Without a good ‘story,’ data is just a bunch of numbers

Data science and storytelling CSC Blogs

While data pros may love to geek out on numbers, 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 business.

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

The first tip is that data scientists should always present their findings in a PowerPoint, and then read aloud from the PowerPoint in a monotone, word for word. Just kidding! Tip No. 1, Nazemoff writes, is to develop common terms to establish a “consensus on definitions” so that all parties know exactly what is being discussed.

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 pros 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. Or as Nazemoff says, “Tell the story, then show the pictures.”

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.

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.

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?

Comments

  1. These are great tips and advice for data scientists! Just having a lot of data will not provide you with desirable results. This article does a great job at telling some key points which should be followed specially when one is new to the field of Data Science.

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