Show me the data. The importance of Data Storytelling in an uncertain world.

Show me the data. The importance of Data Storytelling in an uncertain world.

Right now, we are seeing the importance of trusted data in helping people navigate the situation we are currently facing. And by people, I mean everyone! A lot of people who would normally never look at a report or use a dashboard, are sharing reams of data on social media, discussing #flatteningthecure and infection/mortality rates. The list goes on.

Basically the world is starting to understand the role data plays in making critical decisions and taking unprecedented actions. It allows us as individuals, teams, corporations and even countries to be informed and do what is right. And while right now this is focussed around our personal wellbeing and the safety of our family and community, it will soon shift to business and the insights and actions needed to navigate the road ahead. Our economic wellbeing now depends on the decisions that are made at every level of an organisation. It is not a time for personal opinion, individual interpretation and uninformed decision making.

The problem though is data without narrative is often misinterpreted, misunderstood and can be taken out of context subsequently leading to poor decision making.


“No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a Story.

Amos Tversky


I for one am not an infectious diseases expert. Nor am I an expert in government policy, medicine, logistics or social sciences. I need to see the data around me, trust it and learn in narrative what it means from experts who are trained in understanding that data. Only then, can I make the best decisions for myself, my family and my team, or trust the decisions being made on my behalf by government or management. What we need now is consistent, organisational (or societal) understanding that leaves no room for uninformed opinion.

Data stories using governed data (like our very own Yellowfin Stories) brings together trusted data with expert narrative in a format accessible to everyday people - we designed and built Yellowfin Stories to bring people together on trusted insights - not just data experts.

Data stories remove ambiguity and provide a simple platform for insight sharing and decision support. It’s important to note that the data needs to be trusted. Unlike powerpoint, email, word or most other content sharing platforms, Yellowfin stories embeds active data from a known source. It can be then drilled, explored and interacted with, unlike a static picture so that it can be fully understood. And, most importantly, it can be supported with words, as well as pictures and video.

Working at home and wondering and planning where I need to focus and what I need to do, I can be confidently led by the data being shared internally at Yellowfin, backed with insights from those in the know, my CEO, CFO, CMO etc. I am very clear on the impact the current crisis is having on our business and I can check in as often as I like to see how the data is changing backed up by commentary from the management team.

As we move to an altered economic state, data will play a more significant role in guiding us all. And only through data storytelling, will that data and the insights learned be shared with entire organisations in a way that they trust it and act on it.

So what can you do now?

As data comes to you internally, socially or via media, before you make any decisions and take any actions, ask yourselves:

  • Is the data trusted? (do I know the source of the data and is it accurate)
  • Is the data supported by a story or narrative?
  • If so, is the accompanying narrative from an expert?
  • Does the narrative guide you to sensible action?

The unprecedented trends we are seeing now, in the virus spread, and the potential impact on our business may at face value seem alarming and confusing, but when combined with a clear explanation of what it means to you and your family, and the actions you can take, it alleviates stress and puts you back in control.  That’s the power of data storytelling! 

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