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Telling Your Company’s Story With Numbers

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When solving problems, management consultants rely on facts; and their most trusted source for facts is numbers.  Numbers hold great power because they cannot be disputed.  

In a consulting engagement, numbers are used at every step.  From reviewing a client’s baseline in order to identify business opportunities at the outset, to calculating savings from engagement activities at the end, consultants use numbers to, in essence, tell the story of the engagement.  This use of numbers, tracked through various Key Performance Indicators (“KPIs”) and displayed through data exhibits in dashboards and reports, provides consultants with the proof they need to validate their story.

Understand Your Numbers

Likewise for an organization, numbers don’t tell a story on their own.  Instead, they should be viewed as the building blocks for a story that gets told through KPIs – the operational indicators used to measure a company’s performance and financial success.   And just like accurate wording is important to a good story, picking the correct numbers, or metrics, to be used as KPIs is key to being able to see how an organization is performing.   When communicating through numbers, there must be an understanding of the message the numbers send.  

There is essentially no hard and fast set of metrics that must consistently be selected, and therein lies the challenge of picking the most effective ones.   Within any organization, what metrics get selected to be used for KPIs is based on their context and importance within operation, and can frequently change as operational needs evolve.  Each company, and each department within that company, will generally have different KPIs unique to their operations, and they must find what combination of KPIs tell the story of their operational performance accurately, without skewing or hiding it’s reality.

Display Numbers Effectively

Once KPIs are chosen, the next challenge becomes displaying them in a way that allows them to communicate their information concisely.   Displaying the KPIs cleanly so that their message can be conveyed at a glance is key to telling the operational story.  

KPIs should be readable at a glance.  When the correct data exhibit is used, and the KPIs are displayed effectively, they can be scanned quickly to be understood.  However, if there’s a need to review the KPIs at length to figure out what’s being shown, they are being presented wrong.

Knowing the appropriate data exhibit to convey a KPI’s information is important, because the data exhibit will dictate how the information will be read.  Understanding the KPIs, the information they need to convey, their industry context, the intent of the report they’re being included in, and who the audience is forms the basis for deciding what data exhibit is the best one use.

Seeing the Value in Healthcare

To see the value in being able to effectively tell a company’s story with numbers, let’s look at a healthcare consulting example.

Recently, Trindent was engaged by one of the world’s leading providers of mobile out-patient telemetry devices to aid in improving their cost structure and raise service levels, quality standards, and customer satisfaction.  In this engagement, the indicator to show the desired productivity improvement was the Gross Referral rate, shown below.

When reporting on the engagement’s success, this data was displayed in terms of project weeks.  The improvement chart below shows the improvement trend against baseline numbers.   In this case, displaying appropriate information through the correct data exhibit allows for an at-a-glance identification of the baseline and the trajectory of improvement as the project progressed – and the story is told effectively.

Ensuring there is understanding of what numbers, or KPIs, accurately tell the story of an organization’s current and future states, and conveying that information with clarity takes time and planning, but when done correctly, the story that gets told becomes a powerful tool.   

Click here to read more about Trindent’s approach to maximizing the impact of our engagements through KPIs.