There’s been a lot of talk recently about business intelligence being story driven rather than data driven. That data is nothing without the story that drives it.
There is more than a large element of truth in this. The very reason the terms ‘Big Data’ and ‘Vast Data’ have fallen into such disrepute - I recently overheard a head of marketing chuckle when someone was talking about ‘Data Lakes’ as the next big thing - is that anything spoken of in sufficient quantity without a scale to measure it by or a story behind it becomes meaningless. It’s just lots and lots and lots of data!
But rather than just lurching into ‘Data Fiction’ (DataDoodle.com, June 9, 2016 by Ted Cuzzillo) where data scientists are encouraged to “experiment freely… forming a picture from [data]… that guides your decision”, a more down-to-earth, business-driven point-of-view would be that analysis and modelling needs to be guided by what the client’s business objectives are.
By firmly anchoring business intelligence and data driven marketing in the realm of practical business objectives, the data scientist already has the ‘story background’. He or she already knows what the client is trying to achieve and it focuses their thinking and imagination. It ensures that the client will retain their interest in the results, it makes those results actionable, and it hones the outputs into a prioritised roadmap that the client can act upon.
Without knowing what the client wants, the data scientist can still tell a story to be sure, and they can still produce results, but that story and those results will be based on his or her imagination and knowledge alone, running the risk that the story they tell will be about a dog, when the story the project sponsor wants is about a cash cow.
So, for me Ted Cuzzilo is correct, the story is all-important but it’s the story the data scientist tells, based within the client’s narrative world, not something imagined in isolation.
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