Communicating with Data

Communicating with data is one of the most important skills in business, particularly for someone in a management position. There are myriad ways that data is used to communicate about a business or business unit, including:

  • financial reports
  • production
  • sales
  • customer/employee satisfaction
  • leads and marketing results

With the rise of management by metrics and “data driven” organizations, business operators are increasingly asked to communicate the state of their world with data. Most are poor at this because a successful communicator must have:

  • an expansive understanding of the system he or she is communicating about
  • control and context on the data provenance (data collection)
  • statistical competency
  • fluency in data visualizations

Finally, they must use those abilities to synthesize the data into a clear narrative on how the system is performing.

The two tool obvious tools for communicating data are numerical values (including in table format) and data visualization. Numerical values are useful for presenting point in time states, while graphs and data visualizations are useful for comparisons and understanding trends. Another way to think of this is that visualizations provide the context for point in time values1.

Anti-patterns in Data Visualization

Links to this note