The three key stories in business data

There are three key stories that businesses need to manage in data science which are the story:

  1. Hidden in the data
  2. Presented in the results
  3. Put out to start conversations internally and externally

There can be a clear disconnect between these stories, even though you might think there should be just one, unifying story.

The story, trend, result, insight from the data is the one you calculate – but that will always have been shaped initially by the key questions of the project and subsequently by the methodology and interpretation of the results.  This means that although there are results to share, other stories may remain hidden in the data simply because no-one has thought to look, or to ask the question which would result in new insights being found.

That said, the crucial aspect disconnect is between the results that have been calculated and how these are presented to start meaningful conversations.  The underpinning reason for this is that often statistics and insights are not calculated to be used as click bate or to drive engagement or an open rate.  How then can you develop a clear story that can be shared internally or externally that ensures the values you’ve invested in are robust and defendable whilst also being presented in language that your audience understands and engages with?

The truthful answer is that this will never be easy and is, in my view, compounded by the common view that being open about uncertainty and complexity is seen as the analysis being “weak” or of less value.  Numbers, statistics and insights are meant to be absolute – something we can take at face value and believe in.

One solution to the dichotomy of the stories you’ll have to work with is to think about all three at the start of any project.

  • As the results of the project unfold, what questions does it start to raise about future questions to investigate?
  • Have you talked to your customers and board members to see how they interact and use facts and figures?
  • How do the media team develop press releases – is there more information you can give them to help shape the stories that are put out?
  • What visualisations will really communicate the ideas you want to share with your audiences – remember they may not read visualisations the same way as you.

By considering questions such as these you’ll be able to bring together the stories, help foster cross-departmental understanding of each team’s work and ensure the values and insights you share start the types of questions which help business – not values that are seen as being “fake”.

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