Business Discovery Blog

2 Posts authored by: Donald Farmer
Donald Farmer

Tell Me a Story

Posted by Donald Farmer May 25, 2011

In the field of Business Intelligence we work daily with data and reports. However, like everyone else, what really sticks in our mind is not data but stories. An analysis can be insightful or not, but to be compelling, wrap it in a narrative.

 

Our most persuasive communicators are story-tellers.

 

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Good stories are simply constructed – beginning, middle and end will do. Really good tales may have a twist. Most importantly, stories are not abstract: they include characters and emotions. Structure conveys what we learn. Characters are why we care. But emotions are why we remember. Think of the last row you had with your significant other. I am sure you can remember the emotions more clearly than the cause!

 

So, having made a new discovery in your analytics, how would you tell a data-based story? Start simply.

 

Who is central to the story? They need not be a “hero,” just a real character. What was their situation at the start? How did that become complicated, and why does that matter? Also, how did the character feel? Emotions resonate. Finally, what did they discover? What did they do? At the end, what has changed, and how does the character now feel? Put this together, with concrete examples at each stage, and you have a data story that will be memorable long after the bare facts.

 

Let’s try it …

 

Every month, Mary, in accounting, would discover some line items priced 100 times higher than expected. Every month she manually adjusted them. Eventually, thoroughly fed up fixing these recurring mistakes, she asked the IT team for the raw data to see what was going on. Mary found some weird looking numbers in data from the Swedish subsidiary – what are these commas for? They were not thousands seperators for sure. They just looked wrong. Mary called (probably Skyped!) the Swedish sub and learned that Scandinavians often use a comma in place of a decimal point. The US-localized data import process was misreading the values. The data team quickly coded a fix, but were they ever embarrassed! Mary saved herself a chore, and won respect from her IT team.

 

You see? It’s hardly Wuthering Heights, but it is a story that conveys a problem, and a solution worth remembering. We have a simple structure – the situation with a problem, what was discovered, what changed. We have concrete examples, and an interesting twist. And very importantly we have emotions, not just facts. Mary’s feelings and the feelings of the IT team make the story more significant to us – no matter who we sympathize with in this case.

 

For years, we have talked about pervasive business intelligence – let’s do persuasive BI next!

 

 

This post republished from http://donalddotfarmer.com/2011/05/25/tell-me-a-story/

I’m fed up with “end-users” – the term, that is. I simply don’t believe they exist. Perhaps more accurately, I don’t suppose they exist anymore.

 

At one time, data management, reporting and analytics required specific technical skills. Even publishing content on the corporate network was a specialized skill. Back then, I can imagine there were users who were indeed at the end of something. They may have been the end receivers of a process of corporate intelligence with no technology to take it further. Or they may have been at the end of a chain of custody of data with no means to refine or distribute it further.

 

Collaboration was round the water cooler. Further analysis meant clumsy downloads to Excel. At the Gartner BI Summit in LA last week, Rita Sallam described how traditional BI tools often become “expensive ETL systems for exporting to Excel.”

 

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These days should be gone. Today no user is the end of anything. Every user is the start of something new.

 

At the very least, with social networking and collaboration technologies (whether endorsed by IT or not) any user can start a managed, analyzable thread of discussion on the data or reports they receive. If you are not enabling, managing and analyzing those threads, you are ignoring a prime source of knowledge in your business.More powerfully, with Business Discovery tools such as QlikView, any user can begin a new thread of analysis – refining, supplementing, and remixing their received corporate intelligence. Our new enterprises are not centralized point-to-point systems. Rather, each user is a node in a network, with all the flexibility and strength (and yes, redundancy) that networks have.

 

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Our businesses are the better for it. Our users can be more engaged, and more informed. Our IT departments try not to solve every analytic problem, but instead provision the data and services that keep the network humming with intelligence.

 

So don’t talk to me about end-users. I don’t think they exist, except perhaps in small isolated pockets of dysfunctional organizations. I don’t even think they should exist. Let’s see an end of them.

 

This post republished from: http://donalddotfarmer.com/2011/05/09/dont-talk-to-me-about-end-users/

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