Make Data Analytics the Life of the Party
I know what you’re thinking… “data analytics” and “life of the party” rarely are strung together in the same sentence. Although we all may recognize the value of data, most people don’t bubble with enthusiasm when the topic is raised in casual conversations. Aren’t convoluted concepts such as mean, percent gain/loss, and statistical variance only fodder for some math nerds sitting in a windowless room? When I tell others in social settings that I work in data analytics, I can almost see the expression in their face transform—their smile turning to a grimace. However, when approached the right way, data analytics really can be fascinating, not just for me, but for anyone!
Here are three tips for making data analytics the life of the party for you and your team:
Ask Compelling Questions
The most interesting people at a party are usually the most interested. In other words, people who are active listeners, who ask good questions, and display general curiosity in others are often the very people that others gravitate towards. The same is true of data analytics. There is nothing inherently interesting about bar graphs, scatter plots, or numbers color-coded in a table. The “hook” for making any dashboard come to life is by beginning with a good question. For example, Five Star’s Google Workspace dashboards combine data from Classroom, Meet, Drive, Gmail, and more, but we recognize the questions schools are wrestling with go beyond just wondering, “Who used Google Classroom the most?” Therefore, our dashboards explicitly pose meaningful, pointed questions that expose the broader purpose of each report, such as the following: Are your students engaged during remote learning? If people aren’t sure what a dashboard is supposed to tell them, that’s not a failure of the user; that’s a shortfall of the design. Dashboard titles, menus, and guiding questions should pique curiosity, not cause confusion.
Keep it Super Simple (KISS)
Sometimes the most powerful interaction you can have at a party is sharing a genuine smile with someone else. We all know how being stuck with someone who talks too much and interrupts constantly can be annoying and overbearing. Similarly, data dashboards should give people the information they need without having to sift through a lot of noise (clutter) they don’t need. Follow the KISS method, a design principle which states systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated. The concept has stood the test of time and remains a key approach to design from leading companies like Apple and Google. So, keep your dashboards intuitive to use and easy to understand and make people feel empowered, not intimidated.
Tell a Good Story
People love stories. The life of a party is often the person who can make any event sound interesting and has a way of pulling others into their storytelling. The most effective storytellers (think Martin Luther King, Jr. or Abraham Lincoln) also have a way of inspiring and bringing out the best in others. Likewise, although your dashboard may just be graphs and numbers on a page, they should visually tell a story and motivate people to action. For example, the familiar United Way “thermometer” immediately conveys a simple, but incredibly powerful message (how much has been given and how much more is still needed to reach the goal) and drives action (to give). So, don’t push people away with rambling stories or globs of data, pull people in with pointed, but personal information that feels relatable. Build dashboards that drive action, not add annoyance.
At Five Star, the Data Analytics team is proud to build dashboards for schools that pique curiosity, empower people, and drive action. So, if you feel confused, intimidated, or annoyed when dissecting your school data, let us help. We would love the opportunity to help your team do data differently. Let us make your data the life of the party.
Learn more about the power of visualized data here!
Written by Brad Fischer
Senior Director of Data Analytics
Five Star Technology Solutions