Many of our research projects have in-depth reporting schedules. The longer the program, the more likely it is that we will provide multiple reports for that program. For instance, we may provide flash reports every two weeks in addition to full recaps at the mid-point of the program and at the end. The longer the schedule and the more consistent the data, the easier it is to sound like we are delivering the same information repeatedly .
If the client is looking for raw data, that’s fine. I once worked on a tracking study where the monthly report consisted only of a series of line charts that showed the progress of our key metrics month to month. The client wasn’t looking for actionable storytelling. They wanted to ensure we were tracking the status quo. Dips or peaks were of interest, but ultimately, the report was the same each month. And, it was boring.
In Bondage to Boring Reporting
It was boring to work on and it was boring to read. While the direct client was happy, others in the organization failed to see any value in the reports. The client eventually took the project in-house. Why pay for a research team to create graphs that can be done by clerical staff in-house?
That’s the risk we researchers deal with any time we report only on the status quo. We can’t provide value if we’re reporting the same data over and over again. Without insights, there is little if any value.
Breaking Free – Bringing Value to Reporting
Recently, we addressed this matter while working on a quarterly recap report for a program we have been measuring for years. We noticed that the fourth quarter results were no different than what we had presented in the third quarter. We recommended to the client that we look at the data in a different way. The client saw the value in doing so and the report was met with reinvigorated enthusiasm on both ends – it was fun to present something new and interesting and it was exciting for the client to have actionable items he would not have had otherwise.
We are creatures of habit – we are comfortable with consistency. It’s important, however, that we don’t lose sight of our research objectives. To keep our reporting fresh, we must stay focused on what we are trying to accomplish, how to measure what we see, and how to interpret the results. That’s when we have a story tell.