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Why Data Storytelling Is So Important

The Wall Street Journal (New York, NY) , October 9, 2015


Tom Davenport, the Presidentís Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, a Fellow of the MIT Center for Digital Business and independent senior advisor to Deloitte Analytics, discusses why storytelling with data is critical to success with analytics programs, and several reason why it doesnít work well.

"Whenever I speak with successful analytics peopleóand I do that all the timeóitís usually not long before they mention the phrase ďtelling a story with data.Ē It may seem obvious that anyone who is doing data analysis would want to create a narrative of the process and outcome, but to many data analysts itís not obvious at all. So in this essay Iíll describe five reasons why data and analytics-based stories are important to organizations, and four reasons why so many people and organizations do it badly or not at all.

Hereís why I think people who love data and analytics also need to be people who love stories and tell them well:

1. Stories have always been effective tools to transmit human experience.

2. No matter how impressive your analysis is, or how high-quality your data are, youíre not going to compel change unless the stakeholders for your work understand what you have done via a story.

3. Stories that incorporate data and analytics are more convincing than those based on anecdotes or personal experience.

4. Analysts need to find a way to deliver the salient findings from an analysis in a brief, snappy way in a story.

5. Couching our analytical activities in stories can help to standardize communications about them and spread results.

Subjects Covered: business

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