Data is one of the most powerful resources in modern business.

It surrounds an organisation every single day. Every time a transaction is made, every time a customer waits or fails to purchase, every time a pallet is restocked, a service is rendered and an advert is clicked – it’s all data. Metrics and stats are being produced every hour.

As an FP&A Manager, BI Specialist or C-Suite Executive, you know data is important and you’re probably seeing lists of numbers daily – but what does it all actually mean? How does this data translate into actual insights that can improve decision-making?

And, how do you communicate the meaning behind the numbers to key decision-makers in a way they will understand?

This is where Data Storytelling comes in

When harnessed correctly, data can unlock hidden secrets that can transform a business in ways that were never thought possible. Yet on its own, data is static and meaningless. Simply collecting data is not enough, and even analysis is only one part of solving the data puzzle.

Here’s why it’s so critical to look beyond the numbers and more into the story they tell.

Unlocking the meaning behind your business data

To utilise the true power of data, it needs to be clearly presented and able to be understood.

Without effective communication, data is just numbers that will often leave decision-makers confused, underwhelmed and unable to take action. In today’s fast-paced world, we don’t have any extra time to spare – and so, if data insights are not articulated in a way that’s useful and translatable into action, then they will just get overlooked or even ignored, creating significant missed opportunities.

To make the most of your data, you need to tell an effective story that delivers insight beyond the numbers.

What is Data Storytelling?

Data storytelling is the practise of collecting raw data, uniting and analysing it to then form contextual meaning which can be explained as a narrative. It’s essentially putting together and communicating the “why” behind the data. It enables holistic insights to be determined and then acted upon in a well-informed way.

For instance, the number of abandoned shopping carts your website has every day doesn’t tell you why sales are dropping. However, looking at the data behind the products in those carts, shopping times, customer locations and active discounts can weave together ‘a story’. This will give you an indication as to why people are not converting, allowing you to address the problem.

So, you may find that the story the data is saying is:

Sales are dropping as customers in Western Australia, who are two hours behind the East Coast, are placing discounted items in their cart, only to find that those discounted prices expired during their ideal shopping time of 8pm (which is 10pm in Sydney). In frustration, half of Australia is abandoning their entire shopping on the site. Hence the drop in sales.

This is the power of data, or more precisely, the power of effective data storytelling.

How to tell an effective data story  

Here are some ways you can strike a balance between numbers and narratives, visuals and data through effective data storytelling.

Know who your audience is

As with any story, the first step is to determine who your audience is.

Not everyone is a data specialist or scientist! So, when presenting data, it’s important to make the story relevant and relatable so that decision-makers are able to comprehend the data story you’re trying to tell.

Develop a plotline with a clear objective

A good data story has a specific goal that you want to convey to your audience (such as the need to develop tactics around product supply), bound together with a plotline.

The plot includes an introduction (a current business challenge like upcoming supply shortages), a body (this is where you describe what the current results say and what is predicted), and a conclusion (the outcomes of several courses of action).

Set the context

Next, the audience needs context to establish what they are seeing. Framing the story of data starts with the why, the what, and the how. For instance, why was this collected, what are we seeing, and how is it going to help us?

Let the data tell the story

While you want your data story to be engaging and compelling, you also have to be objective and let the numbers show the facts. After all, effective unbiased data storytelling sets the stage for deeper understanding by offering:

  • a comprehensive explanation of why the data was collected
  • what trends are present in it
  • what they look like within the organisation, and
  • how these insights are going to help decision-makers today and into the future.
  • Use data tools to support your data storytelling

    Creating a narrative for your data doesn’t solely depend on old-school presentations and the spoken word – there are now smarter ways to tell a story. Dashboards and reports let you deliver your data story in a way that allows business leaders to quickly absorb the information they need to make better decisions.

    Developing these data tools enables business leaders to cut to the core of what data means for their organisation. Streamlining your data processes is about simplifying the story and making it actionable in a way that will benefit your business. When data is easily understood you will be able to unlock the true insights and opportunities that can make a difference.

Without a story, data can actually be a counter-productive business resource

Without the ability to tell a story, data has the potential to obfuscate more than it illuminates, which can create a barrier to making the necessary changes in your business.

That’s why data storying telling is such an important skill to have in today’s business environment.

Effective data storytelling enables you to pull back the curtain and engage key decision-makers in what the numbers actually mean. It is one of the most essential skills to develop in any organisation that hopes to harness the true power of its data.

How we can help you

At Minerva, we go beyond just the numbers to make data truly work for you.

Through our Digital Ecosystem Solutions, we develop and integrate data systems that provide clean, accurate and detailed insights. More than consultants, we work alongside our clients to explore the detailed stories within their data and explain the why, the what and the how of data.

We specialise in partnering with FP&A and Data and Analytics teams and leveraging leading-edge technologies to transform their operations. Our approach is agile and adaptable: whether you require an organisational overhaul or a departmental adjustment.

Let Minerva help you improve your data story capabilities

At Minerva, we collaborate with you and your team to find the best solution to replace your outdated data systems. Our goal is to provide you with the customised tools and training you need.

With key partnerships with market-leading software providers, Minerva makes digital transformation simple and more effective.

If you’d like to learn more about how Minerva can help you, contact us on 1800 646 378 or email

For more great data management content, follow us on LinkedIn.

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