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6 Tips for Effective Data Storytelling

Data professionals may love to show numbers; however, enterprise decision makers and employees mostly just want to know what it all means. A good story can help them extract information that will help the success of business.

The CIO.com contributor Valeh Nazemoff has compiled six tips  “for effective data storytelling” from U.S. Navy IT experts.

1.Speak the same language

“If you’re telling a story in a foreign language, no one will understand it.”

Tip No. 1 is to develop common terms to establish a “consensus on definitions” so that all parties know exactly what is being discussed.

2.Tell the story, then show the pictures

 “In today’s big data deluge, it’s often necessary to use more complex visuals, but it must be done carefully.”

The second tip is to use visuals, but within context. That means setting the stage for the visuals with storytelling up front. While data scientists and IT professionals may have no problem understanding a detailed graphic about IT security or Cloud migration, other enterprise workers can get lost when data visuals are presented cold.

3.Develop your characters

“Drawn up characters on whiteboards and provide the context so that your audience can understand where it relates to them.”

4.Show “What-If?”

“Another aspect to effective storytelling is to pose ‘what-if’ scenarios.”

The third and fourth tips are all about storytelling techniques – Developing characters, setting the scene, explaining the challenge or problem to overcome and laying out “what if” scenarios that help the audience envision the implications of various alternative solutions on the enterprise.

5.Document commonalities and differences

“The key to move stories forward is standardizing documents so that everybody saying and doing the same thing.”

Tip No. 5 probably is more appropriate to a larger organization with multiple departments and divisions. It involves explicitly defining commonalities and differences in expectations. What the CFO considers an important data point or goal may be insignificant to the CMO. Data scientists need to keep their “stories” from getting sidetracked by internal debates.

6.Continuously improve

“Make sure that the commander receives exactly the right amount of data, in real-time, via mobile technology to be able to share the right story with superiors that leads to the necessary action.”

Finally, always be working on sequels. Nazemoff  writes, “There are times when CIOs must take a high-level look at the stories unfolding before them to figure out their next improvement initiative.”

Do your enterprise data professionals know how to tell a good story?

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