Fed up with BI tools promising you’ll build “wonders” but never actually making it clear to your audience ? Let’s rethink the whole concept of reporting.
Most of the financial professionals (and I was part of them for years) are using as a reporting and communication tool the world’s famous : Excel and Power-point. These tools are extremely powerful for data exploration and analysis, there is absolutely no doubt about it.
But when it comes to communicate the information to a large audience, potentially non experts, something is definitely missing : “storytelling”.
“How to tell the story behind numbers to non-financial experts?”
This article is a manifesto on how at Cash Story we see the future of financial reporting. With our technology partners Toucan Toco, we wish to transform the BI landscape by creating a new “user to technology” approach that is commonly called “Data-Storytelling”. We are doing it thanks to an awesome configurable data-visualization application that enable us to listen to you first, build what you need to see, and then advise you on the best way to streamline how the data comes in.
“You need to start with the customer experience and work backwards to technology” Steve Jobs
This sentence of Jobs is a stepping stone of our philosophy. While working in Corporate Finance on BI tools, I was always very frustrated to see that anytime we try to tackle a subject, we were always limited by the technology. We often had the data produced already in our excel files, but we were just looking for a more efficient way to produce and communicate it.
Instead, the tools proposed were making our job even more complicated, full of words (Datalake / Datawarehouse, OLAP, MDM, ETL…) that were removing us from our subject : Financial information, and asking for a lot of time and resources to actually produce something that will never be in the hand of our internal client.
With the use of advanced data visualization tools focused on exploitation of the data rather than exploration, finance and business leaders are now able to translate broad and deep sets of data into easily digested, actionable intelligence for the entire company. The big benefit for finance is that it puts the story right in front of everyone’s eyes, and this is awesomely valuable.
In the following part, we will explain how we think change can happen on 3 different layers : visibility, simplicity, accessibility !
Where to start ?
1. Choose the best visual to make your work shine 🌟
A common saying is to tell someone to “visualize” things to better understand what the subject is about.
We all are animals that like to put ourselves in a context, an environment that we know, a common framework that will help us build confidence in what we do and decide. Why so many data-visualization tools as of today are still producing a ton of information on the same page ?
Do you really think the audience can understand 2, 3 graphs at the same time ? We don’t believe that, one visual at a time, we believe is the best way to interact with the data you show and start understanding the story behind the numbers.
2. Use a simple and common framework : a single source of truth ! 🛐
Our applications are always structured the same way make the use “feels like home”. Your audience need to know instinctively how to navigate into the information and get the information they need.
You first enter into a dashboard giving you the key performance indicators you need to follow : red colors where something went unexpected, green if all is ok. Built-in tiles that you can change and make evolve over time.
Then, if you are interested in knowing more about a particular element you can enter the storytelling, an intelligent chapters and sub-chapter narrative that will bring you, one visual at a time, all the information you need to understand the situation.
3. Make sure it is accessible on any devices : 21st century style 🌎
Today, most of the top executives of companies don’t spend time on their computer anymore. They read their emails on their phone, consult reports on their tablet, do visio-conference, and travel around the globe 1/4 of their time.
How to address the best solution to those people that need to have reliable access to data instantly to discuss a topic and take decision?
Can we still believe that top executive will become data-driven having to open their PC to access an excel file, a power-point presentation lost in the thousand of emails they received between now and then? Obviously not, they should be able to access it anytime, anywhere with a significant level of trust.
In the end, it all comes to a very simple idea : making it simple to access key financial information, and automate all the non-value added task to focus on what really matters : people and the way they run their business.
At CashStory, we are passionnate about people, data, performance, and we make our living helping businesses transform throught efficient use of digital tools.
To help us and our clients in that battle, we are developping Bob, a business operations AI specialized in finance that augment production of financial information to let you focus on analysis.