Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 5:18 am on

When I’m asked to evaluate a company’s data collection and communication process, I frequently find that recurring reports in use are ineffective. For some reason, programmers forget that how the message is conveyed is as important as the analysis. In developing a database to manage or analyze a process, I almost always spend more time on the reports than I do on the programming. Here’s my approach:

  • If a report is being used as a tool to manage a process, the information should be presented in the sequence it will be used. To understand the correct order, talk to the people involved.
  • Reports need to be audience-specific and concise. If the audience is Spanish-speaking, provide the information in Spanish. Offer only the information that is needed. Providing too much information will overwhelm your readers and they will be less likely to focus on the points that are worthy of consideration. Senior management will generally require more information than line supervisors and line supervisors will require more information than line workers. Don’t be afraid to consider multiple versions.
  • Present the information in a format that is pleasing to the eye. Aesthetics do make a difference!

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