There is a massive interest in pushing information to stakeholders and to be honest this is not before time. Now there are a number of ways that this information can be distributed – tabular, dashboard, infographics, widgets, powerpoint, graphs and so on. Is your organisation looking to review is management information? How the reports are produced? The format? The delivery?
Many organisation are guilty of having data silos and not sharing information because simply staff are worried – for a number of reasons. From my experience there are a multitude of management information teams (sometimes interspersed with Business Intelligence teams) whether they be looking at individual brands, projects or channels. Now this is fine however, when creating senior manager or executive dashboards information needs to be shared and sent.
So lets break the information down into the following groups:
2. Data Sources
5. Review and Feedback
For the purposes of this blog lets assume that we’re dealing with a chain of stores called GEB Ltd. They sell animal food and accessories (mainly because I’ve now remembered that we’re out of bird seed at my house).
Knowing how to deliver information to your audience has got to be the most important consideration when building a reporting strategy (well after ensuring data cleansing and verification processes have been completed). If you’re sending reports to front line staff (in our example lets say its a brand of GEB in Newport Pagnell). All they are going to be interested in is information pertinent to their performance. So the data-sources would relate to footfall, sales, measured against targets, orders via online which were specifically delivered to their shop for collection and sales per staff member.
Looking further up the chain the area manager (who looks after 5 stores) would be interested in seeing how all his stores are performing against target. From this he will be able to see which stores are under-performing against target and which are over-performing. From this he will be able to identify strategies that are working and which need changing.
However, the Area Manager will be targeted as well. So a management information (or dashboard) can be developed which show how his area is comparing with others.
N.B. There may be district of divisional managers but, rather than just repeat myself just read Area section and replace Area with Divisional / District
Executive and Multi Channel:
This is where the information gets really interesting because not only will senior managers want to see how channels are performing against one another they would also be interested in seeing the top performing and under performing markets.
There is also a lot to be said for product analysis reporting. Which products are shifting high in term of volume and which are creating most profit. For example bird seed has a 75% profit margin and sells only 10,000 units per month however, dog biscuits have a 25% mark-up but, sell 102,000 units per month. So you’ve got volume over profitability.
Every system, third party tool, web analytics solution, telephony system, sales system, crm system and HR system (to name a few) all have reporting systems or an output (csv flat file format for example). Designed extracts from any of these systems can be incorporated into a number of solutions – a data warehouse, a spreadsheet or even a Microsoft Access database. Now I tend to prefer using Microsoft solutions because most of my customers all have Microsoft Office and have staff with a varying level of ability (in a later post I’ll show you how to build forms to make processes incredibly simple – in both Excel and Access).
Dashboards and reports shouldn’t be complicated and immediate issues should automatically be highlighted. If a shop, area, district or channel is under-performing then colour should be used to bring the audience’s attention to this (this is usually red, or is a near target then amber).
Most importantly remember who your audiences are and think of their time. Executives and Senior Managers tend to spend a lot of their time in meetings so they are unlikely to have the time to read a massive table of figures. (However, be warned that not being able to provide them with the raw data at a moment’s notice).
There are a variety of third party dashboard tools (some interactive) which can and do deliver some amazing dashboards. I will go over some of these but, I’m not a partner or have a preference for any tool.
This is the most expensive of the solutions that I’m talking about in this blog post. It comes in a desktop (local) or server edition. It connects to most datasources and can create some fantastic data virtualisations. However, is this the best for reporting?
Qlikview is a seperate piece of software which needs to be installed locally (for those on corporate networks be prepared for a long wait as they may need to do a due diligence assessment). They do offer a free download – please click here to download a 32 bit or 64 bit version.
This is a great tool which is a SaaS solution. You provide the DSN, pivot-tables, flat files or pretty much anything. Dashboards are constructed and then only those that have access and necessary permissions can see the files (or they can be pushed to clients). This is a cost effective and secure solution. They are currently offering a 30 day free trial – click here and register.
Everyone is familiar with Excel as a spreadsheet tool. However, are you using it to its fullest potential? Do you know about mixing metrics to create fantastic KPIs which rather than just giving a number “tell a story”. Another good thing is that the flexibility of Excel and VBA allows you to do pretty much anything. I also strongly recommend that you look at Sparklines written by Fabrice Rimlinger. This add-in allows you to create in-cell graphs (which maximises use of space on dashboards) it also gives you a wider selection of graphs not available. Oh and its compatible in Office 2007 and Office 2010.
I’ve talked about some solutions which as SaaS (Tableau and Target Dashboard) mean that the users (audience) have to log into a system or have it emailed. However, this doesn’t give the report writer an idea whether the report is being used or more importantly whether it is useful.
If you’re relying on Excel or Qlikview then you are likely to be emailing the reports or uploading them to a Sharepoint site. The benefit of Sharepoint is that you’re not clogging up your audience’s mailboxes.
That is where feedback comes in:
Feedback / Review
If you’re report isn’t being read or its sitting in a Sharepoint site collecting dust there simply isn’t a reason for the report to even exist. Keep in touch with your audience make sure that they know who you are (put your name and your number of the damned report!!!). Most issues should have been covered off when the business requirements were taken however, there are always the small changes that come up.
- Provide your customers with surveys to determine the reports / dashboard’s effectiveness.
- Check the longevity of your report (nothing lasts forever).
- If using Outlook – use read receipts
- If using other methods (simply don’t publish or send ….. see if anyone notices)