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If brands want to use big data technology and management platforms, they also need to invest in the skills that enable big data to have an appropriate impact, as StoryMakers’ Grant Feller explains.

Just a few weeks ago, a £1.9billion private equity deal with Informa other – a British company bought by the Americans – went largely unnoticed.

Warburg Pincus’ acquisition of medical data provider Pharma Intelligence is further proof that the ability to accelerate the way market research and brand insights are delivered to decision makers is more vital than ever. Warburg Pincus is known for turning pure data into meaningful insights.

The deal comes just weeks after Salesforce bought a company called Narrative Science whose mission is “to help everyone understand and act on data through the power of data storytelling.” Its innovative technology automates data analysis in a narrative format that makes it easy to read, understand and share. By leveraging this technology across the enterprise, Salesforce clearly expects its stakeholders to consume and react to stories rather than pure data.

Excuse the revamped metaphor, but if data is the new oil, then data storytelling is the drill, the pipeline, the refinery, and the tanker all rolled into one.

However, in a research environment where data is very consuming – used to adjust business strategies, understand customers more completely, reach new audiences, build brand loyalty, deepen cultural relevance and enable true personalization – leaders do not read them and do not react quickly to them. enough.

Netflix is ​​one company that achieves this with flying colors. Not only does its sophisticated, story-driven analysis of customer data make the user experience more satisfying, but it also feeds into the company’s creative strategy so that new content is ordered and purchased with astonishing speed. Effective leadership is made possible by data storytelling.

According to a recent IDC study, over 64 zettabytes of data were generated in 2020 and global data creation and replication is expected to increase by 23% through 2025. But if you don’t understand what all that data means – really mean – so what’s the point of all this?

The world of media is a fascinating example of what is happening. To compete with Facebook and Google, global agencies have spent the past few years buying, investing in and launching big data research companies. Dentsu has Merkle, Publicis has Epsilon, IPG has Acxiom, Omnicom has Omni, and recently WPP launched Choregraph, with approximately 700 data and technology experts creating material for the entire organization.

But they are often crippled by an inability to turn that data into information that fuels decision-making. The research is extraordinarily detailed and illuminating, but it doesn’t always lead to action because it isn’t translated.

Data only really comes to life when it’s turned into a story. Conference rooms only really feel confident making a decision when the data doesn’t just show them something – it recount them something. It enriches and inspires rather than sitting there in increasingly complex strategic reports and PowerPoint presentations.

And that’s where the fault line lies: if brands and their marketing teams want to invest in big data management and technology platforms, they need to invest in the skills that enable that big data to have a appropriate impact. Turning that data into stored information that makes sense to people whose brains are more often wired to connect to creativity rather than pure numbers.

Last year, a fascinating study by Accenture and data analytics firm Qlik showed that a lack of big data skills is costing businesses billions. Of those surveyed, 87% believed data was an asset to their business, yet only a quarter felt able to do anything with that data; three-quarters felt overwhelmed by the flood of data they faced; only 37% believed their decisions were better because of data. In fact, almost as many said they would try to solve a problem without using data because they found it difficult to analyze.

It’s not the data’s fault but the way the data is presented and shared. It’s dense, complicated and, well, too big. The knee-jerk reaction is that we need to make marketers and their creative teams better data analysts, give them data literacy skills, and build a data-driven culture. However, perhaps the exact opposite is true: give researchers and data analysts the tools to be creative, speak the language of the boardroom, translate what they have into actionable marketing insights, and develop skills that create a story-driven culture.

If we want data to move quickly through a business so that collaboration is encouraged and key people can make decisions quickly, we need to use our human storytelling instincts to make sense of that data. A journalistic approach, bringing a newsroom ethos to data operations so that “humanity” influences raw information, is one option.

A recent survey by data consultants NewVantage Partners found that 92% of companies are investing more in collecting additional data and yet only 12% are investing in artificial intelligence to make sense of that data. Which means most rely on people to do the work of robots. The only problem is that most people have a hard time telling data stories. We need to invest in their training.

Too often, brands “let the data speak for itself” and no one listens. Or if they are, they don’t understand what they’re hearing and are too embarrassed to admit it. Give them a story full of data insights, though, and they’ll be captivated.

There is a gaping hole in our obsession with big data. What do we do with all this? To which the answer is: telling better stories.

Grant Feller is the founder of StoryMakers, a data storytelling consultancy.