We said this a year ago, but alas, we have to say it again. There’s a big insights-to-actions gap out there.

Firms continue to invest in data, people, and technology, but in 2017, data and analytics pros reported basing fewer business decisions on data (45%) than in 2016 (49%). If you don’t feel pressured by that statistic, you should. Competitors or disruptors in your industry are getting better at using data to drive business outcomes faster than you are, and they’re coming after your customers.

Storytelling is your most important data-to-insights activator

Believe it or not, communication and “convincing” skills are as important in driving outcomes as the quality of your data and insights. Business insights pros we talk to with mature data-to-insights-to-actions capabilities say that at first they overfocused on data and tech and underestimated the power of soft skill activators. Learn from that and consider that:

  • As a business insights pro, you don’t own the budget for taking actions from the insights you derive from data. Your stakeholders do. So …
  • Your insights are recommending to stakeholders that they risk changing what they’re doing: stop doing something they do now, start something they’re not doing now, or adjust something they already did.
  • So, yes, you have to convince your stakeholders with your data-to-insights story and recommendations.

Insights storytelling is your key activator. “Without storytelling, data offers just a rear-view mirror,” said Clive Humby, cofounder of customer science company Dunnhumby. So, forward, ho! Start telling effective insights stories.

Use a repeatable approach to craft insights stories with purpose

My latest report (accessible by Forrester clients) gives practical advice on techniques for crafting insights stories with purpose. Stories with purpose stick in peoples’ minds, and can change attitudes and drive actions – your goals. The techniques I cover in the report include how to

  • Optimize your story’s approach by thinking through the setting you’ll be in when you deliver your story (live presentation, webinar, combo of people in the room and on the phone; audience with multiple native languages; audience size)
  • Analyze your audience members’ frame of mind to help them better “hear” you
  • Structure your story effectively
  • Instill customer empathy into your audience to increase your story’s memorability
  • Craft a “speedthrough,” 30-second version of your story to use in settings where you have an unexpected opportunity to make an impact, such as a chance meeting with an executive in a hallway

(This post originally appeared on the Forrester Researcch blog, which can be viewed here).

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