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Visualize Your Data With Storytelling

This article reviews the presentation possibilities that are now available using modern data presentation platforms, and outlines some common mistakes when moving from PowerPoint to an online reporting process.



Editor’s Note: Visual Storytelling is an immensely important topic in MR that doesn’t get nearly the level of attention it deserves. There isn’t a single client that I know who isn’t clamoring for concise, engaging, and impactful reporting. In fact, I know one very large global CPG company that is looking to shift all of their reporting to video; they would like every report to come as a mini movie! So much of the business of MR is based on mass production and standardization that it’s been challenging to focus on the need to identify new tools, human capital, and business models to support a richer, more creative set of deliverables. Luckily, those are all relatively easy solutions to implement, especially on the tool front. Many new platforms are available on the market to help shift away from simple charts and graphs to more interesting visualizations; here is a list of many to look at if you are interested.

Included in that list is the offering from today’s guest poster, Rudy Nadilo of Dapresy  (Here’s a plug: Dapresy is the real deal, and I like it so much that GreenBook and Gen2 Advisors have a license so we can use it for our own visualization needs).  In today’s post Rudy draws on the experience to lay out some very pragmatic and focused suggestions on how to incorporate visual storytelling into your reporting regardless of what tool you use.

It’s all great advice and provides MR organizations with a foundational “how to” list to begin migrating from the tyranny of SPSS/Excel/Powerpoint to a more creative solution.


By Rudy Nadilo

In my daily work, I see a clear trend. The research buyer is looking for better and more effective ways to present survey results to their organization. Their motivation is simple. They need to extract more value from their investments in data collection by getting more stakeholders in their organization involved with and acting upon the data.

This article reviews the presentation possibilities that are now available using modern data presentation platforms, and outlines some common mistakes when moving from PowerPoint to an online reporting process. The following are some of the things to keep in mind to increase the value when presenting data online instead of using PowerPoint or Excel.

Don´t Replicate PowerPoint Online

A very common mistake is trying to replicate PowerPoint reports online. PowerPoint is linear while a modern dashboard reporting tool allows one dynamic slide to literally replace hundreds of PowerPoint slides. The magic behind this capability is something called dynamic filters. A dynamic filter is a dropdown menu placed on top of a web-based dashboard. When clicking the menu, the user gets a list of different alternatives to select. Selecting a filter dynamically generates the view of the data based on the selected criteria. For example, a typical tracker deployed in PowerPoint might have hundreds of slides for countries, regions, brands, salesperson, etc. All of these can simply and easily be replaced with a dynamic filter.

Don´t be Bound by the Limitations of Traditional Reporting

It is critical to change your thinking to capitalize on the benefits of a dashboard tool. We are so programmed by years of using PowerPoint and Excel it is easy to be bound by the restrictions of these tools. They are static, linear and iterative. For example, with online reporting, a few clicks allows you to add benchmark values to a report. Or, imagine you are reporting on customer satisfaction and want each manager responsible for a group of customers to compare his results with the average or best-in-class results from other managers. With traditional reporting, producing this volume of reports is labour intensive, time consuming and cost prohibitive. With dashboard reporting technology, it is very easy to accomplish and results are dynamically generated through hierarchical access rights to the data. These hierarchical access rights are another benefit of a modern reporting tool, which makes it easy to create user- unique views for each user or category of users.

A dashboard tool offers the ability to select a variable in your data and configure the system to create a unique report for each instance of this variable. Let’s say you have a variable called “Customer Type,” and that variable has the associated values “Standard Customer,” “Important Customer,” “Customer to be Developed.” It is very easy to first create a dashboard for all customers and then, with a click, create a unique view for each type of customer. The dashboard tool will automatically create one unique report per customer type.

A Dashboard Tool will Never Fully Replace PowerPoint

Another common mistake is to believe that the dashboard will be the single channel for an organization to use when consuming data. This is normally not the case. People still want to have a PowerPoint deck for a variety of reasons. A dashboard tool is used to efficiently deploy results to the organization so team members can explore and understand results. These users then need:

  • The ability to download the full online report to PowerPoint for making their own notes and to be used in combination with other slides.
  • The ability to pick and choose individually filtered results from the dashboard and save them as a customized “story” that can then be downloaded to PowerPoint.

Providing the user the ability to custom-filter their specific results to be viewed online or downloaded to a PowerPoint is an essential capability.

Use a Combination of Infographics, Dashboards and Charts and Tables

Use infographics to tell your story. A dashboard tool must provide full functionality to visualize data in free form.The picture below is a good example of a way to visualize data from a set of important metrics.

dap1A well-designed dashboard provides an engaging experience for the report user and allows non- technical users to appreciate and explore the results.

Using infographics creates initial interest and will engage your audience. By clicking on the infographic, the users can drill

down further into the result. Combining infographics with an engaging dashboard will solve these information requirements. A dashboard is normally a report with more comprehensive information compared to an infographic. In my experience, it’s best to use an infographic as a door-opener and then follow with a set of dashboards like the image below.




Note the filters on top of this dashboard allow the user to generate 300-plus unique views.

When designing a dashboard, you normally cover the requirements for the majority of your users in terms of information sharing. But for those who want more, you can create added value by building up a set of traditional charts and tables for details.

These views are good to use when the need is to find complex and detailed patterns based on the findings made in either the infographic or dashboard view. The image below is one good example of a more comprehensive view.




But don´t forget to consider specific heavy users: data analysts, category managers, product managers, etc. In almost all information deliveries, you have a few users that want to have the ability to interact with the data on a table level. It is recommended to include an online cross-tabulation and charting tool as part of your information delivery.




Views Depend on User Type

The most common – and deadly – mistake when moving from PowerPoint to online reporting is the desire show everything to everyone. But the expression “less is more” should be the rule of thumb in this situation. It is important to scope out the dashboard and get the user organization to agree on what the various user groups should see. It is best to limit the majority of the users’ access to only part of the information portal – ideally the sections that show results as infographics.Then, allow line or middle managers access to dashboards and traditional reports. Finally, only allow a few people from an expert group access to the cross-tabulation tools.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure your dashboard tool retrieves the data and calculates the data from the same data source and in the same manner.You don´t want to end up in a situation where you get different results for the same query.

Happy dashboarding!

Rudy Nadio is president of Dapresy North America, Inc. He can be reached at r[email protected].

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