Technology and data professionals with insights responsibilities want to find ways to drive employees across the organization to make smarter decisions faster. In Forrester’s Data And Analytics Survey, 2022, 75% of data and analytics decision-makers responded that they are changing their management culture to rely on more decision-making with data. However, in the healthcare field, making poor decisions (say, when administering medication) can cost more than time or money; it can also lead to loss of life.

While many data and technology leaders might not think the decisions their employees are making via data storytelling could lead to human life-or-death consequences, they can learn from their peers in healthcare and observe some basic road signs on a journey to becoming an insights-driven business. Not heeding these signs might not lead to a loss of human life, but it certainly can lead to the “death” of an important project or initiative if a data story is poorly communicated.

What Do These Road Signs Look Like?

Here are the seven “rights” of data storytelling (adapted from the health administration field) that we believe are essential to insights impact.

  1. Right individual. Understanding who you are speaking to is essential to crafting your message. Who is the primary audience you intend to communicate with?
  2. Right data. Are you providing your audience with information relevant to their interests or work? Make sure to include what the problem is, why they should care, and what action they could take to proceed. Always remember to think from the audience’s perspective of “What’s in it for me?”
  3. Right dose. Ask how hungry is your audience for insights. Do they need one bullet point stat or a comprehensive report? You should answer this from their perspective, not your own. Think about what your audience is doing immediately before and after they consume your insights.
  4. Right time. Does your audience need time to sit with these insights a week before making a decision? Or do they need them scheduled to be sent in tandem with an important upcoming meeting invite?
  5. Right route. Do you know how your audience likes to receive information? How might they redeliver it after they get it? Are they email, instant messenger, or PowerPoint aficionados? How might you deliver information with empathy in mind so they can reshare it to their colleagues or copy and paste it into a report upwards? Do you have a quick oral version ready to share in the event you catch them at the start of a small virtual meeting and no other attendees have arrived?
  6. Right documentation. If a decision was made using insights, how and where was it documented? Use this to show transparency and accountability to foster trust with an audience member. Make sure you can back up the insights presented in your story from various reputable data sources and have them documented.
  7. Right response. Prior to delivering your data story, determine what a successful response might be if the data story was communicated clearly. Would your audience change their mindset on an important topic? Would they feel a certain way? Would they change a behavior? Make sure to record before and after quantitative and qualitative observances to show the value of your data communication efforts.

This is not an exhaustive list of the many things that a data storyteller should consider, but it can help frame some important considerations along the way.

Now What: What Actions Can You Take Right Now?

Want to learn more about data storytelling? Join us at the upcoming Data Strategy & Insights event in Austin on December 6–7, where I’ll be presenting a session on this topic.

I am looking forward to interacting with you and helping you craft your next data story.