Data Storytelling: An Intersection of Art & Science

Data Storytelling: An Intersection of Art & Science

A few years ago I met Walter Isaacson, former Chairman of CNN, Editor of TIME, and author of Steve Jobs’ biography. If you can’t tell from his pedigree, Isaacson is a great storyteller. He also wrote about other famous innovators including Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci. I only had time to ask him one question, so I made it a good one,

“What did Jobs, Franklin, Einstein, and Da Vinci have in common that made them such great visionaries?”

Isaacson smiled and responded, “All great innovators operate at the intersection of Art and Science.” I think Isaacson would agree this balance applies to data storytelling as well. Truly effective storytelling drives business action, and this occurs with the right mix of facts, visual presentation, and contextual narrative. Finding this balance is a challenge, but with the right tools and methodology, you can go from creating flashy dashboards to actually informing decisions.

Data Storytelling

Over the past decade, there has been a massive push for companies to leverage data. We are starting to see the Rise of Chief Data Officers. Humans are visual by nature, so we have also seen increased adoption of user-friendly visualization tools like Tableau, Qlik, Power BI, and ThoughtSpot. As the push for data democratization and access to data continues to increase, we need to ensure data is being effectively communicated and consumed – not just put into a pretty dashboard.

Data Storytelling

What is Data Storytelling? Data Storytelling is translating data in an easy to understand the way to help people take action on the business. There are three main components to data storytelling: story boarding, data visualizations and data narrative.

The art of communicating using data and analytics, is still on the starting block. However, by establishing a methodology and using new technologies to support us, we can realize the full value of our data, inspire action, and transform Data Storytelling from an industry buzzword into an effective boardroom practice.

Capturing Business Context

All BI and Analytics initiatives should aim to do the following: make money, save money, or protect against risk. However, only 20% of analytics insights are predicted to produce a business outcome through 2022 according to Gartner. To unlock greater value, analytics teams and business leaders must radically change the way they communicate.

Rather than just deliver report requests, analytics teams must establish a dialogue with the business to understand the context. Context includes goals, challenges, and potential decisions that the business will make. In creating this dialogue, gaps in understanding will appear. These gaps will highlight the best questions to ask of the data. Ultimately, the answers to these questions will deliver the value business leaders have been seeking.

Using Technology for Storytelling

Once the context has been established and the right questions are being asked, analytics teams, can use technology to help communicate information with a narrative to increase understanding. We use reports and data visualization tools now. Data visualization helps us see blatant patterns, but it isn’t ideal for communicating context and situational nuances. We also shouldn’t assume interpreting a visualization is easy for everyone. With the global Data Literacy rate struggling around 24%, delivering an isolated report or visualization is risky – the information can easily be misinterpreted and lead to costly decisions.

New technology, like Digital Hive’s Enterprise Portal enables companies to easily balance the art and science of data storytelling so they can communicate and understand the entire business narrative – and ultimately make the best decisions.

By bringing together reports, visualizations, and dashboards from all of your different BI tools into a single storyboard, you can mix best-of-breed technology to deliver all of the facts. Contextually, you can incorporate video, custom messaging, presentations, and data literacy support assets to complete the narrative and inspire action.

The ideal balance of data, visualization, and narrative can now be achieved without the limitations of any one tool or technology because you can use all of your tools together seamlessly.

Conclusion

To increase the value of analytics for the business, we must find a greater balance between the art and science of data storytelling. When looking to improve the art, we must change the way analytics teams and the business communicate context. Then, we need to ask impactful questions of our data.

Finally, when delivering our findings, we should leverage technology to support us by using data visualization and data storytelling tools to communicate insight within a narrative.

Analytics from different BI systems side by side
*Image shows an example Digital Hive gameboard/storyboard with assets from multiple BI tools sitting side by side in a single view.

Digital Hive and Data Storytelling

Digital Hive dynamically displays content from any information system seamlessly in one unified platform – providing the easiest, most efficient, and customizable experience for the delivery and consumption of data stories on the market today. Behind the scenes, Digital Hive defends users from change-disruption, tracks analytics adoption, and reduces the IT backlog.

Click here to download our e-book 7 Steps to Drive Data Literacy‘ or book a quick 30 min 1:1 demo with a Digital Hive expert!

Data Culture Matters (part 1)

Data Culture Matters (part 1)

Gartner currently covers over 250 analytics vendors in their research. By the time you are done reading this article, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were two new vendors or tools. With the recent explosion of business intelligence and analytics tools on the market, you might find yourself drowning in a (data lake) of information and possibilities. What visualization tools should we use? Am I ready to pursue predictive analytics? Who should be using these tools? Whether your company is at the beginning of its analytics journey or operating at the bleeding edge of technology and strategy, one common theme will always be important – culture and mindset. A lack of organizational buy-in can hinder even the most well designed, thoroughly vetted analytics strategy. When it comes to data culture here are 6 essential topics to consider:

1. Data Culture is Decision Culture

Data culture may be experimental – but the objective is always to make better business decisions. Collecting data for data’s sake is useless. A great place to begin leveraging analytics is where people are already making decisions. Communicate with the leaders of specific business units and determine what critical information they use to make daily decisions. To go a step further, consolidate this information in a curated analytics experience for each department, group, or role. Once these groups begin leveraging the unique analytics relevant to their most common decisions, they will become curious what other insights they can discover. To continually improve the value of analytics, it is important to implement an effective feedback loop between business end-users and report developers. Report-rating and commentary mechanisms are critical capabilities necessary for feedback and communication between users and developers to improve the quality, scope, and impact of informational assets.

2. Data Culture and the C-Suite

There isn’t an executive you will meet today who would admit that data is not a priority in their decision-making process, but many don’t actually have a comprehensive understanding of how analytics can benefit the larger organization. Often times it is difficult for executives to define valuable problems for the analytics team to solve. Find ways for your analytics team to engage with and educate the C-Suite so that leadership understands the value behind the entire organization using analytics. A great way to demonstrate this value is by delivering a complete view of the business to your executives via a personalized business intelligence command center. Consolidate the most important KPI’s, reports, and visualizations from various tools and systems in a single pane of glass for quick, effective, executive decision making.

3. The Democratization of Data

The first step when trying to generate organizational excitement about using data for decision making is to simply get analytics in front of different groups within your organization. The informational assets available now, your reports and visualizations, might not be perfect yet – but the sooner you make them available, the sooner you can improve them. By presenting analytics to your end-users regardless of your analytics maturity, you expose them to the power of data-driven decision making, and before you know it, they will be asking for more. This is crucial in securing the organizational buy-in required for the additional investments in business intelligence that you need. One of the most effective ways to increase analytics adoption is to remove the barriers to access, and put analytics in front of your end-users through an easy to use, single point of entry for all the analytics assets you provide.

Check back after the holidays for 3 additional areas of focus when building a strong Data Culture within your organization.

 

Data Culture Matters (part 1)

Data Culture Matters (part 2)

4. Data Champions and Culture Catalysts

If your efforts to create a rich data culture are going to be successful – identifying, recruiting, and partnering with enthusiastic data champions within the organization is an absolute must. C-Suite mission statements and company-wide initiatives that are as disruptive as digital transformation require catalysts at each level of the business to bridge long-term vision with front-line execution and adoption. This means educating and empowering middle management and the leaders of specific business units to lead the charge. The best culture catalysts will be business leaders and their ability to sell the value of analytics to their respective teams. Knowledge workers on the front-line live and breathe their daily work. Business leaders can articulate the impact data and analytics will have on daily decision making in the language of their unit and drive adoption – a process which is essential to securing top-down dedication to change. When looking at the current state of data literacy and analytics adoption within the organization you might feel that some groups are not yet advanced enough for increased access to business intelligence. You may be correct that data literacy levels are not at ideal levels, however, you can’t learn to read if you don’t have a book! Creating curated analytics experiences with varying amounts of business intelligence for different groups and roles is a great way to slowly increase access to data and drive data literacy over time. Data literacy will be crucial in every role within the next few years, so there is no better time to start than now.

5. Uniting Talent and Culture
 
The competition for data talent is fierce and growing, and as a result new roles and titles are emerging within the business. In the Higher Education space during 2018, CDO was more likely to mean Chief Diversity Officer than it was Chief Data Officer. However, things are changing, and they are changing fast across all industry verticals – take for example the evolution of the Data Scientist function. How does this effect culture? Given the growing need for data talent across all industries, it is now less important to hire from within your industry as you traditionally might for management, marketing, and sales roles. When it comes to emerging data talent, it is more important to find great talent that fits within the company culture of change and innovation – regardless of industry. Additionally, a diverse range of perspectives on how to extract value from data and analytics will add value to business outcomes and will help push the momentum of change within the organization.


6. Data Culture, Risk, and Ethics

The last topic we will discuss is the necessity to address risk and ethics in your data culture. Data management is increasingly important, including the ability to understand who, how, and what data people are using to make decisions. Misuse of data can institutionalize unfair biases like racism and sexism. Audit capabilities are increasingly important and valuable in understanding what data and reports are being used to make decisions.

Data culture is essential to driving the initial and continued success of BI and Analytics initiatives. No matter what stage of analytics maturity your organization is at, remember that it is important to identify daily decisions that can be influenced first, continue to educate the c-suite on the value of business intelligence, provide easy access to BI for everyone, recruit the leaders of business units to drive front-line adoption, hire great talent and include diverse perspectives, and maintain and unbiased and ethical approach to data use.

For more information on driving data decision making, read this article on BI-Modal Analytics

Gartner Cool Vendors 2020 Announced

Gartner Cool Vendors 2020 Announced

Digital Hive has been named a 2020 Gartner Cool Vendor in Analytics and Data Science

With the average organization using 3.8 different BI solutions, and the number of different business roles wanting to analyze the data increasing, it’s critical that businesses make it easy for users to leverage, share and scale the analytics value from different systems that have been generated before. 

According to Gartner’s report, published May 7th, 2020: 

“Organizations are struggling to manage analytics content from different tools. This hinders the ability to share and scale the use of analytics, and limits adoption as users fail to find and compile the insights that have been generated before.”

Garter recommend that one way this can be achieved is by

establishing an easily accessible portal that has single access to the analytics content built by multiple existing analytics solutions.

Gartner’s definition of a Cool Vendor is “a small company offering a technology or service that is: innovative — enables users to do things they couldn’t do before, impactful — has or will have a business impact — not just technology for its own sake, intriguing — has caught Gartner’s interest during the past six months.”

Why is Digital Hive Cool?

Digital Hive’s technology consolidates key information assets across an entire organization in one convenient and digestible place, giving users real-time access to the relevant information they contain through a single point of entry.  

Digital Hive (formally known as Theia) connects to analytics and BI tools platforms such as ThoughtSpot, Tableau, Qlik, IBM Cognos as well as standard document systems such as Google Drive, SharePoint, Box and social media platforms

Digital Hive’s analytics catalog addresses a real pain point impacting organizations using multiple analytics and BI tools — giving business users a single point of access and thereby providing visibility, governance and control.

Click here to read Gartner’s full report – link off to Gartner.


Gartner Disclaimer: The GARTNER COOL VENDOR badge is a trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s Research & Advisory organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Do Customer Analytics Portals Matter?

Do Customer Analytics Portals Matter?

As companies race to find value in their data and improve the customer experience, many have overlooked an obvious value-add: providing analytics for the customer. Client-facing analytics differentiates companies from the competition, helping increase market share, retention, and even direct revenue if packaged and productized. 

Why aren’t all companies doing this already? The data is there, and the reporting, dashboards, and visualizations are plenty. 

The Challenge

One of the most difficult aspects of trying to provide analytics to customers is delivering a complete, appealing product. With analytics coming from a variety of internal business intelligence tools, packaging all of this information is far from easy. Both internal and external, users desire a seamless analytics experience. If bringing all of this content together into a single user experience wasn’t challenging enough, each experience needs to be tailored for various audiences.

On top of wrangling content, curating different experiences, and creating a pretty product – facilitating understanding is also a challenge. Chief Data Officers are tasked with fostering data culture, increasing BI adoption, and improving data literacy. However, these initiatives shouldn’t be limited to the internal organization. Companies need to extend this concentration to clients and partners as well. 

The Ideal Customer Analytics Portal

Given the needs and challenges discussed above, let’s describe the ideal external analytics portal for clients and partners:

In summary, companies should aim to deliver analytics both internally and externally to clients and partners to maximize the value of data and grow together with strong data-informed relationships using an analytics portal.

The ideal analytics portal integrates reports and visualizations from all of your different BI tools, allows for the curation of content for different groups including data literacy support, and provides an attractive and easy to use experience.

Why Act Now?

If you provide your clients with informative analytics to help them grow their businesses, your business will become an irreplaceable source of value. If you DON’T provide your clients and partners with analytics, someone else will.

The demand for analytics is continually increasing as companies use data to drive decision making. If you are not providing clients with informative analytics to help them grow their business, how are you ensuring that your service will not become an irreplaceable source of value? 

Offer your clients a service that goes above and beyond the competition. Replace any frustrations by giving them full autonomy over their analytics environment. 

How to create a Customer Portal with Digital Hive

Read more about our enterprise portal solutions, or get in touch, if you want to chat about customer analytics portals – we can show you how simple it is to get set up!

Book a demo with a member of the team. See the full Digital Hive experience as well as some of the branded customer portals we’ve created.


How are Triathlons and Analytics Similar?

How are Triathlons and Analytics Similar?

Recently, I finished my second Ironman 70.3 triathlon (for the record, that is NOT me in the photo). The triathlon is made up of three segments: swim, bike, and run. While the finishing time is reflected as a single value, there are 5 distinct times that comprise the total. Not surprisingly, the times for the swim, bike, and run portions are included, but also in the mix, are the two transition times. A transition is the time spent between the different events. Once an athlete crosses the finish line, these five times are summarized for the final result.

During this last race, I had some extra time (way more time than I expected) to ponder how the results are conveyed, and how there is so much more to the triathlon story than just the final time and the sum of the parts. There is the impact of the weather, how much training time was spent in each discipline, how effective that training was, conditions of the course, etc. Yet, when the dust settles and the results are in, it’s only these handful of metrics that are displayed.

The same scenario exists in analytics and business intelligence deployments. So much emphasis is placed on displaying the final results in a dashboard or report, that a lot of supporting context is lost. Context that could help to justify the results being seen, highlight and validate that previous business decisions have paid off, or worse, had a negative impact. This is why the current trend, one that isn’t being adopted quick enough in my opinion, is to start telling data stories. 

A data story is where in addition to analytic assets, contextual information is included to help guide and inform the user. This way, users with varying levels of data literacy can all arrive at the same interpretation of the data. Now, special care must be taken to not lead the witness by framing the story with bias from the author (Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts), but by and large, data stories are much more effective at delivering the desired message to the masses.

Being a data geek, a triathlon, and the whole training process, is FULL of metrics and various data points, so it’s a little disappointing that the results are displayed the way that they are. Hmm, maybe a data story should be built around all of the data gathered while training for an event like a triathlon …