Scott Taylor, 'Telling Your Data Story': Part Two

Data Storytelling and Data Literacy are probably the hottest non-technical trends in the technology-related space. Neither of them directly supports data management. That has to change.


Each month we will share an excerpt from 'Telling Your Data Story – Data Storytelling for Data Management' by Scott Taylor, The Data Whisperer.

Our intention is to provide you with some thoughts, tips and tools to make your data management story end happily ever after.

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Excerpt 2: The Current State of Data Management Storytelling

Data Storytelling and Data Literacy are probably the hottest non-technical trends in the technology-related space.

Neither of them directly supports data management.

That has to change.

Keep in mind that there are two types of data storytelling. The most popular type of data storytelling is generally about Analytics. It guides the use of insight to drive business action. Many excellent experts and thought leaders have created content to help analytics and data science professionals. The majority of time and focus in the field of Data Storytelling is spent explaining analytics.

It is time to expand the realm of Data Storytelling to recognize the role of data management. That is the story about why data is vital to an organization and why it needs to be managed strategically. While an analytics data story is storytelling with data and USING it, the data management story is about data and MAKING it.

For more context, I see two big buckets in the broader data space: data (meaning data management) and analytics (some sort of business intelligence). Analytics, and the extended capabilities based on business intelligence, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and data visualization, focus on making data more useful for an organization. This is where you derive MEANING.

The activities around data management ensure data is trustworthy for an organization: data governance, data quality, data catalogs, business glossaries, master data, reference data, metadata, MDM, RDM, PIM. This is where you determine the TRUTH.

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Data Storytelling is not just about analytics. But if you look at the content published about data storytelling, it is devoted to tips on visualization, dashboards, charts, graphs, and other ways to explain analytics. Analytics can bring all sorts of value to an enterprise as long as the data is trustworthy. Devoid of data management, however, analytics data storytellers have no story to tell.

Every enterprise has a data management story

They must tell it for two particular reasons: first, investment in data management is a crucial component for the success of the business. This investment should be an on-going, strategic initiative, not a one-time ad-hoc project. Most C-Level business executives, company boards, and business stakeholders don’t understand that. It is not because they aren’t smart or aware—they simply haven’t been exposed to the need for data management in a business-accessible way with a strategic perspective. To get their attention, they need to hear a narrative that captures their hearts and minds and convinces them that data management is not an option.

Secondly, the louder, cooler, and in many cases, “sexier” trends fail without proper data management. Many massive investments are woefully underperforming. The value of every digitally transformative customer-facing initiative, every data science and analytics-based project, every as-a-service offering, every foray into eCommerce, and every enterprise software implementation is inextricably linked to the successful output of data management efforts. Although it is a simple function of garbage in garbage out, that slogan rarely serves to drive any sustainable executive action.

We need to speak up.

How many of you sit silently when a BI thought-leader boasts, “without analytics, data is just a cost center” or “data has no value unless it is made into analysis.” That is your work! A baker would never say, “flour is worthless unless I make it into bread,” because they have respect for the ingredients. There is no doubt that business intelligence provides incredible capabilities, but without proper data management, those efforts are futile. Challenge the analytics community to end this type of zero-sum portrayal of data vs. analytics value. It doesn’t help either group gain executive support.

There are two types of Data Storytelling.

One WITH data and one ABOUT data.

Both are important.

They are connected.

Every organization needs to do both.


Excerpted with permission from Technics Publications from TELLING YOUR DATA STORY – Data Storytelling for Data Management by Scott Taylor, The Data Whisperer, of MetaMeta Consulting. The entire book is available at the links below.

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