What is data story telling ? Why data story telling becomes more and more important in the BI world ? How SAP Lumira can create data story telling ?

This blog presents basics about data story telling with a business case done with SAP Lumira.

1) The Importance of data story telling

By principle we should never forget the aim of BI or Business Intelligence is to give Intelligence to the Business or to give insights to the Business, it means to provide KPI (Key Performance Indicators) in order at first to measure or assess the business processes and at second to allow the business to take the right decisions to improve their business processes (the well-known “close the loop”).

Of course BI tools evolved a lot during the last years. Some years ago (and sometimes still today) reports were developed and maintained by IT guys and the end-users were crying or learning what patience is when they had to wait two weeks to change the color of one column. Hopefully these times are over and most of the current BI tools are flexible enough to give a certain “freedom” to the end-users. But these new features are clearly not sufficient to “close the loop”. Providing a certain autonomy to the users is one thing but to make sure they will understand their data/information in the today’s world is another “story”: the right and efficient way to give an meaningful insight is not only about tooling but it lies today in the data story telling.

What is data story telling?

It’s a story based on data which combines visual design, messaging and interactivity and which defines a beginning and an end (not always happy).

Why data story telling is becoming key in the BI world? Some facts:

  • 90% of all data in existence were created during the last 2 years
  • Visual content increased 9 900 percent on the Internet since 2007
  •  We receive 5 times more information today than we did in 1986 (about 105 500 words outside of work every day)
  • Almost half of human brain is involved in visual processing
  • Human being can make sense of a visual in less than 1/10 of a second


  • 80% of top managers want discussion not presentation
  • 2 days is the time Steve Jobs rehearsed before telling his stories
  • After a presentation 63% of attendees remember stories, only 5% remember statistics

How to understand these facts? Today the managers and decision makers are continuously surrounded by data and statistics. To cope with this huge amount of data and to understand them or to make them “meaningful” the only solution is to tell story around data. As Jennifer L .Aaker from Stanford University explains: “When data and stories are used together, they resonate with audiences on both intellectual and emotion level”. Taking into account the current context, stories become then the only way to talk about data and to make sure the audience will understand and remember the main figures/facts.

2) Example with SAP Lumira

Of course as data story telling is becoming more and more important and even if data story is NOT only about tooling, a lot of software vendors propose their own solution to build these stories around data. Let’s just have a look at an example we created on SAP Lumira (1.17). The data are analyzed along BW and are extracted from SAP ECC. SAP Lumira, as other agile tools gives the possibility to the user to compose his/her own story. The process is quite straight forward:

  • Preparation : phase when the user selects the data, he/she can also clean it and modify it
  • Visualize : as soon as the data is ready to be analyzed, the user selects the right visualizations to make the data understandable
  • Compose: based on defined atomic visualizations, the user will compose his/her own story (by adding as well comments, logo …)
  • Share : as soon as the story is ready, the user can share it with other users (cloud, server …)


Like every good story, there is a “Once upon a time”. In our case, this “once upon a time” lies in the first slide where the context is presented: this story is about the company “CarCooling”. This company offers carpooling to its customers. This company wants to present its results to the stakeholders for future investments.   1_title

Slide 1: “Once Upon a time” (the context)

The company wants to show the number of registrations which increased (slide 2) as well as the number of transactions (slide 3) and the amount of money spent (slide 4 and 5). In this section the story uses data visualization to represent figures. Note also some comments were added for off-line presentation (without voice over).


Slide 2: data visualization with chart (heat map) and comment


Slide 3: data visualization filtered by transaction month and comment


Slide 4: multiple data visualization using map (geo pie chart) and comment


Slide 5: interaction on a map (multimedia)

Like every good story, a story has its end (very often called “Happy end”). In our case, the last slide summarizes the presentation and introduces the next steps. With SAP Lumira, we could also use predictive analysis to foresee the company growth.



Slide 6: ‘They lived happily even after “(the summary and next steps section)

In this short presentation we highlighted features for a good data story tooling:

  • Access to data: the tool should access to data in real time mode and be compliant with different source systems
  • Analysis: the tools should give the user to possibility to analyze data along different axes, to drill, to slice and dice, to jump…
  • Charts:  powerful and understandable charts should be available
  • Scenario: the tool should propose different scenarios to build stories on data
  • Multimedia: different media could be embedded in the report (video, web  …)
  • Broadcasting: the story should be easily shared using different means (cloud, server, email …)
  • Interactivity and messaging: any end user should be able to interact with the story by :
    • Adding comment (remember the notes you wrote in your books …)
    • Changing the story structure
    • Adding “what if” scenarios


3) New stories?


Big data, go to market constraints, data visualization and fast decision making … factors that are definitely changing the BI world. Stories appear then as the right way to talk about data because they are memorable, meaningful and impactful. If you want then to transform your data into information and then information into knowledge (“Information is not knowledge”, Albert Einstein), you surely then have to leave your beautiful tool for a while to take your pencil and a sheet of paper rethinking your information into new stories beginning with “Once upon a time”….

“The universe is made of stories not of atoms” (Muriel Rukeyser)

Rado Ratsifandrihana – Pascal Janot