Month: April 2015

Data analysts’ three misconceptions of storytelling

I asked Fern Halper, director at TDWI Research, what misconceptions data analysts have about data storytelling. She and I wrote a report last fall for TDWI Research on data storytelling, and she was the data analyst on that team.

1. That data storytelling is easier that it really is. That sounds right to me. After all, everyone knows how to tell a story, don’t they? Sure, just like everyone knows how to analyze data, at least if you have a tool that’s “easy to use.”

2. That people care about the details. That rings true, too. As we said in the report, some do and some don’t. Fern recalls a vice president at AT&T early in her career. He said, “Just tell me something that is 80 percent correct.” For him, good enough was good enough. She says now, “What I too down in the weeds? Probably.”

3. That a data story is a presentation. A data story shares some characteristics of a presentation but it’s much more than that — far too much to summarize here. Go read the report.

“BI for the other 80 percent” at
Information Management

How can business survive without data? Well, 80 percent of eligible users, according to most surveys, do seem to go without. The industry salivates in anticipation of someday colonizing that territory, and it shudders in frustration because they haven’t done it yet.

That topic came up last summer at the annual Pacific Northwest BI Summit. I’ve written here before about the session led by industry icon Claudia Imhoff and IBM vice president Harriet Fryman. Now I’ve published a column about it to a bigger audience at Information Management.

The column offers a strategy: storytelling. Humans are wired for it. The industry might as well take advantage.

The trick is to learn how to do it. Or even before that, the trick might be to accept storytelling as legitimate business practice. Though it’s widely practiced in the C-suites, those below them, the middle managers — so prone to insecurity — seem queasy about it.

See the Information Management column here.