How to Communicate Insights from Big Data

By Bernard Marr

Part of Big Data for Small Business For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Big data can help you gain insight. Businesses gain competitive advantage when the right information is delivered to the right people at the right time. This means extracting insights and information from data and communicating them to decision makers in a way they’ll easily understand. After all, people are less likely to act if they have to work hard to understand the information in front of them.

Make sure your insights shine through with these top tips:

  • Identify your target audience. Who your audience is depends on your strategic questions. The audience may be you if you’re the business owner, or it could be your human resources team, your marketing team or a combination. Ask yourself who’s going to see these results. What do they already know about the issues being discussed? What do they need and want to know? And, what will they do with the information?

  • Customise the information for your audience. Be prepared to customise your information to meet the specific requirements of each decision maker.

  • Remember what you’re trying to achieve. Try not to get distracted by interesting insights that have nothing to do with answering your strategic questions and achieving your business goals. There may be scope to revisit those other insights in future but, for now, focus on what you set out to achieve.

  • Avoid creating a wall of text. Remember that data can be presented as a number, a short written narrative, a table, a graph or a chart. In fact, the best approach is likely to involve a combination of these formats.

  • Use data visualisation techniques. Visuals are great for conveying information because they’re quick and direct, they’re (usually) easy to understand, they’re memorable and they add interest, being much more likely to hold the reader’s attention than a full page of text.

  • But don’t neglect the text. Numbers, charts and visuals may only give a snapshot; narrative allows you to embellish on key points. Use short narratives to introduce what you’re showing and highlight the key insights.

  • Use clear headings to make the important points stand out. This way, even at a quick glance, the key points will be obvious.

  • Link the information to your strategy. If you’re presenting information that directly answers a strategic business question, such as ‘How do we reduce staff turnover by ten per cent?’, include that question in the opening narrative and maybe even the headline.