Tips on presenting analytics

The issue

The last step in analytics is presenting the data in a compelling way. Unfortunately, this last step is often done poorly, because:

  • We run out of time and energy: The analysts are tired after a long project, they do not have the energy to create a presentation that drives action.
  • We lack interest and skill: Analysts love the hard numbers and presentation seems a less important task, even if they think it important they may lack skill in creating a compelling message.
  • We are too familiar with the data: Analysts are so familiar with their subject, and so fond of the detail, that they do not recognize managers are failing to understand the analysis.

The result is that

  • Managers are frustrated: Managers do not have the time or analytical bent to make sense of the data. This leaves them frustrated.
  • Managers don’t take action: Managers don’t know what to do, so they don’t take action.

What to do

Here are three tips that will have a big impact on the effectiveness of your presentation; two relating to substance, the other style.

  • Figure out the action, before sharing the data. The point of analysis is to drive a decision even if the appropriate action is “do nothing because everything is running well”. Sometimes we gather data, do some analysis, and hope the manager will figure out what it means. That rarely works. The analysis should be designed from the start to drive a decision one way or another. Make sure you know what that decision is. If you do not then, difficult as it is, you need go back to the drawing board and do a different kind of analysis.
  • Frame the data to answer specific questions. Action is the end point, we usually get there by using data to answer a series of questions. Each point of data should answer a question the manager might ask. Some common questions are “What is most important?” “Are we sure?” “Is it getting worse?” “How does it compare to others?”
  • Get (some) help from a designer: Get someone with design and communications skill to help with the presentation of the data. The risk is that they will do something very pretty but useless, so do not just pass the ball to them with fingers crossed. Instead, collaborate with them to articulate what is important and how to communicate it.

Who does it well

Take a look at how Qualtrics presents data in a way that helps managers interpret the results from 360 degree feedback.

Capture1

What to notice:

  • The key data is big and bold; the data is presented as if it is important because it is important.
  • The presentation is designed to answer the questions the manager has on their mind
    • What was the score?
    • How does that compare to others?
    • Is it getting better or worse?
    • Is there consensus on this?
    • Overall, is the score good or bad?
    • The decision to be made is whether to work on a competency. Other reports suggest what actions will improve the competency.

Here is a snippet from Jibe’s dashboard for tracking a recruiting campaign in real-time.

Capture2

What to notice:

  • It is attractive, but not only attractive, you can see the data at a glance.
  • It answers the recruiter’s most pressing question “Is something broken in this campaign?”
  • It answers the recruiter’s next question “What’s working? What isn’t?”
  • There is more if the recruiter wants it, however there is no presumption that they need spend a lot of time on the analysis.

Takeaways

We have two distinct tasks: doing analysis and getting managers to understand the results. Make sure you have adequate skill and energy deployed to each task.

There are now many good examples of how to do it right, Jibe and Qualtrics are just two of the vendors who have learned how to present analytics; keep your eyes open and copy the presentation techniques that drive action.