“Do you want me to sketch it out for you?” We’ve all heard that sentence before. Corporate data is often abstract and difficult to understand. They need to be simplified and put into context to become actionable. Data Storytelling is the answer to these problems, so let’s discover its multiple applications!
A SIMPLE DEFINITION OF DATA STORYTELLING
Data Storytelling is the ability to tell a story with data and to personalize the data seen according to the audience.
To illustrate, a Marketing Director doesn’t have the same reporting needs as an operational manager responsible for digital campaigns.
This category of Business Intelligence comes from Data Visualization.
The first definition of Data visualization (or Dataviz) is the art of telling numbers in a clear and pedagogical way, where Excel can’t do it. It allows you to communicate complex figures and information by transforming them into visual objects: graphs, diagrams, curves, maps, classification, etc.
It’s no longer only aimed to the Data and Business Intelligence departments of large companies, but to all employees who want to know more about the company’s activity, through the data collected every day.
WHY IS DATA STORYTELLING THE TOPIC OF THE HOUR?
Nowadays, we live in a world flooded with information and data. This is an important issue in large corporations, which have to manage an extremely high level of complexity. There are as many information systems and databases as there are subsidiaries, countries or departments.
The complexity is to have a homogeneous vision of their business and the performance of their service. So yes, digital is here. Yes, companies are transforming and new projects are emerging.
A few years ago, the holy grail was to be able to retrieve and collect as much data as possible. The mission is accomplished. Data continues to be collected, but unfortunately, it’s only used by a minority in the company. One thinks of data scientists, data analysts, and other data experts.
Today, mentalities and challenges are moving. Data collection has become a means, not an end and the objective is now to make decisions daily, simply and quickly.
THE DATA STORYTELLING IS ALREADY HERE
We all love stories. Whatever their context, they allow to convey a message or complex information in a playful way and well-scripted.
Where data is available, the aim is to use these figures to communicate and make the information easier to digest. We must be able to put these data in a narrative context.
To go further read our guide to data storytelling
4 examples of POWERFUL STORIES THANKS TO DATA STORYTELLING
1- ROAD SAFETY: THE POWER OF HISTORY
Without necessarily knowing it, Data Storytelling is already present in our daily lives. Let’s take an example that we all know; road safety prevention videos.
Rather than just talking about numbers, each clip is the subject of a specific story in which each one of us recognizes ourselves. In his latest campaign (see video above), the goal was to raise awareness about wearing a seatbelt.
The figures mentioned support the reality of the facts: hundreds of people die every year because of a forgotten seatbelt. As data are illustrated and well-scripted, they are easily memorable.
It’s the same pattern of thinking in business. Rather than simply showing the sales growth curve, let’s try to add the reasons for this growth!
For example, one could draw a parallel between the last wave of sales recruitment and the success of the last promotional campaign, with figures to back it up. All this in a visual and interactive way, thanks to Data Storytelling.
2- SPOTIFY, THE EYE OF THE STUDENT CAMPUS
In early 2017, Spotify came up with the idea to share what American students were listening to, according to their universities. With all the data they had at their disposal, they were able to share this initiative with other students.
On the website, specially developed for the project, one can then search for one’s university – only the American ones are featured, to retrieve a bunch of information: musical genre, average listening time, etc. Depending on the searches, the data is dynamic and can be sorted according to our preferences.
In this case, Data Storytelling helps to federate the student community. This visual representation will be able to be used on campuses to compare very easily with other campuses. A good way to get people talking about Spotify through a new kind of communication.
3- THE INTERNET AND ITS NETWORKS!
This website records all interactions on social networks. It includes tweets, Instagram likes minutes spent on Skype, or the number of videos watched. All this, to the second!
The data presented are not static and change over time. Stay a few seconds on the page and you will see new little Twitter birds taking shape.
Again, rather than a simple number updated every second, we have a visual frieze reinforcing the message: there are millions of interactions per second, thanks to the web!
Results: We want to dive into it and understand the phenomenon behind it.
DATA STORYTELLING MAKES YOUR BUSINESS LIFE EASIER
Data Storytelling is positioned where Excel and Powerpoint are limited.
What is the situation of large groups today? They all use traditional Business Intelligence tools, such as Tableau Software, Qlik or Business Objects. Yes, they are excellent at data mining. But, as we mentioned, they are tools for data scientists who want to obtain precise queries and not destined to data novices.
An example: I want to know the number of sales of a pair of blue shoes, ABC model, between December 20th and 26th in my shop on the Champs-Elysée.
Data Storytelling takes the opposite approach to these tools by addressing data newbies. As these people have only a few minutes to read and analyze data on a daily basis, they need a tool that can simplify their reading and decision-making, thanks to the data available to them.
Used efficiently, Data Storytelling has many advantages:
- Turn your data into action. With clear and usable data at your disposal, you are able to quickly identify trends and possible strategies for your business.
- Improve the productivity of your teams. Data is automatically presented in a simple and interactive way. Their time is thus concentrated on tasks with high added value.
- Find more agility in your decision-making. Thanks to a simple and easy to use tool in a context where decisions must be made more and more quickly, you reconcile your CIO and the business teams.
THE CLASSIC MEETING CASE
Let’s take the case of a Sales Director at the monthly Decision Committee meeting. As every month, he presents the ranking of the top ten countries in terms of sales volume. Our Sales Director is used to making this kind of presentation. The template is run on Powerpoint but with an Excel database of 5000 lines behind it. OMG!
But today the committee is in a curious mood. A question is coming up. One of them would like to have more details on the top 3 sales, in volume AND value.
Ouch, that wasn’t part of the plan. The dozens of Excels files exist, but the information is not directly available. Moreover, the frozen Powerpoint slides don’t really help our Sales Director…
With a tool adapted to this type of context, we would not have left our Director alone.
However, the question was simple and very practical: to go from a Top 10 overview to a Top 3 with a little more detail. Data Storytelling, combined with a powerful tool, could have allowed him to easily navigate through the data and retrieve the information in a few seconds.
DATA STORYTELLING: MAKING DATA ACTIONABLE!
The complexity of enterprise data projects lies in the combination of indicators from different sources: flat files, data from internal tools, data from commercial tools… The objective is to link all these data to produce actionable insights.
On the scale of a large group, such a project can take on the appearance of an endless labyrinth. We aren’t even talking about the case where the project has an international dimension, with dozens of countries and subsidiaries to be aligned on the same frame of reference.
The challenge is to obtain a unified vision of the data, regardless of the geographical area or the tools deployed in each department.
Today needs change. We must finally be able to use the data available in a smart way: it’s a gold mine of information to make better decisions every day!
Fortunately, Data Storytelling is for anyone who wants to understand the essentials of data in order to make the right decisions every day.
Whatever your project, keep in mind that interactivity, storytelling, and collaboration must be the pillars of a successful data project!
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