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The storyteller of the future

Business intelligence as we understood it in the past is dead.
Today's businesses need to utilise and understand complex data for business intelligence and to ensure they are competitive, but do not have the tools to do so. What they need is business analytics that communicate and tell a story. Why? Because analytics is a brilliant storyteller.

This is the opinion of Carel Badenhorst, Head Technology Practice: Middle East Africa, Turkey & Pakistan at SAS, who visited South Africa last week. He believes storytelling is a vital part of business communication and competitiveness.

(Image: Amin Javari, via Wikimedia Commons)
By using the storytelling process and methodology, the stories of the business' past, present and future can be told. "Business is about profitability or costs, and stories around these can be related to any aspect of the business. Any aspect can potentially affect cost or profitability," he says "By identifying the story, you can see for example how your cost or profitability has been affected and why."

It's in the maths

He says the enabler for this is mathematics. The power of mathematics will identify areas in your organisation that will add to your bottom line that you have never thought of. It is the unknown that mathematics will expose, not only the known.

However, mathematics scares the majority of us. "We cannot assume that every story teller is a mathematician, so we must make the process appropriate for storytelling."

Therefore, while the problem identification, problem reasoning and problem solving is done using mathematics, the mathematics is hidden. "This lets people undertake analytical decision-making in the organisation without being scared because the mathematics is hidden from them, but not its power."

It uses the knowledge of staff in a business. He says everyone in an organisation has a story to tell and if you deploy an analytical tool that is appropriate and easy for storytelling, and then everyone can make decisions, from the cleaning department on which cleaning materials to buy to the CEO on a strategic decision. "This is because the content and user experience is appropriate to the user."

Make the reports 'talk' and tell a story

"The absence of storytelling in reports is the problem with business intelligence. Reports are just a reflection of whatever information has been fed into them - the reporting layer is by definition one-dimensional."

A well-told story will win hearts, minds, stimulate thought and isolate the real issues on which budgets should be spent. "It weaves together the facts with points of interest, conclusions and analyses. Where this becomes really interesting is when we move form forecasting to using predicative analytics to fix a scenario and to see the effect of that scenario on the business. Then we are using mathematics to tell the story of the future of a business by interpreting its story," he says.

The scenario above is a difference approach to the normal one of assimilating information. Normally you read a report and using a framework of reference that you have, you try to make sense of it and then push the concept out to the most appropriate place."

He explains that the premise behind analytics-based decisioning is that you understand the real reason behind the pictures, which enables valid interpretation of the message; it does not replace gut feel, but validates or refutes it.

About Danette Breitenbach

Danette Breitenbach was the editor and publisher of Advantage, the publication that served the marketing, media and advertising industry in southern Africa. Before her editorship, she was deputy-editor as well as freelancing for over a year on the publication before that. She has worked extensively in print media, mainly B2B, in the fields of marketing, mining, disability marketing, advertising and media.