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Guide to telling stories with data: How to share analytics insights

Interpreting all the data flowing into organizations can be a difficult proposition. That's where data storytelling comes in. Get advice on how to do it effectively in this essential guide.


Data has long been used to tell stories of a sort in organizations. But over the past couple years, data storytelling has emerged more overtly as a formal process and, in some companies, a business intelligence and analytics job category. Telling stories with data typically goes hand in hand with data visualization -- charts and other forms of infographics are common components of data stories aimed at explaining the findings of BI and analytics applications to business executives.

But that connection also leads to a potential pitfall for data storytellers: overwhelming execs with flashy visualizations that are hard to decipher. And there's more to crafting an engaging data story than just creating some data visualizations and putting them together in a dashboard or report. Effective data storytelling also requires an accompanying narrative that clarifies what's being shown in visualizations and provides context on why the information is relevant to an organization's business strategies and operations.

In the sections below, we've pulled together a variety of trend stories, best-practices articles, podcasts and videos that offer insight and advice on managing data visualization and storytelling initiatives. Use the tips and lessons-learned wisdom you'll find in the content items to ensure that your BI and analytics team is adept at telling stories with data -- and that your efforts don't turn into an analytics horror story.

1Data storytelling trends-

The past, present and future of data stories

Data storytelling sounds like a breezy endeavor, but there's a lot on the line in BI and analytics applications: new business opportunities, competitive advantages over rivals, more effective marketing campaigns, increased operational efficiency and more. Solid storytelling can help put those things in reach by enabling more-informed -- and hopefully better -- business decision making. The articles in this section look at the evolution of data storytelling tools and techniques and the pros and cons of the storytelling process.


Telling stories with data is nothing new -- nor are IT needs

Consultant David A. Teich takes a look at the history of data storytelling and its tools. And he says successful storytelling initiatives require a consistent data syntax. Continue Reading


Data storytelling: The buzz vs. the reality

Data stories may be the talk of the industry, but is it a case of better said than done? See what's behind all the storytelling hype and how the process can go wrong. Continue Reading


Why a data storyteller should be one of your first hires

A chief analytics officer explains how a communications expert skilled at telling stories can help take an organization's decision-making process to the next level. Continue Reading


Data storytelling brings new capabilities for collaboration

In a podcast Q&A, consultant Howard Dresner discusses the potential for expanded communication and collaboration that data storytelling processes can create in organizations. Continue Reading


Telling stories with data can drive better decision making

Consultant Tony Bodoh provides a step-by-step process for creating effective business intelligence presentations that motivate decision makers to take action. Continue Reading

2Data story insights-

Tips for telling stories with data

It's all too easy to go wrong in telling data stories. BI developers and data analysts can get caught up in creating data visualizations that turn out to be more art project than informational graphic. Or they can go deep into the weeds of analytical processes instead of focusing on the business ramifications of the information those processes produce. This section includes articles that provide advice from consultants and experienced BI and analytics managers on how to keep data storytelling efforts on the right track.


Put data storytelling needs first in designing visualizations

Data visualizations can help transform analytics data into actionable business information. But consultant David Loshin says it's best to keep things easy to understand. Continue Reading


BI execs: Data visualizations should focus on the audience

Survey respondents didn't give their organizations very high marks when it comes to creating successful data visualizations. Two BI managers explain how they make the process work. Continue Reading


TMI shouldn't be your goal with data visualizations

A BI director advises against going overboard in telling stories with data. 'Most business decisions that will drive growth long-term, you can get out of a pivot table or simple chart,' he says. Continue Reading


Internalize efforts to create data storytellers

Consultant Lee Feinberg has a suggestion for organizations searching for new BI skills: Look inside your organization for people who can learn how to tell a story with data. Continue Reading


How data literacy became the differentiator for Avant

Find out what happened when the head of BI at online lender Avant Inc. decided to ensure that all of the company's employees are data literate. Continue Reading


Creating data visualizations? Keep it simple

Consultant William McKnight explains why 'it's vital' to keep data visualizations simple; he also discusses trends in the visualization field and offers tips on managing projects. Continue Reading


The impact of data storytellers

Data science and analysis can help businesses make smart decisions. Watch these videos to learn more about the importance of telling stories with data.


Will data storytellers nudge out data analysts?

SearchBusinessAnalytics editors discuss the emerging role of the data storyteller, among other topics in this installment of the BizApps Today video series.


Expert: Your data has a story to tell, if you can tell it

In this webcast presentation, consultant William McKnight provides best-practices tips for creating effective data visualizations that inform business users without overwhelming them.


Key terms related to data storytelling

Review the definitions in this section to learn more about the art of telling stories with data.

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I don't read graphs - I read stories.