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Data Storytelling vs. Data Analytics: Are They the Same?

Publication date: 12 May 2021

Back in 2009, Google’s Chief Economist Dr. Hal R.Varian stated, “The ability to take data – to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it – that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”

Now, in 2021, every successful business relies on (some type of) data to make business decisions. Companies are constantly hiring analysts who are able to study data, deploy models, and generate reports that will influence the company’s decision-making for the better. Still, a lot of them fail to make the most out of the data that they gather. Why? Well, primarily because of the way all those insights are presented.

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Why Storytelling in Data Reporting Matters

Data analysts have a special relationship with the data they find. Their experience and knowledge make it easy for them to draw conclusions from data. However, decision-makers in the company need further clarification. Furthermore, any other stakeholders who will be presented that data need to know exactly what they’re looking at.

Data analysts need to find a way to present datasets in a comprehensible, relatable, and, ultimately, actionable manner. That is where data storytelling comes in.

“If you want people to make the right decisions with data, you have to get in their head in a way they understand. Throughout human history, the way to do that has been with stories,” said Miro Kazakoff, an MIT Sloan lecturer.

Up until now, data analysts mostly relied on simply sharing the numbers and results they gathered during analysis. Now, they need to readjust their approach and craft a story with the data they collect to help data-informed decision-making take root and flourish in their company. Here is how!

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How to Succeed in Data Storytelling

1. Analyze your audience

The first step to successful data storytelling is analyzing the audience. Analysts should determine whether decision-makers are more receptive to bite-sized takeaways, a simple one-page report, or something else entirely. The success of data storytelling depends on how well the audience will receive and understand the insights.

This also depends on the type of setting where the data is presented. If it’s a short virtual conference, make sure to prepare a 5-10 slide presentation that will highlight the key metrics and insights. In longer meetings, be prepared to leave space for some Q&A.

2. Think like a writer

To tell a story with data, analysts need to adopt the mindset of a writer. As with any good story, it is necessary to establish context, state the problem, explore probabilities, and arrive at a resolution. Adopting this approach will allow the analysts to walk their audience through all the important data, allowing them to act on it.

For example, introduce a 2-3 sentence about the topic you’re about to address, talk about what sort of metrics are ideal or less than ideal, then present the data in an eye-pleasing manner, and go through the data step-by-step. The goal is to “connect the dots” and tell an “enjoyable” story.

3. Effectively visualize your reports

Analysts often rely on tools that allow them to create charts and graphs that illustrate analytical outcomes. However, their audience may need something more comprehensible. Whenever possible, analysts should team up with a design-savvy colleague who could help them package all that data neatly in a cohesive PowerPoint presentation.

Another solution is to make a switch to Information Design. Basic data visualization becomes Information Design with IBCS®, enabling a whole new level of insights into existing business intelligence. With standardized reporting, businesses can easily increase the accuracy of their decisions by looking directly at the data within their dashboards and seeing “the story unfold”.

4. Find the right tools

Speaking of tools, in this new era of data storytelling, it is impossible to rely solely on basic reporting and analytics tools. Analysts need a more powerful tool that will make it easier for them to translate their analysis into a captivating story. Luckily, we have the perfect combination of tools to accomplish just that – for example, Qlik and TRUECHART.

Qlik is an analytics powerhouse. And, TRUECHART can be integrated into a Qlik solution to bring the conforms of IBCS into the picture. In a nutshell, it is a way to have easy access to both the power and simplicity of your data analytics. Win-win.

When compared side by side, Data Storytelling and Data Analytics are not the same. However, they are deeply connected, as storytelling is vital to analytics. It is what makes analytics effective. In other words, if your data cannot be presented in the simplest way possible so every decision-maker can understand it, how can it even be effective?

Are you looking to take your company’s data analytics to the next level? We’re here to help.

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