Storytelling on Top of Big Data – by Scott Williams

There’s a lot of buzz out there right now about the idea of big data and what you should (or should not) be doing with it. It’s accurately understanding the human component that is going to drive the success of strategies formed off big data. Businesses are scrambling to harness big data in order to make better decisions. Many people are touting the power of predictive analytics, these algorithms that ride on top of big data sets and make conjectures about what the future might look like based on the past.

There are a growing number of business platforms that produce visualizations from data – think bar charts, pie charts and scatter-plots – to support decision makers in strategizing for the future.  But if there’s one takeaway from the past that we can carry with us into this future, big data – driven world, it’s that human beings are unpredictable.  Therefore, any predictive analysis that is only keying off of the numbers isn’t telling you the whole story.

Big Data
Big Data

Most big data visualization engines take data that is automatically generated and plug it into a static display.  Increasingly there are more platforms that are allowing decision makers to interact with those displays and ask questions of the data. But very few tools are designed to marry up a database to the stories that you can’t get from numbers alone.  Unfortunately, we are still a few waves of development away from being able to plug our brains into an engine that can make sense of all that neurological activity.  Some information is only gotten through the act of circling up around a whiteboard and sharing experiences and perspectives.  The ability to capture those human insights and somehow package them to ride alongside of or on top of pure data analytics is the key to leveraging the full truth that big data stands to share.

So, what can we do in the mean time to tell these stories behind the numbers?  See Part II of “Storytelling on Top of Big Data” next week.

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