Selling the power of data analytics through simple storytelling

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As organizations evaluate the role of new technologies in their business strategy, or even old but re-emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the burden is on the software developer and data analyst to demonstrate the potential of each. One of the best ways to do that is through simple storytelling.

That was the message of Afsheen Afshar, senior MD and chief artificial intelligence officer at Cerberus Capital Management in his keynote address at the recent Chief Data & Analytics Officer Winter Conference in Miami. Afshar spoke on “The power of storytelling in reconciling the data and business strategy.”

One of the greatest challenges to the developer and analyst is to help separate the hype from the reality of each new technology and understand how it can aid the organization and improve the efficiency and capacity of existing systems. But “the hype and your real world often clash,” Afshar said.

Because so much pressure is being placed on demonstrating the return of investment of artificial intelligence and other “trending” technologies, developers and analysts need to be especially mindful of how data is used by the organization.

Remember, data is in the analysts blood, it is not in the blood of the business user, Afshar stressed.

“Be cautious, thoughtful and deliberate in how you convey to your stakeholders what technology can do,” Afshar said. “We are the problem solvers. Understand what the problems of your business are. Investigate what are the products that will affect them. Know what analytics will be needed to power a solution.” And explain possible solutions and outcomes in story form.

Most importantly, the developer or analyst must demonstrate the value to be had in any new implementation or special project.

Because IT budgets are so tight and organizations are leery of first-time investments, Afshar recommended creating scalable infrastructure that can be reused, and demonstrating a number of actions that can be taken using multiple use cases with that infrastructure.

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Vendors don’t supply complete solutions to any problem, Afshar noted, so there is always in-house development needed. The developer or data analyst should clearly outline the role of vendor and in-house team in working toward a solution to any problem. They should thoughtfully predict how long the process will take, how much resources will be required, how success will be measured, and what new or added value will be created.

“You need to get the C-suite to view analytics as a revenue generator, not as a cost center,” Afshar said. “And you have to be a good storyteller to get that message across.”

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