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Creating Clarity in Your Reporting

Bringing Clarity into Excel ReportsWhich picture jumps out at you with clear definitions of what is in the picture: 1) the one on the left where I applied every little tricks that the iColorama and Haiku HD apps offer you or 2) the one on the right?

If you say the one on the left, this post is not for you.

We kind of do the same thing as the picture on the left when we create Excel spreadsheets: we show gobs and gobs of numbers with key information being lost in the dense fog of data. All of the information may be important but you will lose your audience if you can’t direct them quickly to what they need to know. You are going to have to simplify and narrow down to the essentials.

I first learned to consider how we receive information when I had to do my first EAC presentation at one of my former employers. I was called upon to do the presentation when the original girl had to stay home. The presentation material consisted of an Excel spreadsheet with maybe 400 rows and columns extending out to AW (or somewhere around there). I looked at the spreadsheet and thought, “How am I going to present this?” Since I was about a month new, I had no ideas about the projects, no clue about the trends, and couldn’t discern anything important in that mass of details. Frankly, that presentation was a nightmare. Since then I have always struggled to present information in such a way that key essentials are easily grasped and are helpful to the readers.

Lately, I’ve been working on an effort to bring one part of the company in line with the reporting process of another part of the company. The report is actually pretty cool and, being new to the industry, it was helpful to me to see what kind of information this industry uses to run their business. I’m learning a lot from this report. Unfortunately, the report is a page full of numbers and it took me a while to absorb it. Since the production of this report was going to be additional work for the folks in the field, I needed to develop an automated process to entice the field folks. Furthermore, I wanted to give them something useful as a reward for creating the information. The report on the left below is the page full of numbers version. The one on the right is my attempt on producing something simple – in this case a visual clue of what is going on. Already, by using the visuals, I caught some things that I had missed in the original perusal of the normal report.

Overview of Report Visual look

I have to warn you though: it takes a lot of “programming” and work to make this possible.

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