“Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.”
According to Hemingway, the best way to reach your audience is to show them, instead of merely telling them. Rich descriptions can bring words to life and allow individuals to feel that they are part of the experiences they are reading about. In reporting, however, we can go far beyond this. We don’t need to tell stakeholders how we are performing, and we can even do one better than showing them (with supporting data visualisations and analysis) – we can, and should, involve them in the process.
We often see multi-directional miscommunication that hinders our reporting. As both business users and analysts alike fail to provide proper context, explain objectives, link data to strategy, and verbalise numbers, our reports can tend more towards vague descriptions of data rather than elucidations of performance against objectives.
How then can we improve the quality of our reporting? How can we ensure that we are really getting the highest quality recommendations, providing stakeholders with the information they need to make enlightened decisions, and taking the most effective performance-enhancing actions? How can we show our CMO how successful our team is?
Only by involving both our analysts and business users (and even our CMO) in each phase can we ensure that objectives, analysis, recommendations and results are properly communicated in a manner that is comprehended by all types of stakeholders.
Ensure that all those who will be involved in the process of analysing data, comparing performance to goals, and making decisions are active in initial conversations on organizational objectives. Only where objectives are understood, their importance grasped the need to meet these discerned, will they become critical for all stakeholders. Furthermore, analysts must be able to interpret these in order to link them with appropriate measurements.
Once those responsible for analysis (either consultants, analysts, or a mixture of analysts and business users) have agreed on the measurements to be tracked, they must then make information on these accessible. Not only must they allow all relevant stakeholders to see these, but they must also assist them in understanding their relevance and meaning. All KPIs & KSIs should be accompanied by a definition, or description of how they are composed, and to which organisational objectives they pertain. Definitions should clarify important data sources, metrics and weights of variables.
All relevant stakeholders should be able to track all conversation related to a specific KPI. By understanding the sorts of comments and recommendations made for the KPI, and comparing those which have been approved to those which have been rejected (and clarifying why), business users will grasp why a recommendation has been made, see the considerations taken into account by key decision makers, and feel confidence in their ultimate actions.
Once decisions have been made and actions taken, there is no better way of showing their impact than to map them against your KPI trend line to demonstrate the variation they have caused. Giving them this kind of visibility may evoke fear in analysts and decision makers alike, as the quality of their recommendations can so easily be recognised, and this is one of the key hurdles for every single company, public institution, and organisation. But it is this kind of transparency which teaches us about the value of our suggestions and inspires better performance.
Does your company have the initiative and courage to involve all stakeholders in each stage of the decision-making process? How are you achieving this?
Not Another Dashboard.