The typical structure of most data analytics projects, is to decide on the questions that need answering, collate and analyse the appropriate data, and then report back the findings to the people that need that information. But often, it’s the presentation of this vital information that lets the project down.
The trick to effective reporting, is to understand who you’re tailoring this information for, and for what purpose. For example, are you providing a report that a manager is going to use at his weekly “Show & tell” aka Management Meetings, or maybe the information is going to be used to form the basis of a presentation to a government department.
The type of report, the amount of detail it includes, and the format it’s presented in, are all dependant on who’s going to need it. Typically, the higher up the food chain you go, the less detail is required, so you may need to break up your findings into several reports that include the appropriate details for specific people.
A CEO may only need the “Big picture” information, and is unlikely to read your 120 page masterpiece, regardless of how much effort you put into it. Departmental managers, however, might gain value from having a slightly more detailed report to work with in order to effectively direct their staff to action the findings.
There will almost certainly be members of the team that will require as much detail as possible to be able to function effectively. Getting the right information to the right people, in a way that makes sense, is the key to effective data analytics reporting.
If you think of it like a movie, your CEO may only want the title, whereas the departmental managers might need to see the accompanying poster in order to determine it relevancy. Other team members could benefit from watching the trailer to get a better grip on the plot, whilst some people are going to need to sit and watch the whole film.
If your company has managed to create a positive data culture, everyone will know what’s expected of them, and those responsible for creating data analytics reports will already know who needs to see what. If you’re still in the process of building your culture, it would be extremely useful to establish the level of reporting everyone requires as soon as possible.
If you’re producing a spreadsheet as part of your report, you could include a dashboard that provides high level KPIs and graphs, but also has data that can be drilled down allowing people to choose how much detail they want to view. If the spreadsheet also has the relevant data included, those that want to, can run their own experiments right inside the document. Be sure to remember to create saved versions for this purpose, and not let everyone loose on the original!
This can be a good way to encourage experimentation within the team, and can also eliminate some of the potential to analyse data in isolation. You could be surprised how many new and exciting insights come from allowing people to simply play with the data.
Where Powerpoint (Or Keynote) presentations are the basis of your reporting, you should probably consider their purpose from the outset. Will you be physically standing in a room running the presentation? Will it be printed and delivered as a handout? Will the pack just be printed as a standalone document?
The type of document you produce will be vastly different depending on their final use, and you may need to include explanatory notes if the finished document is going to be handed out. Again, you should consider who your audience is.
Give due consideration to which are the best formats to produce your data analytics reports, and take into account how this information will be delivered. There is a big difference between talking people through the data, and handing them a document to read for themselves.
If you’re going to be producing a structured formal report, you should include an executive summary so that those who don’t need all the details, can gain an overview within a page or two. Including a full list of chapters, appendices, and links to any relevant resources, will allow anyone to quickly find the information that they need without having to read the entire document.
To summarise, it’s important to tailor your reports to the people that need them, and to only provide the level of detail they require. Effective communication within your team will enable you to establish who needs what, and this should be your starting point.