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Why data storytelling in business is more important than ever

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Trying to explain the business benefits of technology has been an ongoing IT challenge, and it still is today for analytics. CIOs should make storytelling a top priority.

Image: Visual Generation / Shutterstock

The MIT Sloan School of Management described data storytelling as “the ability to convey data not only in the form of numbers or graphs, but in the form of a story that humans can understand.” Sloan also said, “As with any good story, a data story needs a beginning, a middle, an end, and some actionable insight. Data scientists are not always up to the job “

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IT that positively impacts the business and that business leaders understand is an age-old IT challenge. As a liberal arts graduate student, I started my own IT career when Hughes Aircraft Company started hiring liberal arts graduates instead of IT professionals to be its system analysts. Why did Hughes do this? Because she had hired a group of philosophy graduates from UCLA the year before hiring me, and the company discovered that these people were able to bridge the communication gap between users and professionals. IT more technically oriented. The experiment worked because these liberal arts graduates were able to tell a compelling business story about how technology could benefit the business.

Today we call this ability to communicate the business value of data storytelling technology.

How do you tell an effective story that can support a data analysis project, and who is best placed to tell it?

First, there are tools that help IT tell the story. These tools fall into two camps:

These tools are useful storytelling aids, but they can’t do all of the data storytelling work on their own.

SEE: Why plot-based data storytelling matters and how to create it (TechRepublic)

For this task, organizations need talented people who are strong communicators and have both business acumen and computer literacy. In an IT department, you’re more likely to find these people in business analyst positions, and many of them (as in the past) will be skilled communicators with a background in the liberal arts.

In Sloan’s article, Miro Kazakoff, a lecturer at MIT Sloan who teaches communication and data storytelling as part of the school’s master’s program in business analysis, explained, “Future data storytellers are trained. to anticipate an audience’s likely response to the scan, ”Kazakoff mentioned. “Students learn to structure their planning and presentation to meet the needs of a specific audience, be it a colleague, client or boss, so that they are able to pull the right ideas and initiate the appropriate actions.

This is not always possible with common analytical dashboards which simply alert business users to a specific change, such as a drop in sales or an increase in customer support calls, without providing an overview of the whole story. .

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“If you want people to make the right decisions with data, you have to put yourself in their heads in a way that they understand. Throughout human history, the way to do it has been the stories, “Kazakoff told the Sloan newspaper.

With research firms like Gartner Predicts Only 20% of Analytics Projects Will Produce Business Results, it’s imperative that IT managers find and develop business analysts who understand both IT and business highlights and can go hunting for what really matters to business revenue. , cost savings, customer satisfaction, brand building and other strategic concerns. These people can be selected from internal users and IT ranks or brought in from outside, and their development should be a top priority for CIO for the foreseeable future.

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