From: CMO

To: All Staff

Re: Changes in internal data analysis and reporting

Consistent with current efforts to streamline our operations, management team has decided to change the way the company analyses and communicates business data. Recent assessments made clear that we are using just a small fraction of the available data, many decisions are not supported by enough data and we react too slowly to changing market conditions because our monitoring tools are not adequate. The ROI we are getting from the data is definitely too low.

There is much to be done, but it would be ludicrous to assume that we can revamp everything at a moment’s notice. We are aware of the need for better tools and serious training in key areas, but the real roadblock is in our minds.

The new plan outlines several steps towards a data-driven company. This memo discusses the first one, code-named The Awakening. It contains a set of simple and practical guidelines that you are expected to follow from now on. You can read the details in the intranet, together with the rational behind each guideline.

The Awakening was designed to make us all more aware of how we manage the data and how we can get more insights out of it. Again, no special skills or training are needed at this stage, just a few changes in our routines. Here are the guidelines.

Regarding presentations:

  • Slides and presenter notes should be made available to all attendees; attendees are expected to read them before the presentation starts;
  • A presentation should not need more than 50 slides;
  • If you are using PowerPoint, animation and other effects are not allowed;
  • Branding should not take more than 5% of slide real estate;
  • Each slide must not contain more than a single sentence; if you need more, write them in plain English in the notes;
  • If the audience is required to compare images (including charts), place them in the same slide;
  • You must be able to refresh the data in your presentation.

Regarding the use of charts:

  • The use of 3D effects is strictly forbidden;
  • The use of pie charts is strongly dis-encouraged;
  • No chart should contain less than five data points;
  • There is a standard color code for each of our products and major competitor products: use them;
  • If possible, use a time series;
  • Don’t label data points but annotate outliers;
  • Scales should always start at zero when using bar charts and single-series line charts;
  • If a pattern cannot be easily identified consider removing the chart, remove or mute data or use a different chart type;
  • Consider using the main takeaway as the chart title.

Regarding the use of Excel:

  • Shared Excel files containing business data must be connected to the Oracle database or Access files managed by the IT;
  • Use PivotTables instead of formulas when possible;
  • A standard chart or report must include all our products and markets, should allow the user to select the product she’s interested in and should be easily maintained and updated;
  • John Doe is our new Excel and PowerPoint go-to guy; if you need help implementing any  of these guidelines please contact him;
  • John Doe will also identify training needs in Excel, PowerPoint, data analysis and data visualization.

(…)

OK, this is a draft of a memo I’d like to see coming from every company management team as a starting point towards a better data analysis and communication strategy. In the spirit of a small-steps approach, what would you add, change or remove from this draft? Add your comments below.