Business data presentation can be challenging. Even a savvy audience can have difficulties digesting business intelligence or sustaining interest to keep track of the relevant details.
It is all too easy to get bored or lost with a deluge of numbers and business jargon.
The good news is that there are ways to make sure that business analytics reports are delivered effectively.
Set objectives and be objective
Start by crystalizing the purpose of your business analytics reporting. Is it to justify a project or convince investors? Is the goal to determine the weak points of a competitor? It helps to list down the things you are trying to achieve with the report to determine the right data to include, points to emphasize and approach to use.
Coming up with a list of objectives does not mean taking a specific slant or angle, though. A business intelligence report should always be accurate and objective. It is not a marketing pitch that may only show information that helps achieve something you already see as favorable. Rather, it’s a tool to help you identify the best strategic path.
Business intelligence is used to come up with effective strategies for an organization. Strategies are unlikely to work if they are based on cherry-picked data and inaccuracies.
Identifying the objectives of a report also helps to determine which metrics to include and exclude, and how to best present the information visually. It narrows down the options and enables better targeting based on what the intended readers are likely to prefer.
Provide an interactive presentation
Thanks to technological advances, data presentation is no longer limited to paper reports and static PDFs or PowerPoint presentation slides. With new technologies, it is possible to present data through an interactive dashboard. Even better, creating such a dashboard does not require advanced technical know-how.
Any businessman can create an intuitive interface for viewing various kinds of business information through a business intelligence reporting dashboard or an interactive report creator, as seen here.
This type of technology is similar to website builders, with WYSIWYG and drag-and-drop interfaces to make it easy to create entire pages without any technical knowledge. It is like building a data presentation app without any coding know-how. This is particularly useful for end-users such as investors, board members, managers, or employees who need to be deeply acquainted with the operations of a business.
Interactivity makes it easier to go through tons of data and technical information. It helps readers find important details more easily and go through the information at their own pace and convenience and to arrive at actionable conclusions. It also helps address attention or focus issues.
Presentation design expert Nancy Duarte offers an insightful thought in an article in Harvard Business Review. “Data slides aren’t really about the data. They’re about the meaning of the data,” she explains. “It’s up to you to make that meaning clear before you click away. Otherwise, the audience won’t process — let alone buy — your argument,” Duarte adds.
Avoid information overload by organizing data mindfully
The body of research around the problem of information overload in business organizations generally views the abundant availability of information as a positive. However, this abundance makes it difficult to obtain useful and relevant information and to arrive at actionable insights when needed.
Business research and reports can easily result in information overload, which makes data comprehension and analysis challenging. Presenting a multitude of tables or spreadsheets or a lengthy series of similar graphs and charts is not going to deliver data in a meaningful manner. It is unlikely for the details to be properly appreciated and analyzed by most end users.
The information must be presented in an organized manner. Similar data can be grouped in chunks and presented on different pages with a descriptive outline. Laying out details on a single page or a long continuous table is counterintuitive. It not only looks boring; it can also be difficult for the eyes to find important details.
Also, treat the presentation as a story. It has to have a smooth and logical flow. Data and facts cannot come up randomly. There has to be some form of progression and coherence in the way information is conveyed. Otherwise, things can get confusing and it will be difficult for users of the data to follow what the report is exactly all about.
Use a suitable format
Unlike financial statements that must follow established guidelines for compliance purposes, business intelligence reports are not bound by specific formats unless an organization has directives regarding them. As such, you can create them the way you deem fit. As mentioned earlier, it is even possible to present business intelligence reports or financial data through a custom financial reporting dashboard.
This does not mean, however, that your reporting schedules and formats should be completely arbitrary. Preparers of business intelligence documents and financial reports must consider usability on the part of the end-user. It has to be familiar and easy to consume.
A meticulously-prepared interactive business data presentation is remotely effective if users have difficulties figuring out how to use the document.
It’s likewise critical, moreover, to ensure consistency. This can be done through the use of templates or a style guide to be used for all reports and documents in an organization. The fonts, indentations, layout, spacing, indicators, and document dimensions (for physical reports), among many other factors, should be consistent.
Many may say that the appearance of business intelligence documents does not matter, but it actually does.
As the digital age becomes an undeniable part of modern business, organizations accumulate loads of data they generate from their operations and from market research. Big data is becoming entrenched in the way companies do business and it is supposed to be an advantage.
However, data collection is futile without the ability to present business intelligence effectively. The tips discussed above should be helpful in producing analytics reports that accomplish their purpose and elicit the intended reactions.