Turning Data into Dollars

Is your Business Intelligence (BI) investment a cost center or a revenue center?  If it’s the former, your organization may not be using its Business Intelligence, intelligently.

Josh James, CEO and co-founder of Omniture, an online marketing and web analytics company he later sold to Adobe Systems for $1.8 billion and current Founder and CEO of Domo, declared to our UCLA MBA Digital class recently that there isn’t a single CEO who isn’t thinking about data.

How are they thinking about?

  1. How to harness it.
  2. How to interpret it.
  3. How to turn it into a force that propels and sustains their competitive advantage.
  4. And, if they don’t accomplish the above, how will they explain the enormous investment absent an ROI to their investors, Board of Directors and other stakeholders.

So, lots of thinking going on and probably very little sleeping by these CEOs.  After all, data never sleeps.  Every minute huge amounts of data are created from more sources – every phone, website, social network and application on the Internet – than ever before.

While processes have become more sophisticated (and expensive) to harvest and harness it, and entrepreneurs like Josh have created new solutions making it easier for CEOs to interpret data, it leaves the core question of how to turn data into a force that propels and sustains their competitive advantage.

One solution to turn your data into dollars that is particularly attractive is to find the narrative the numbers are telling you and share that story up and down your food chain. The narrative is always lurking and numbers tell a story.  Instead of communicating your BI findings using largely forgettable facts, data and figures, the emotional resonance of the story behind the numbers makes that information more memorable, resonant and actionable.  This means your listeners now have something they can hold on to, making it easier for them to tell and retell this story forward, driving the results you want.

Don’t have the time to pour through reams of data to create your story?  A very exciting start-up has emerged to solve this problem for you.  Narrative Science helps companies leverage their data by turning numbers into stories through their artificial intelligence platform.  They generate stories in English explaining data from charts, graphs and spreadsheets to their customers, creating, according to their CTO, Kris Hammond, “a communications bridge between the numbers and the knowing.”

While the company is quick to point out that their technology doesn’t yet replace the human element, the fact of its very existence says the future of digital story telling has taken a huge step forward!


This blog originally appeared at LinkedIn, written by Peter Guber