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Intelligent Narratives: 4 ways NLG extracts value from your data

By Louise Douglas | May 26, 2022
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When dealing with vast amounts of complex business information, natural language generation (NLG) ensures that you are getting the full value out of your data.

Organizations are investing heavily to transform digital practices, automation, and data governance schemes; any value within their data that is not realized has a costly impact on the business.

Even with the right analytics tools in place, many organizations rely on data experts to analyze and disseminate information, often in written reports curated from a myriad of sources and data siloes. Any uncertainty on the accuracy and validity of a report risks undermining the trust placed in the insights. Just as crucially, any unconscious bias in the writing or lack of understanding by the decision-maker will have an impact on business outcomes.

As Ganes Kesari put it writing for Forbes, humans often display confirmation bias, where we use data to back up preconceived ideas:

“This happens when people use data not to inform their decisions, but rather twist the data to support their assumptions. It is humorously said that some people use data analytics the way a drunk person uses a lamp post—for support rather than illumination.”

In a business setting, this human behavior risks a repeat of the same mistakes without learning anything new. Organizations need to ensure that all stakeholders and decision-makers are working with the most up-to-date, accurate data story — a single consistent story — so decisions are based on the intelligence and not skewed interpretation.

1. Natural language generation will do the digging, while you control the kind of reporting you generate

It is well documented that enabling natural language generation within business intelligence platforms alleviates many of the challenges around analyzing large volumes of data and surfacing insights that are not obvious in the visualizations.

Arria’s next-generation Intelligent Narratives don’t just augment dashboards with contextualized information though, they give dashboard creators more control over the narratives that are generated. They enable you to take full advantage of all the measures and dimensions within your dataset so that no insight or potential opportunity is missed.

The selection options enable you to generate a narrative that is tailored to individual requirements, from a short summary of key drivers and offsets of growth, to a long-form narrative customized to focus on the details your data consumer needs, whether it’s the C-Suite or a product manager.

What’s the “thinking” that goes on behind Arria’s narratives? The software is built to perform many kinds of analyses. At its most basic, the software does statistical analysis to total measures or to report on highest/lowest values – whether it’s sales figures, expenditures, or fixed assets. Arria’s standard deviation algorithm identifies statistically significant insights in the data; by choosing to let Arria decide what to include, you can rapidly get to critical insights not shown in visuals or buried in the data: insights that might take hours for a human expert to find but only seconds for Arria’s AI technology to uncover and narrate in clear, plain language.

The software also performs variance analysis — both time-based and target-based, so you can instantly find out how sales of Product X performed in one quarter compared to the same quarter in the previous year. And you can do measure-to-measure comparisons of actual versus target. But your insight detection is not limited to monthly, quarterly, or yearly periods. Intelligent Narratives offer the flexibility to choose the comparisons you need. You don’t need to wait until quarter-end to get the answers you are looking for. Other popular analysis types offered by Intelligent Narratives are ranking analysis, correlations analysis, and exception analysis (detection of anomalies and outliers).

It’s in drilling down, however, that Intelligent Narratives shine brightest. Arria’s drill-down analysis identifies key drivers and offsets, but then it lets you go deep down through the hierarchy of business lines, geographies, or markets to find out the why behind the what. Product X is selling well in five countries, but poorly in Canada. Drill down into Canada to see what’s going on there.

By having control over the choice of insights your reporting covers, you empower your data consumers with the important information they need. They don’t have to filter through lengthy text to find the answers, and they don’t have to go back to the dashboard creator to ask more questions.

2. NLG turns data into actionable insights for more accurate decision-making

Faster doesn’t always mean better. But in this case, faster time to insights means faster time to action and better business outcomes. Not only does Arria’s NLG technology turn complex, structured data into natural language at a rate and volume not humanly possible, but it speeds up the process of writing and disseminating the insights, having a transformative impact across organizations.

Drilling down through multiple dimensions, NLG narratives can save enormous amounts of time and effort in the analysis work. The narrative provides context and is easily understood because the key takeaways are spelled out. That means dashboards can be presented in meetings, with the significance accessible to everyone. Narratives can be copied and shared in emails or reports.

Sharing insights and generating reports straight from the dashboard means that decisions are made based on the data and not on human interpretation — or preconception.

When you trust the data, you can make faster, better decisions. When you have access to the latest data and insights, your business intelligence becomes more than just a review of what happened, it becomes a driver for strategic planning.

3. NLG offers a scalable solution with out-of-the-box analysis and reporting

If you worry that an out-of-the-box solution means you can’t specify exactly what you need, think again. Arria’s Intelligent Narratives offer out-of-the-box simplicity with a suite of analyses, plus next-generation control over the length and content of the reporting, the order in which you see the insights, and the level of detail.

Configuration options empower you to analyze data in a series of simple steps, without the need for coding. The user interface guides you through the process and even warns you if the data you’ve selected is not suitable for a particular type of analysis. This enables a wide-scale use of the many analysis types, even by non-expert staff and those with limited or no analytical expertise. By providing tools that are accessible to more users, you can allow your experts to spend their time on high-value tasks, improving efficiencies and time savings across teams, departments, and whole organizations.

As data volume grows, maintaining the level of analysis and manual reporting to keep up would take an impossible increase in headcount for most organizations. There is also the risk that manual reports can quickly become out-of-date, inaccurate, or lost within a raft of paperwork or emails. As Robert Tischler writes succinctly,

“Having too many reports seriously undermines trust and diminishes analytics and BI efficiency. Furthermore, it undermines your efforts to get value out of your data.”

While a generic RPA (Robotic Process Automation) solution may alleviate some report-automation issues, implementing Intelligent Narratives offer much more. Data analysis, reporting, and immediate access to insights are easily scaled across the business to meet requirements and, importantly, realize the value in the data.

4. NLG builds a data-driven culture at all levels of the organization

The business intelligence community is well-versed in the benefits of augmented analytics; indeed, natural language generation technologies are not new to this arena. However, there is still a need to make tools, data, and insights straightforward for end-users — to remove the barriers for non-expert or non-technical staff and empower self-serve analytics.

Arria’s NLG technologies take complex data and make it accessible to everyone. When data becomes accessible, it becomes usable. When everyone has the confidence to use the data and trust the insights, decisions become data-driven. With narratives optimized for readability, Arria makes it easy for everyone to read insights straight from a dashboard and get to the details that matter, without the need to ask questions of a business analyst or wonder what the visuals mean.

The volume and complexity of incoming data is only going to increase. Companies need to be prepared to meet the inherent challenges, or risk being left behind the competition. That means one of two things: either build a highly data-literate workforce or implement scalable solutions that are easily accessible to all. Arria NLG helps to resolve this challenge by providing a scalable solution that supports teams now and that can grow with your business to ensure you continue to get the best value from your data.

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