Telling Stories with Data

Marc Simony
June 15, 2022

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In this latest installment of our limited series describing the work we do at TraceGains, we speak with Data Analyst Tariq Smith.

TraceGains: How can data tell stories?

Tariq Smith: First, let’s outline a story, which is typically broken down into three phases: setup, conflict, and resolution.

Second, let’s identify the audience we’re addressing and what motivates them. Telling a story with data is no different. We’re just using facts to tell our story. When we start telling a story with data, we begin to picture graphs and these large numbers of raw datasets; if we follow our outline, we can make a compelling story out of that data.

As a data analyst, I must first understand what we want to learn. Then figure out if we have data that could inform us. Next, I gather and analyze the data, looking for patterns and insights. Once I understand what the data are telling us, I put them into a format where I can tell their story. If I label my output well enough, I don’t need to explain it. The story tells itself.

TG: So, how can we do this for our users?

TS: The data don’t always have to be graphical representations, but they must let you make critical decisions. So, it’s not that content is king. By that, I mean graphs and charts, but context is king. If you present data in a meaningful and relevant context, users can rely on them to make intelligent decisions. For example, our Smart Alerts product uses data to help inform customers of possible disruptions in their supply chains. For example, if we just told them there’s a problem with curcumin, that might be alarming but not necessarily helpful. But if we told them there’s a problem with the exact product and vendor they’re sourcing, then that’s a data story with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s actionable.

Since joining TraceGains, I’ve uncovered several exciting stories to tell with data. Still, I always like to talk about the correlation between the amount of activity and the number of connections in TraceGains Network. The more proactive and responsive you are about document fulfillment and completing standardized online forms, the more manufacturers will look to you as a reliable supplier in our marketplace. Likewise, your data inform others that you’re a responsive vendor.

Then, as more buyers and suppliers use the marketplace, the easier it becomes for me to suggest places to tune the marketplace to our users’ needs. We monitor usage trends because we’re always looking for ways to make our products more streamlined and effective. We want our users to have the most straightforward processes available to complete their work efficiently.

For example, in the next marketplace release, which is set for later this summer, we’ve optimized filtering use and placement to help get to the best outcomes as quickly as possible – connecting the best supplier-buyer matches.