Zoom Out - Big Picture Data Reporting

Emily James

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    At this moment in time, if we google “data reporting formats”, even adding a descriptor like “modern” or “innovative” to it, the first few organic results are always How to Write a Data Report or The Best Tools for Data Reporting, all filled with data presentation software producing graphs, charts, and data tables. This makes some sense as it’s what insight professionals have relied on since the first survey was conducted and what stakeholders outside of the insights industry are used to.

    However, those graphs and tables are flawed when trying to communicate complex storylines and insights. Stakeholders are no longer fully invested in data-filled, wordy reports telling them what to do and when. They want to be engaged in insights. They need to feel like they can accurately interpret the right conclusions on their own. They want to see the big picture to understand what’s going to change in their organisation depending on the decision they make.

    So why don’t we let them? There are many more engaging reporting formats at our disposal, but aren’t used to their fullest capacity.

    Creative Data Formats

    We don’t have to ditch the data tables entirely, as they can be useful; we can infuse them in with other methods to provide an air of familiarity while also engaging stakeholders to the best of our ability. So here are a few data reporting formats to get the creative juices flowing:

    Interactive Assets

    There are a few reporting formats that we can make interactive to engage stakeholders in the complex insights and storylines. The firsts format is dashboards. Now, dashboards have been around for a while, but they’re not used to their best capacity and there are some arguments denouncing their effectiveness.

    They key question here is, how do we use dashboards in conjunction with other reporting formats to help the data we have available make the biggest impact? By using them as the front-facing user interface of an organisation’s data and insight warehouse.

    Allowing dashboards to be seen and interacted with on a continual basis by insight professionals (updating them with more data as it is generated) and stakeholders (who view and interact with the datasets in real-time to draw insights themselves as and when needed) helps stakeholders see the bigger picture as they play around physically with the datasets and insights drawn. We can even scale the reach of data within an organisation by allowing anyone to view the data and record their use of it within the user interface, so others know how this data has been used in the name of inspiration and the bigger picture within their organisation.

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    We don't have to ditch the data tables entirely to creatively report insights - they can be infused with other methods to really show the bigger picture.

    However, dashboards aren’t the only interactive format that could help stakeholders see the bigger picture. Taking a step into the futurised present, the commercialised use of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) is allowing people to hone the technology and apply it to more scenarios than could have been thought of otherwise – one example is its application in market research. VR and AR is the way to truly immerse stakeholders in your insights by using 4D experiences.

    We can create scenarios, settings, backgrounds, storylines, walkthroughs, everything we could ever want to help stakeholders understand the power these insights hold. If you wanted to show the impact of different choices you could create virtual scenarios to help them better visualise the consequences of each decision.

    Workshops are the last interactive data reporting format I want to mention. This is an in-person reporting format that allows an insight professional to walk stakeholders through the data, exploring what it could mean and enabling stakeholders to ask as many questions as they need to fully understand the magnitude of what is sat in front of them.

    Motion Pictures

    Videos are a popular topic of discussion with very advantageous benefits in the insight generation and activation processes. So, let’s not go over the obvious merits and instead look at the ways in which we can boost our use of video to really communicate those complex storylines and help stakeholders see the bigger picture when making decisions.

    There are incomparable benefits to using video as a way to boost insight engagement, both in terms of direct windows of communication with participants and a versatile tool to help take stakeholders through complex storylines. With the tips and tricks learnt from TV and Film, it’s never been easier to create impactful and memorable video reports.

    We’ve already discussed a few of these tips and tricks in Sophie’s blog on bringing insights to life through video. One tactic that’s worth mentioning again is turning the video report into a mini-series, which means we have a lot more time to play with and can section each insightful theme into a video each to really explore the impact those insights bring. Another is using consistent characters throughout these mini-series so there is a tangible and relatable link within each video that binds them all together, helping engagement last through each video.

    But to root a video report in the real world calls for another form of video – the vox pop. Taking snippets of participant-made videos that support or reveal an insightful theme really steeps the report in reality and supercharges the importance of the insights contained within.

    The accessibility of video remains to be mentioned, and means stakeholders can watch the video reports on any device, at any time, anywhere. This is a huge benefit as it also allows them to access the video to rewatch the report anytime they feel the need or want to be reminded of the insights communicated.

    Insightful Infographic

    Infographics are currently used to communicate data in some ways, but usually through displaying data charts, graphs and tables with pretty branded colours and insight summaries. Let’s take it further, because there is so much untapped potential within infographics to help us communicate those big picture insights. At FlexMR, we’ve shown that infographics can be used to tell a story and engage stakeholders at the same time.

    In many infographics we have used illustration to guide audiences through the complex story presented in the infographic; with simple structured infographics such as this, to more complex flowing structures such as this, each infographic can be made entirely different with a unique blend of colours, structures, and copy to create the right mood, express individual themes found within the insights. Even in such limited space, infographics can communicate a lot of different information (see this example), the use of space itself is a key element in communicating a complex theme.

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    The method of creative reporting we use really depends on the time we have to create them - but there are many more tools and tactics at our disposal than we realise.

    Infographics can be used in place of newsletters as well as reports, which means they can be put together on the fly using one of a library of templates, and sent out within the day to relevant stakeholders to keep them up to date on the insights emerging from their market research project.

    Event-Based Reporting

    One criterion determining which format to choose is how much time insight professionals have to create the report. If we’re putting together an ad-hoc report then obviously we’ll need to create something good in a short space of time. But if there is a scheduled report upcoming then you can take a bit more time to create the story, choose the best format to represent the insights and engage stakeholders to the best of your ability.

    No matter how much time we have, customisation is key; if we deliver the insights in the format best suited to a stakeholder or group of stakeholders then we’ll capture their attention and keep it for as long as necessary. 

    This is where multi-method reporting comes into its own. The first layer of reporting could come through a way to continuously view and manipulate datasets (or a way to view the data, insights and recommendations through a dedicated and continually updating news source) for quick surface-level insight for quick decision-making; while the second layer is a regular in-depth report that delves deep into the reasoning behind the insights to make them richer, and will provide that extra lens to zoom out so stakeholders can always see the bigger picture. 

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