Data Storytelling: The Essential Data Science Skill Everyone Needs

November 7, 2016 Jack Vawdrey

Open book against bokeh background

a book with fanned pages sits in front of a wall of blue lights“Data storytelling weaves data and visualizations into a narrative tailored to a specific audience in order to convey credibility in the analytical approach, confidence in the results, and a compelling set of insights that is actionable to the audience.”

Ryan Fuller, general manager at Microsoft.

Decisions are made based on emotion, even business decisions. As such, presenting emotionally flat numbers is an ineffective method for moving your associates to apply your insights in their decision-making.

Constructing a story around your data will inspire stakeholders and colleagues alike to not just hear you out, but apply your findings. This practice is known as data storytelling.

Data storytelling is creatively and intuitively communicating statistics in such a way that inspires emotion, inspiration and action. While often synonymized with data visualization, data storytelling extends beyond dashboards, figures and infographics. It is the coming together of data, visuals and narratives to give a 360 degree view of the insights at hand.

As people we are naturally disposed to paying attention to a well-presented story. Brent Dykes, Director of Data Strategy at Domo, recently said, “Human beings have been conditioned over thousands of years to appreciate and respond to a good story. As a result, the future of analytics will be ruled by data storytellers who are able to combine the science of data analysis with the art of the narrative and visualizations.”

What sets a data storyteller apart from any other analyst is the ability to sculpt a narrative out of a hunk of Big Data, scrapping superfluous information and exposing what matters most . A storyteller draws inferences from patterns and illustrates those patterns in a creative and thought-provoking manner.

Without data storytellers to translate numbers into action, insights go untapped, no matter how many analysts have access to self-service BI technologies.

The importance of data storytelling as a skill needs to be instilled in the minds of anybody who is expected to communicate numbers-based insights to an audience.

Brent Dykes recently presented “Data Storytelling: The Essential Data Science Skill Everyone Needs” at the ObservePoint 2016 Analytics Summit. View this presentation on-demand.

Brent Dykes
Brent Dykes a picture of Brent Dykes

About the Author

Jack Vawdrey

A former student and present enthusiast of the humanities, Jack Vawdrey uses his love of language to explore the role of marketing and analytics technology in business. Jack joined the ObservePoint marketing team in August 2016 and serves as Managing Editor. Adamant about automation, Jack writes to educate the analytics and marketing community about the role of tag auditing and data governance in the enterprise.

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