How to Optimize Data Reporting

If you’re in the business of data reporting, you know that playing to your audience is paramount. In other words, you have to know who you’re talking to and how to effectively communicate. In order to truly enhance data communication, you’ll need to take a second factor into consideration: You must speak not only your audience’s language, but also your data’s language. This is data optimization — the point where your audience’s expectations intersect with the best objective medium you can find to impart the information you’re sharing. In a nutshell, data is optimized when you summarize and display it in the best way possible.

Data Optimization Troubleshooting

Most people don’t like interpreting Excel spreadsheets; while tabular data is detailed and granular, it’s difficult to see the complete picture staring at cell upon cell of data. Data visualizations are far more efficient means of communication because they are built on visual elements that require less cognitive processing. Comparing the attributes of these elements, by color, length, width, size, and more, is a pre-attentive task ( Perception in Visualization by Christopher G. Healey, Department of Computer Science, North Carolina State University), meaning the viewer can distinguish areas of interest almost without effort. The best dashboard software offers the best of both worlds: customizable and intuitive visualization capabilities, and drilldowns that provide the nitty-gritty granular data.

The goal of data reporting is communication, and user engagement is the best way to tell you’re communicating capably. This means catering to your audience’s expectations while avoiding a data overload (How to Optimize Your Market Research Reporting) . Ask yourself the following questions to determine if your data reporting is optimized:

  • Does your audience understand the information you’ve given them and why it’s important?
  • Were they able to navigate your reporting and find what they needed, when they needed it?

If not you answered “no” or “maybe” to either of these questions, chances are your data isn’t optimized. This can mean one of two things: You’re missing the mark with your audience or you’re not using the right visualization and reporting methods to communicate.

Getting to Know Your Audience

Data reporting shouldn’t just answer users’ questions; it should anticipate them. The goal is to give stakeholders what they need before they ask for it, and the best way to accomplish this is to understand their goals, recognize patterns, and create reporting that accommodates these factors. Most of the time, stakeholder questions are closely related to each department’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), so if you’re looking for a place to begin the data optimization process, start with KPIs.

Consider the following scenarios:

Continue reading…