Communicating with Data: Communicate More Effectively with Team Members

Industry Advice Analytics

As a data analyst, you probably spend the majority of your days neck-deep in data and numbers.

And by working so closely with data—collecting it, analyzing it, and interpreting it—you’ve very quickly become good at communicating about it, at least with other analysts who are familiar with the terms and numbers that you work with. In short, you’ve learned the language of analytics, which can make communicating with other analysts incredibly intuitive and efficient.

Unfortunately, others within your organization, especially often the key stakeholders, are probably not as comfortable working so deeply with data. Whereas you might be fluent in the language of analytics, they’re fluent in the language of project management, or in the language of your organization’s business challenges.

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This can lead to a bit of a disconnect when it comes time for you to provide a report or conduct a presentation showcasing the results of your work. If you’re speaking in terms of analytics to people who don’t speak the same “language” as you, then it can become quite challenging to show the importance of your work or translate your analysis into specific actions within your organization.

That’s why, according to Uwe Hohgrawe, assistant teaching professor and lead faculty member for Analytics at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies, data analysts need to work to become, in a sense, “bilingual.”

Speaking the Language of Your Organization’s Domain

By being thoroughly versed in the language of analytics, an analyst is able to perform his or her job effectively. But by also being versed in the language of your organization’s domain, you can communicate effectively with team members who aren’t fluent in analytics, allowing you to translate your data into actionable advice that can be used in business decisions.

Becoming “bilingual” is one of the most important steps that an analyst can take toward effectively communicating the worth they bring to an organization.

Have you found yourself struggling to communicate with members of your organization outside the analytics team? Hohgrawe has some tips you can put to use to become better at communicating data without speaking like an analyst.

1. Always Continue Learning About Your Business

Take some time each week to read up on industry news so that you continuously learn about your organization’s business, its challenges, and your competition. As little as an hour of reading a week can have major impacts on your ability to understand your domain, understand the business question behind your analytics, and communicate more effectively.

2. Go Back to the Business Question

Any time that you’re presenting the results of your work, it’s important that you’re able to tie the numbers directly back to a business question that’s important to your stakeholders. What do the numbers mean in relation to your organization’s strategic initiatives? What action can your insights inform? In other words: Why should your stakeholders care?

3. Don’t Be Too Granular

As an analyst, it can be easy to get lost in the specifics about the data. After all, that’s what’s so fascinating about your work! But unless specific data points are critical to the argument you’re trying to make, it’s better to summarize so as to not lose the attention of your key stakeholders and sponsors. If you’re passionate about the detail, you can always put it in an appendix at the end of your report.

4. Make the Data Easier to Consume

If you’re tasked with creating a report or giving a presentation for stakeholders, it’s important to make the data easy to digest. Wherever possible, use graphs, charts, and other visual representations so that your audience will have an easier time understanding your data. In addition to making it easier to hold their attention, this will also make it easier for them to put the data to use moving forward.

5. Debrief After Your Presentation

After you’ve presented the data to your stakeholders, you should ask them if there was anything they would rather you do differently next time. Were there any numbers they wish you had focused less time on? Any that they thought deserved more time? These takeaways can be invaluable in informing how you present the information in your next presentation or report, and show your willingness to continuously improve while keeping the concerns of your organization front and center.

Becoming “Multilingual”

Learning the language of your organization’s business domain is an essential step in becoming an efficient and effective communicator with those who work outside the world of analytics. But analysts shouldn’t stop there: By also learning the language of project management, analysts can truly affect change and become an indispensable part of your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help to solve the business problems of your organization using data, download our guide below and explore the range of graduate certificates and master’s degrees that Northeastern offers.  Explore our Master of Science in Business AnalyticsMaster of Professional Studies in Informatics, and Master of Professional Studies in Analytics.

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