The report was a monstrosity: orange column headings so loud they screamed across all 19 pages, each page loaded with finance data 20 columns across by 35 rows down. The title of the PDF, birthed from an ancient Excel file, was an exercise in wishful thinking: “Sales Channel Report - Executive.” Twenty executives got it in their inbox each month. Zero read it. Everyone hated it.
I loved it. Why? Because the most important data storytelling to the business was in it. Deep in it. I had just started at this company, and I was eager to understand their KPIs. I dug into the report and found a big story on page 10, column 4, row 28: a product that had become stratospheric. I asked the finance team to send me all the old “orange reports.” I created a master data set, analyzed it all, then built a dashboard, then created a deck, then brought it all into the boardroom. An executive turned to me, my business dashboard on his laptop, my executive presentations on the big screen, and said, “I love this.”
I loved that ugly report because it led me to my special purpose: showcasing data for dashboards, decks and decisions. Or “D4D” for short. My background in communications as a New York magazine editor, my business education and my head for numbers gave me the tools to research, distill and convey the data-driven stories that mattered most.
In the years since, I’ve showcased thousands of business stories for big-name corporations. Sometimes the story can be told in one chart or one slide. Sometimes it takes a full presentation. All of the time, it has to happen fast. That’s where Data for Execs comes in. Even with the rise of data visualization and a wave of talented analysts, business data is too often a monster when it lands on the big desk — sparking tension between data teams and the executives who pay for them. As Harvard Business Review editor Scott Berinato wrote in “Data Science & the Art of Persuasion” recently, “Efforts fall short in the last mile, when it comes time to explain the stuff to decision makers.”
Data for Execs helps explain the stuff. The key is translating data into an exec-friendly format like a slide, since that’s still the language that executives speak. This issue shares proven techniques for communicating data to business leaders, whether you’re leading the data team or the company itself. The goal is to show the story that will spark your success — because that’s everyone’s purpose.
Editor, Data for Execs
Founder, D4D Optimization consulting
Chris was a magazine editor, then a website director, then a magazine-and-website director, then a data analyst, and now, a magazine-about-data editor. He'd love to compare notes on all things data.