When the analytics storybook becomes your business playbook

Big Data Evangelist, IBM

Narratives guide our lives. Unlike fantasies and daydreams, a living narrative roots itself deeply in reality. Anchored in facts, it tells us what’s happening now, how now relates to what came before and how past and present determine what’s likely to happen. Just as important, the narrative guides our ever-changing assessment of the best course of action to take in various scenarios.

In modern evidence-driven decision making, organizations use data and analytics to frame the narratives that guide collective action. Evidence is any data that you can factor into a case, which is simply a structured narrative that argues for or against some imperative. The imperative being framed is an organizational call to action: do this or don’t do that.

Telling the story

Data-driven narratives draw their power in part from the storytelling skills of the expert who wields them. Many experts specialize in building the data-driven narratives that drive calls to action. This specialization is what lawyers do before a judge and jury. It’s what entrepreneurs do when they seek financing or are trying to woo a customer. And it’s what any business professional does when trying to build a coalition around some proposed project, initiative or campaign. By expertly sifting through the data, performing the analysis and presenting a compelling narrative, they drive decisions that may have a huge impact on our lives.

True domain experts rely on powerful tools. In the 21st century, more of them than ever are using cognitive computing to discover the data, statistical models, predictive analyses and interactive visualizations of greatest relevance to the narrative they’re constructing. As the expert identifies the most relevant analytics assets for the problem at hand, they may choose to build templated applications to share with other people who rely on their guidance, or whom they’re trying to persuade.

That construction is the function of Expert Storybooks, as announced today at the Watson Analytics event in New York, New York. Check out the event’s livestream. Storybooks are essentially analytics playbook templates that enable organizations to make the most of data-driven expert guidance and have several capabilities: 

  • Provide prebuilt templates that offer starting points to guide users through the best practices of understanding data and communicating insights
  • Empower everyone—from individual business users to business analysts and data scientists—to focus on the drivers that matter most in a specific business domain
  • Amplify the domain expertise of subject-matter experts through the power of data science and cognitive computing
  • Offer data-driven guidance at greater depth than spreadsheets and with greater agility than embedded analytics in enterprise applications
  • Support ad hoc analysis into domain-specific data to uncover timely, functionally relevant insights
  • Deliver a unified analytics experience, enabling self-service guided discovery of the most relevant data and analytics on the Watson cloud-based platform
  • Automate the steps of data access and refinement, predictive analysis and visual storytelling
  • Enable users to connect their own data to get to insights rapidly
  • Identify and explain hidden patterns and relationships to accelerate understanding of why things happened and what’s likely to happen
  • Leverage natural-language dialogues for asking the right questions and getting results in the familiar terms of a business Expert Storybooks

Before long, expert guidance will be available everywhere on the Watson Analytics cloud. Expert Storybooks will be available from within Watson Analytics, addressing many of the most common data-driven guidance scenarios, including sales and revenue analysis and marketing campaign optimization. In addition, Expert Storybooks will be available from co-branded Watson Analytics partners, including those at the Watson Analytics announcement event. In addition, any Watson Analytics user will be able to author an Expert Storybook.

Discoverability of Expert Storybooks will be key to their disruptive promise. As noted in the blog posting, Next-best expert: Collaboration of people and machines on big data and analytics, the next-best expert in various decision scenarios may be some blend of human and algorithmic resources available in the cognitive cloud. To this end, any partner, user, or other party will be able to publish Expert Storybooks through the Watson Analytics Exchange marketplace.

For example, Expert Storybooks for marketing can provide guided templates, best practices and recommendations for specific business problems, including campaign effectiveness, marketing optimization and response and clickthrough rates. They can also enable marketers to access external sources of data such as social sentiment and weather data for additional insights. Through a combination of cognitive, predictive and visual analytics, marketers can answer questions, validate hunches and explore data in myriad scenarios.

Continue your exploration of Expert Storybooks and the Watson Analytics cloud-based platform. And be sure to register for IBM Insight 2015, 25–29 October 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

And if you haven't discovered what Watson Analytics offers, register today for the Free Edition.

This post was coauthored by Stephen Archut, Product Marketing Manager for IBM Watson Analytics.