Editorial Team

“Today, a common problem that a lot of Boardrooms face is to interpret the huge overload of data available in order to make effective decisions. This is where Data Storytelling comes into play. These books, with interesting data sets, add value to the Data Science community”, said Prof. U Dinesh Kumar, Chairperson, Data Centre and Analytics Lab (DCAL) and faculty in the Decision Sciences (DS) area of IIM Bangalore, during the launch of two books co-authored by him, at IIM Bangalore today. The books, titled: ‘Machine Learning Using R’ and ‘Data Visualization – Storytelling Using Data’, have been published by Wiley.

Earlier in the afternoon, Prof. Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM Bangalore, lauded the efforts of IIM Bangalore’s DCAL, which he said, keeps working on huge volumes of projects, cases and more, under the outstanding guidance of Prof. Dinesh Kumar. “Prof. Dinesh has played a key part in identifying the importance of Data and Analytics and giving these subjects focus as part of IIMB’s curriculum. Due to the efforts of such academic entrepreneurs, we have the DCAL and the Business Analytics programme. I must also appreciate him for the two books’ visualization, which has come out very effectively.”

Prof. Chetan Subramanian, Dean, Faculty (faculty: Economics & Social Sciences area), while describing the books, said: “The content is indeed very comprehensible. The books use Indian data sets and hence, the context is relatable.”

Book discussion

The first of the two books launched today is Machine Learning Using R. The book aims to make Machine Learning (ML) concepts and model development using R simpler for students and practitioners. It covers the theoretical concepts behind ML algorithms and illustrates use of R for developing ML models using datasets from customer relationship management, healthcare, finance, human resource management, social media and sports.

The book discusses challenges and remedies in building machine learning models using several real-life cases which the authors have worked on as part of consulting engagements. The contents of the book will help intermediate as well as advanced users to strengthen their know-how of data preparation, data visualization, feature engineering, model development and model interpretation. The book may also be helpful for building a solid foundation for beginners in the field of Data Science.

Co-authored by Kumar Rahul and Prof. U Dinesh Kumar, the book covers four Harvard Published Cases, two Consulting Project Data and Social Media Data discussed over nine chapters in more than 460 pages of content. Model fine tuning using H2O package and caret package are also demonstrated with R codes and Data Sets.

Chief Guest Abhijith Neerkaje, Senior Director – Data Science, Target, while talking about the book, said: “Apart from Analysts and Data Scientists, this book will be very useful for consultants, products managers and technology managers, amongst others. The models used in the book are useful for the retail business also. Moreover, the case studies and examples, which include IPL and Bollywood, are India specific. The book will be beneficial to students and professionals to deliver value to their organizations.”

Co-author Kumar Rahul, in his talk, described his career journey and how he got into analyzing Data as well as Business Analytics, his joining DCAL and working on consulting engagements, getting case studies published in Harvard Business Review (HBR), and now pursuing his doctoral studies. “It is the support of DCAL and Prof. Dinesh Kumar that gave me the freedom to write.”

The second book launched is titled: Data Visualization – Storytelling Using Data. The book explains data insights through visuals and shows how to make them compelling and comprehensible through a series of real-world examples. It provides a roadmap that covers everything from understanding ‘why data visualization and storytelling are important’ to learning ‘how to visualize data and communicate it to an audience effectively’.

The book attempts to provide students and industry professionals a practical method for mastering data storytelling skills. The concepts and examples presented will help intermediate and advanced users to learn how to think with data, the know-how of data visualization, as well as telling a story with data on real-life business problems. This book can be used to learn as well as teach basic concepts of data visualization and data storytelling.

The book is co-authored by Sharada Sringeswara, Purvi Tiwari and Prof. U Dinesh Kumar. The sequence of chapters is designed to create a strong foundation for the learners. The first few chapters cover the Introduction to Visualization, Importance of Visualization and Storytelling, and the later chapters build on the concepts learned in the previous chapters, discussed over seven chapters in 250-plus pages of content. The book includes Python Codes, Tableau Workbooks and Data Sets.

Chief Guest Ashish Grover, Chief Information Officer, Falabella, said that Data Visualization is a very important subject in a world where there is an explosion of Data and information, and a lack of understanding for the same. He listed few concepts described in the book to be outstanding, namely, restraint, simplicity and naturalness. “A lot of preparedness goes into building the skill to write or speak articulately. The book inspires us to think differently and present our ideas more clearly.”

Special Guest Ameen Haque, Founder, Storywallahs, in his very engaging talk, said, “It is the teacher who makes the subject interesting…and how to make the teacher interesting is what this book teaches us”. He listed three elements needed to make Data interesting and useful – relevance, articulating it and visualizing it, and added: “Visualizing is the most important way to get Data interpreted because it allows one to simplify Data and communicate it easily. In fact, Visualization is the body language of Data.”

Co-author Sharada Sringeswara spoke about her journey as a practitioner and described Data Visualization as a science. “In the book, we have spoken about the history of Data Visualization, how to develop it effectively and how to tell a compelling story with Data.”

The other co-author Purvi Tiwari said that she considers Data Visualization not to be just a visual, a chart or a figure. “It is like a story that tells you everything from start to finish.”

Panel discussion 

The talks were followed by a panel discussion on Data Storytelling, featuring Prof. Dinesh Kumar, Ashish Grover, Ameen Haque and Sharada Sringeswara. The discussion was moderated by Shailaja Grover, Consultant, Decision Sciences and Information Systems.

Talking about effective storytelling in the corporate world, Ameen Haque said that storytelling is not only what you say, but also what you do. “All wisdom in the world has been communicated through stories”. He added that the best way to start and deliver a story is to have the end in mind. “To avoid bias in storytelling, it is best to start with the task in hand, look at data objectively, and keep the relevance and end in mind.”

Prof. Dinesh Kumar discussed Data Storytelling in the business context and how to make it understandable to others. “Simplicity here is vital.” He added that to remove bias, storytelling has to have some truth.

Ashish Grover, also stressing on simplicity, said the focus should be on the key message and removal of unnecessary Data.

Sharada Sringeswara highlighted the role of technology in Data Storytelling. “Technology is the key to uncover patterns in Big Data available to us. Data inherently has information from which we can gain insight, but we cannot stop at that. Storytelling has to be there”. Commenting on what Data, and how much of it, is needed, she said the quality of Data is key to build visualization. She also discussed the tools used in the book.

Shailaja Grover summed up the discussion by saying that simplicity, context and use of technology are vital for Data Storytelling.

The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session and the vote of thanks by Shailaja Grover.

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