If you are in the realm of business, regardless of your field, you’ve more than likely read about, discussed or researched the topic of data and its impact on you. I know I have more than a handful of times! In our digitally driven world, the topic of data has been prominent over the past few years. Recently, I came across an article that, at least for me, discussed data with a fresh perspective. The author described data as a language that is used to tell stories – and not just in the business world but in everyday life.
Running an upcoming marathon? The distance, your level of fitness and goal for time will inform the amount of training you need to do. Saving for retirement? Your standard of living, current income and family size are just some of the data that will inform how much you need to save annually. I could go on, but the point is, almost everything you do involves some kind of data that is used to tell a simple story. But so often in business we can get overwhelmed and caught up in data overload. This inspired me to think about how you can use data to tell a simple story about your business.
Effective Business Story Telling Using YOUR Data
1. Know the context
Your story is meaningless without context. When it comes to business – you have a ton of historical data but without knowing what it means how can you move forward? This is your foundation and a key part of the story you are telling. Get an understanding of your past to understand current performance and inform future goals. Was there an influx in claims over the past five years from infectious diseases like Ebola, or H1N1? Will Leap Year affect your annual premiums this year? Are you having trouble retaining clients? These are the types of questions that historical data can answer which will shape your current state of play.
2. Get everyone on the same page
Perhaps your goal this year is to reduce administration error rates or improve the accuracy in your premium calculations. Without specific data, this could mean something drastically different to you, your manager, CEO and colleagues. Instead of being vague, use data to build key performance indicators so that everyone is on the same page. You can use industry averages and historical internal performance (from step 1) to build out standardized KPIs. Drill down to specific goals like detailing percentage of increase or decrease and time frames for achieving goals. Getting everyone on the same page ensures transparency so that there are no surprises in what you are trying to achieve.
3. Be consistent
Whether you’re creating KPIs, reviewing historical data, analyzing cash flow or pulling last month’s claims count – the data you are referencing to build these reports should consistently come from the same source. This ensures that when you are analyzing data weekly, monthly or annually – it is actually measurable. If you are pulling from various sources or different versions of the TAI system, it may be harder to draw accurate conclusions. Therefore consistency leads to a more accurate story. Furthermore, overtime you’ll be able to identify trends and patterns that will help you tell a greater story of the big picture.
4. Track progress
By setting standardized KPIs and reporting from consistent sources you will easily be able to track progress. The final element of effective storytelling with data is measuring actual results to expected results. After all, your goal is to tell a story about overall business performance. If you have followed the steps so far then this is where your story comes together. The insights will shed light on the efforts of your operations and help you identify where action needs to take place. You can drill down to specific functions of your business and assess any potential risks. I’ll explore how this can be done in my next post.
In the meantime, think about how your data is informing your business performance story. Do you have the right tools in place to easily access this information? Are you utilizing and analyzing the TAI data that is currently available to you?
Remember like Rome, your story can’t be built in a day. But with the right resources, you can streamline the collection of key insights – giving you more time to understand and build a strong story.