The Story of IT

We have a philosophy of telling a story.

The very best way to communicate a concept and convey a meaning is through a story. A story is made up of words linked to together to provide both context and meaning. In so many challenged IT financial management practices, the fundamentals of storytelling are absent.

Stories are words, written on a page, to convey meaning and context

Let me get this out right now — numbers do not tell stories. Graphs and pie charts don’t tell stories. Clicks and drill downs don’t tell stories. And putting numbers and graphs and drill downs on a power point slide doesn’t tell a story. Stories are words, written on a page, to convey meaning and context. Numbers, graphs, and drillable links can help your storytelling, but they are not a story in and of themselves.

Telling a story in the context of IT financial management is about interpreting the numbers on the page into a meaningful set of insightful and actionable sentences. This interpretation means the recipient of the report doesn’t have to try to decipher what the numbers mean and how they should react to them. Instead, the story provides a frame of reference. Even if the recipient disagrees with the story, it still provides a frame of reference for a reaction.

Characteristics of a strong story

So what is a good story? A good story is succinct. It uses as few words as possible to convey the insights. It derives its conclusion from the facts and figures surrounding it physically on the page. Good stories says things like:

Changes in records retention policies have required transaction data to be stored and accessible for a longer period of time. This increase in the retention period is driving an increase in storage cost. These costs are expected to continue for the next several months as new records are stored, and old records are not purged.

Or

Delays in project requirements have shifted internal labor planned to execute the project to operational activities including defect mitigation and incident ticket resolution. As a result, operating labor costs are increasing while project costs are less than plan.

A contextual and concise story helps executives in the business and IT better understand and communicate the relationship between business and operational decisions that drive IT costs.

Read other blog posts from this series written by ITFM expert William Miller: