How to Tell a Better Big Data Story

"The world will never be the same." Cut to someone working feverishly at a desk, under some kind of extreme pressure from their boss. Then we break the world, diving "into" the computer to see a representation of how much data we now have to deal with. Data is (are?) shown as piles and piles of cubes. Or balls. Or undifferentiated "stuff". Enter Product™, which cleans up all the cubes into Actionable Insights. Next thing you know, the main character is drinking mai tais on the beach using a sack of money as a pillow.

Does that one sound familiar? It certainly does to me. It’s the Big Data Story.

Every day at Epipheo, we try to simplify complex topics for an audience. That topic is very, very often Big Data. With the proliferation of cloud computing, Big Data Story videos have become our bread and butter.

Like everyone here, I’ve worked on a lot of these videos. Enough of them to say that the Big Data Story has some big problems. We've made so many that I have to ask: do we need to make any more?

I’ll clarify after our sales team throws me out the window.

What I mean is: do we still need to explain Big Data? It's been a part of the reality of business for so long.

If your audience is tech-minded, they're already aware of the value in the data they're collecting. And they're definitely aware of how hard it is to unlock that value. What if, instead of dwelling on those facts, you talked about what makes you different? The choices you made for your product to achieve excellence in a new and perhaps specialized arena?

If your audience is business-minded, they care about results. It's easy to fall into the also-cliché transformation story here, vaguely promising that your product or service will fundamentally change the world. It's possible and even probable that this is true, but such claims, now common, lack credibility. Instead, what if you focused on the new things your Big Data technology allows people to do? Titillated their imaginations with real stories and hinted possibilities? Bonus points if these have an effect in the physical world, because that makes for an engaging video.

Notice that both of these audience cases challenge you to think one step beyond how your solution works. Rather, you need to figure out why your solution exists or why people should care. If you're not thinking about your story on this level, you run the risk of boring your audience with buzzwords or engaging in an arms race of features and benefits in which nobody wins. Especially not viewers.

The template for my thinking on this topic is a video we did for EMC earlier this year. It couches a Big Data Story in a real life example that makes the effects of this technology concrete and clear for any observer, while also making credible claims about business transformation and exciting the audience's imagination.

It sickens me, but I have to end this essay with another cliché of our times. We need to disrupt the Big Data Story.

Written by Kole Ross