Data doesn't speak for itself

Data is important, but by itself it’s nothing special. Much like words in a dictionary, data needs a voice to give it meaning.

Data can’t speak for itself and just turning data into charts won’t do it either. You need the fundamentals; a design-first approach, knowledge of the business, and data communication skills.

Instead of racing to the finish, focus on what it takes to make your data useful.

1.    Design First - Don’t just ask what’s possible, ask what’s useful. It’s really tempting to use the latest chart or Minion Yellow color. Figure out what purpose you are trying to solve for.  Think about what questions your users actually have. You might think you know, but asking them is a sure way to know you’re on the right path.

2.    Knowledge of the Business – If you’re not the expert go find one. No matter the amount of data or your chart sophistication, you’ll need to convey the importance and validity of what you’re trying to communicate.  Getting users to buy in requires expertise.

3.    Data Communication Skills  – Figuring out the right charts or visualization that communicate to your audience is an important part of comprehension. Since you’re telling a story, layout and/or sequence is important too. Remember you’re guiding the user through the information, kind of like an instructional manual.

Ultimately if there is no understanding, then you haven’t given your data a voice and it's just hot air. Be objective about you and your team’s capabilities. Not all teams possess these fundamentals. Once you’ve decided where your team might be lacking, you are better equipped to find the right help and ultimately turn your data into action.