thefuturestory – Today 2014’ marked the one year anniversary of this platform where we share our knowledge about major challenges impacting business communications. Our topic for discussion was ‘creating stories in a data driven world’. We were delighted to welcome an amazing panel brilliantly facilitated by multiple award-winning business editor, Stuart RockKathryn Corrick, Head of Learning and Content at the Open Data Institute gave a great introduction to the aims of the Open Data Institute and the differences between Open Data, Big Data and Personal Data

Definition of data - thefuturestory

In summary, Kathryn explained that data was effectively ‘stuff’ – passive information that needs a story to bring it to life and give it value. This was a great starting point for what turned into a lively discussion.

Declan Trezise, Technology consultant for’s Government Solutions division, introduced us to the Universal Job Match board – the world’s largest job board. Declan continued to give us an indication of the intelligence that can be gained from the data available in the recruitment sector.

Guy Stephens, Consultant specialising in Social Customer Care at IBM, highlighted how data is incredibly siloed between departments (HR, Sales, Marketing, etc.). He encouraged us to look at the communications channels now available to see how we can use them to improve customer service. He expressed the importance of identifying what it is we want to use the data for as a first step and then the information will be there to answer those questions. He ended by stating that in previous years we have handed our data to companies (shops, banks, LinkedIn, etc.) but as individuals we are starting to want to take it back.

This led perfectly onto our final panellist, angel investor and entrepreneur, Julian Ranger. Julian explained the importance of owning your own data and explained the upcoming changes to EU data privacy rules which anyone in business should be aware of. He also gave a clear introduction to SocialSafe – an amazing product that enables individuals to capture and download their online presence onto their own computer so it can be stored in one safe place. SocialSafe effectively tells the story of you.

The reference to stories was an ongoing theme throughout the day. The panel discussed how the art of storytelling may have been lost but this is something that businesses need to use in order to effectively communicate with people internally and externally.

The panel concluded that perhaps we all need to be more literate – or should that be numerate – about data. We shouldn’t overcomplicate the challenge of data, but see it as an opportunity to deliver value to employees, as well as customers.

We then broke out into roundtable discussions over lunch with each of our speakers. We were also joined by:

  • Blair Freebairn, Director at GeoLytix kindly took Kathryn’s place to discuss how Open Data can be used in practice.
  • Stuart Murdoch from collaboration software company Surevine joined us to talk more about what companies actually mean by collaboration and what they really want to achieve.
  • Kevin McDougall, Group Communications Manager at Hiscox drew on his experience of communicating and using social media data in the financial services industry.
  • Kate Shanks, Deputy Managing Director of Client Services at theblueballroom facilitated discussions around the impact of collaboration on the future of learning.

At the end of the day it was clear that Data and Stories are interlinked. The main advice we discovered about using data in business:

  1. Work out the purpose of your data
  2. Identify the business benefit of what you are investigating
  3. Adhere to the law and follow an understood and agreed approach
  4. Reflect the values of your organisation in the stories you tell and share
  5. Ensure people understand the terms you use
  6. Appreciate that people are at the start of a journey in terms of understanding data and its use, just as much as any company
  7. Tailor the message in the communications channel of choice

And in the spirit of added value, each of our presenters shared their book recommendations that inspire them:

  • Biggles and the Cruise of the Condor
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Cluetrain Manifesto
  • Quantum Thief
  • Sex, Bombs and Burgers

Having thoroughly enjoyed Cryptonomicon I will certainly be taking a look at these other titles and I hope you’ll enjoy doing the same.

We’ve already had some wonderful feedback about the event from attendees, especially highlighting the amazing flow of the panel and knowledge of all our speakers so I would like to thank everyone for making the day so engaging and full of conversation.

You can gain more insight from the day from our attendees below, but also do keep an eye on thefuturestory on our website here where we’ll be sharing more outcomes from each of the workshops.