order to tell a compelling and relevant story with your data:

1. Identify the problem and give context.

What is it that you would like your data to prove? Why has this exercise been undertaken? What is the data that you are dealing with? What information are you trying to uncover? Being clear with the answers to these questions is crucial before you even begin processing the data.

2.  Determine your key audience.

Is it your internal team? Is it your end customer? Many of us think of the idea of presenting data as a cold black and white process. It doesn’t have to be. You can make your data presentation personal to the people you are telling it to.

3. Analyze your data.  

In this process, it can be normal to develop your own hypothesis, but it is pertinent to stay neutral to what you think the “end” of the story will be. You want your audience to make their own assumptions so that you can collectively come to an unbiased conclusion based on your findings. It’s also important to begin as early as possible thinking through exactly how you will analyze your data and create a story around it can help you anchor your process throughout the entire cycle of data collection, interpretation, and delivery. Spending time and thought at this stage can be tremendously effective in minimizing confusion as you move ahead.

4.  Use your data as the backbone for your story, but not the narrative.

Think of key data points as chapters that move your story along and give it structure. Anybody with Excel can draw up a string of numbers and make some charts. But what does this information mean in the larger scheme of things? Add that something extra that only a human touch can bring to the table. Create a compelling narrative and put your analysis in perspective.

5. Make your data visually appealing and simple.

Charts and graphs don’t always have to be boring but make sure you make them easy to understand and to the point.

Our world is moving towards a data-oriented approach to decision-making in every walk of life. Packaging analysis in a way that’s easy to digest can increase its reach and effectiveness. On its own, data means nothing. Tying the data together with a good, coherent story makes for a compelling narrative. It imprints the information on the minds of your audience in a way that’s precise and makes a lasting impression. Comprehensive and relevant data in combination with your ability to tell a powerful story can impact your bottom line in ways that you never thought possible.

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