+91-80-42023484 contact@sincera.in
Five Considerations to Transform Data into Insights through Effective Business Reporting

Five Considerations to Transform Data into Insights through Effective Business Reporting

Today in businesses, we are not short of data. There are more than enough data points available through multiple channels for us to organize, analyze and review to our heart’s content or discontent as the case may be. Knowledge, insights and getting to actionable recommendations by sifting through this voluminous data is the difficult part. This is where effective Business reporting (or management reporting or enterprise reporting) can serve as a medium to provide knowledge in a form that enables the key-stakeholders to make informed decisions at the right time for sustained organizational success.  Management Reporting is an art and there is no single common method or set of steps to get this right. What does help though is keeping in mind the real goal behind all the reams of business reports you generate – enable the leadership to understand quickly what is going on in the business and to decide what to do with it. The business operations team can act as a primary driver in this area through creating and fine-tuning the business reporting process in the organization.

We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely ~ E. O. Wilson

I have been doing business reporting for many years now and have to keep reinventing my style to suit the organization I work with every so often. However, I have found the following common considerations useful for making this function effective:

Consideration #1: Focusing on what’s Important –

Take some time to define the goal or the purpose of the report. To do this you need to sit with the primary intended audience of the report and agree on the area of decision-making that they want the report to support – it could be financial approvals, resource allocations, operational planning, strategic directions, opportunity qualifications etc. Once you have the purpose, focus on the primary audience themselves – what is their working style preferences (highlights vs. details), understanding level (use of terminology and technical complexity), position in the organization (authority for info provided and decisions to be made) and priorities (to determine the flow of report). Agree on the format (presentation, word document, excel sheet or visual dashboard) that the audience is most comfortable with upfront – this is important as it allows decision makers to focus on the content rather than the form. With the purpose, the level and the format of the reporting well-defined and understood, it becomes easier to focus on the data needs of the report.

Consideration #2: Source of Data –

Determine the sources that can provide you with reliable, accurate and updated data to generate the report. It is highly unlikely that a single source of data can give you the information necessary to prepare a management report. Data could come directly through systems (if you are lucky) but you may still need inputs from multiple people in the organization to give colour to the data.  So once you know what information needs to be captured, processed, analyzed, and reported, spend time in organizing the information processes and related systems for effective reporting. You don’t want to spend time running around fighting through organizational silos and inadequate data collection systems to get the relevant data in the format you want from the systems or following up with stakeholders endlessly for their inputs. Work with the relevant people to align the systems to your business reporting needs and ensure that the reporting process and timelines are well-defined and communicated with all the stakeholders who need to provide inputs. The quality and integrity of the data sources will determine the quality and integrity of your report.

Consideration #3: Analyzing and Interpreting the Data –

Now that you have the goal, the format and the source of data set, it is time now to extract knowledge from the data, analyze it and interpret it to a form that will lend itself to effective decision-making. With the advent of big data and business intelligence tools, there are many off-the-shelf products that promise useful insights with a few clicks. It would be really nice if things were actually that easy – nothing so far has convinced me to stop using my brain as the best tool I have at my disposal when I do my reporting :). While data and analytic tools can bring in precision and help accelerate the whole process through saved time and efforts, once data from various sources is collated and information is extracted, the real value that an individual can bring in is yes – connecting all the dots together. We need to keep in mind a few questions while sifting through the data and deciding what to present – what do the numbers/feedback/results mean? How do they impact the problems that we have on hand or that could arise and the decisions that need to be taken? What are the options we have for the actions that need to be taken? This approach needs domain experience, understanding of the organizational dynamics and analytical skills (and hence the heavy dependency on the human brain).

Consideration #4: How Much is Too Much? –

There are two parts to this – the level of detail and frequency of reporting needed. And for what to do here, you have to go back to the purpose of the report and who the primary audience is. For the first part, the reporting team needs to determine the optimal amount of details to make decisions and discard all the other data collected for “just in case” and “good to have” scenarios. Avoid reporting just for the sake of reporting – because you have the data, because you have a lot of time in your hands or you bring in your personal need to impress the management. That way, soon the cost of knowing outweighs the value of knowing. This is why I said earlier, management reporting is an art – you have to balance the how’s with the what’s to hit the “right” spot for the organization. If the report answers these three questions in the best way possible – how have we done so far, where are we headed and what we need to do to arrive at the performance objectives – you have achieved the goal of the report no matter what it is. You also have to set the reporting cadence and communication. How often do you need to generate the reports to ensure that the insights remain meaningful and not repetitive or in the other extreme – hindsight knowledge too late to do anything about? Along with the primary audience, who else would benefit or be affected from the decisions taken by the primary audience from the reported insights? These are important aspects to consider in setting up the reporting process and mechanics.

Consideration #5: Tracking Desired outcomes and Continuous improvement –

Once you get the reporting right, it is time to make it effective in reality. Set up a mechanism to track the decisions made as an outcome of your reports to ensure that all the hard work that has gone into preparing the report is not wasted. Record the minutes and the actions and ensure that the stakeholders are aware and have the additional information they need to act upon the decisions. And finally, as business environments, leadership and performance objectives change, information requirements also change over time. Hence, we need to periodically review the reporting process and the reports themselves and put them through a continuous improvement cycle to ensure that they remain effective and useful.

Does this sound like a lot of work? It is but if you get this right, you have a unique opportunity to expand your influence while supporting the goals of the management because you are helping transform data into insights – critical to creating value and ultimately, increasing the competitive advantage for the organization.

So do you still think business reporting is a boring and non value-adding activity? What unique perspective do you put into your reports ? What do you expect from the reports that your team generates for you? I would love to hear back and learn for you?

Picture Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26341587@N04/4280203413/

Courtesy in the Virtual World – Small Things Matter!

Courtesy in the Virtual World – Small Things Matter!

Consider the following situation:

Peter is a freelance writer writes to an organization with a well known blog, requesting them to carry his blog on their website. The organization responds with enthusiasm, and wants to take the collaboration ahead. There is no response from Peter for a month. A month later, Peter writes back with an apology and requests the organization to carry his article on their blog. The organization says they will do so, and would let him know when the article is up. However, since posts are usually scheduled in advance, it might take a while. There is no response from Peter for ten days. After ten days, he writes back asking if the article has been published. The organization responds with the link to the published article. About two weeks pass by, and there is still no email of acknowledgment from Peter.

Why is the case in point a lesson in professionalism?

The situation illustrated above is only one of the several ways that simple courtesies, politeness and a basic humanitarian approach in the world of work is undermined. What is worse is that, Peter probably doesn’t even realize that he is not only being unprofessional, but also rude – may be unwittingly so.

One of the key principles of maintaining professionalism is being courteous and polite at all times. This aspect applies not only to the real time day-to-do situations in the ‘real’ world of work, but also in the virtual world. Today, so much of our business is transacted across virtual boundaries. While we may not be able to see or touch the person behind the emails and the black letters on our screen that inform our understanding of the person concerned and the situation at hand, we still know that there is a human being at the other end. What indeed makes our communication governed by machines less mechanical, and transactional is how we choose to communicate – courtesy in the virtual world matters more than you may think.

How might have Peter been a better communicator in the above scenario?

  • By making his communication appear less like a transaction, and more like a dialogue – i.e., by responding not just to get his work done and to follow up, but by being timely and more courteous in his responses. And most of all, by expressing gratitude once the work was done. The organization could have refused to publish the article by citing delay as a reason, and Peter/ or anyone else in his stead would have had no grounds to contest that.

It is especially important for young professionals to understand how these seemingly ‘small’ things make a big difference to one’s professional trajectory. While these aspects of professionalism may seem trivial to some, they by no means would fit under that adjective. Small things matter. Who you are as a person, comes across through how you communicate. Communication through virtual platforms has plenty of scope for misunderstandings. However, virtual platforms have become the base for much of what we do in the world of work today. Therefore, if one needs to be extra cautious while communicating in the virtual world – the effort is worth it.

Because, whatever the business is, whatever the transaction is, while machines enable, there are humans behind those machines. And if we cannot bring the human touch to our communication with each other, where does that leave us?

Acing Presentations: How to Answer Questions Like a Professional Speaker

Acing Presentations: How to Answer Questions Like a Professional Speaker

Communicate Effectively while Presenting

If you have followed our blog, you know we have always stressed on how important excellent communication skills is for a successful career. It is one skill that needs to be part of everyone’s “lifelong learning” lists as one that needs continual investment of time and efforts. In this guest post by Belle Balace, a growth specialist from Visme, we tackle a very important topic relevant to effective communication- how do you answer tough questions during a presentation. Read on to know more!
Giving presentations can be nerve-wracking. Even more so if you have to answer unforeseeable questions on the spot. You could be very well prepared and still encounter questions from your audience that you may not be able to answer!
Nervous? Well don’t be, there is no cause to panic! Thankfully, there’s a cheat sheet for this. Visme has listed in this info-graphic everything you need to know on how to deal with a potentially stressful situation on answering questions during a presentation.

About the author:

Belle Balace is a growth specialist in Visme, a one-stop visual online tool where anyone can create engaging presentations, infographics, and other types of visual content in no time.

Five Main Barriers to Effective Communication – What to Avoid to Get Heard

Five Main Barriers to Effective Communication – What to Avoid to Get Heard

A great deal of confusion and chaos can be avoided in the world of work, if ‘communication’ could be understood in all its elements, and not just as an isolated concept. Starting from writing emails, to delivering speeches, holding meetings and giving presentations, what is the one thing that they all have in common? No prizes for guessing – communication. Communication – both written and verbal is of prime essence in the world of work. It is the sole aspect which truly can make a difference – for the better, or for the worse – in any given situation. At OBOlinx, we are constantly brainstorming about how one can perceive communication in a better, more effective manner. While we have written extensively about communication skills, and also about how one can improve them, it made sense to think about the ‘elements’ of communication. Understanding the solution to any problem is effective only when we can look at the elementary aspects of the problem. Once we have broken it down, it becomes easier to address them. In this post we speak about the possible impediments (in a broad sense) to Effective Communication, and in the post which is to follow, we will address the critical aspects or elements for communication.

 The five main barriers to effective communication :

1. Language issues

This is one of the most basic hindrances to Effective Communication. While it really might seem most commonsensical to be wary of this error, it still may occur. Most commonly, this happens when you are not fluent, or comfortable in communicating (could be verbal or written), in the chosen language. This might also happen when, as a result of discomfort with the chosen language, you translate using your imagination of the language you are most comfortable with, or the language that you “think” in. In doing so, like most translations, the essence of what you are trying to communicate might be lost.

2. Lack of context/ clarity

Assuming that your audience is already familiar with what you are about to say/ write is another possible obstruction to Effective Communication. This assumption might lead to a lack of background. As a result, what you try to communicate might sound a bit out of context and there will be a visible lack of clarity. As a result, your communication will be hampered.

3. Distraction

The medium and time for communication is as important, as the purpose of the communication itself. This stands defeated if the communicator is unable to figure out whether the time and medium is appropriate and distraction free. Ensuring that the environment is distraction free will help you communicate more effectively. For example, if your audience is already engaged with a task, or if the set up chosen for the occasion is distracting in any way, it might be difficult to have the entire attention of your audience.

4. Confusion

This factor relates mostly to the ‘content’ of your communication, and is not very different from the above factor regarding clarity. How you communicate must be completely aligned with what you want to communicate. In case your communication is open to interpretation by your audience, it means that you weren’t very clear in what you wanted to communicate. This may occur in case of over-lap, lack of clarity or lack of context.

5. Being unnecessarily verbose

When wanting to communicate effectively, the purpose must be clear and the aim should be to establish the purpose as swiftly, and simply as possible. Being verbose/ using difficult jargon defeats the very aim of Effective Communication, as you cannot be sure about how much of the content is processed by your audience. Big and difficult words and sentences always confuse the audience. Keeping it sweet and simple is the best trick.

How does one tackle these five broad issues (there are many other issues which may be clubbed under these broad ones), in order to establish an effective pattern of communication? Watch out for our next post which speaks about this!

Social Media Resume – The Basics

Social Media Resume – The Basics

Before we delve into the basics of the Social Media Resume, and what makes for a great one, let us understand what a social media resume really is. Simply put, a social media resume is your online presence, across platforms of social media. Lets tweak that a little bit, a social media resume is the ‘quality’ of your online presence.  It is the quality of your social media cv that attracts recruiters and hiring managers to you, rather than you scouring for job opportunities. About 80% of job opportunities are channeled through networking, and a strong social media resume is a powerful way of changing the meaning of networking in the current day context.

Simply existing on various forms of social media, most importantly on LinkedIn does not qualify for a great social media resume. It is your engagement, and the quality of content that you put out which determines the strength of your social media resume. Earlier, we ran a hugely popular series on personal branding. Building a good social media resume is strongly intertwined with the principles of personal branding. Through social media, you put out who you are, i.e., you put out your personal brand, because you are your own personal brand.

Based on the strength of your social media resume, you can attract your dream job opportunities. Here are 5 ways of building a strong social media resume.

  1. Consistency is everything

    You may have an account on every social media platform that exists. However that is to no avail unless you are consistently active on them. Being regular and updating frequently is an imperative to having a consistent and powerful social media presence. Make sure your profiles are updated. It is also important to engage in conversations and discussions relating to topics of your interest. The form of engagement could range from commenting on articles to writing your own articles and posting them.

  2. Understand the unique use of each platform

    Every social media platform has a unique selling point. In order to make the most of the social media platforms you use, understand the uniqueness of each of these platforms. For example, Instagram is a very visual platform, allowing you a number of tools to express yourself and the work you do through photographs. Facebook is a multipurpose platform that also allows you to network. While LinkedIn serves as an information base, and the best place for off-line professional networking. By understanding the unique use of each platform, you can curate the content you put out accordingly. This also helps you to keep in mind the very specific target audiences for each kind of platform.

  3. Integrate your social media profiles

    If you have a blog or a website, you could integrate all your social media profiles into it for keeping them all synced, and easily accessible to recruiters. Most platforms allow you to create social media badges which you can embed into your blog/ website. One pointer before you go ahead and integrate your social media platforms is to keep in mind how your profiles would appear to a potential recruiter. Before you integrate your social media profiles, go through them with a fine tooth comb and scour for anything that may come across as unprofessional. In short, look for any social media mistakes that may stand out for a recruiter.

  4. Be responsible

    We began this post by stressing on how a social media resume isn’t very different from having a personal brand. A social media cv is powerful because everything about you, your qualifications and your aspirations are out there. This kind transparency and outreach lend a kind of validity to ‘you’, which is why a powerful social media resume has the potential to attract recruiters.

    Being responsible about what you speak and choose to put out is a ground rule for not just personal branding, but any form of social media interaction (and otherwise!). Remember that when you put out or say certain things on interactive platforms, people listen to it and engage with it in a conscious as well as subconscious manner. That is the power of personal branding and social media. Therefore while you have access to a wide range of liberties to make speak your mind and make yourself heard, make sure that you do so responsibly.

The secret to a great Social Media Resume is having an impressive online presence. Have you come across a great social media cv, you’ve had a chance to learn from? Comment with links below and we’d be glad to feature your thoughts in our upcoming blogs!

Working with a Difficult Coworker

Working with a Difficult Coworker

How we all wish that we only got to work with people we get along with like a house on fire (how much sense does that metaphor make, really?). Unfortunately, no matter how hard we wish this will never be the case. The world of work is a diverse, ever dynamic space. And very much a part of the tough, real world which teaches us very many lessons about life. One being, regardless of whether you like it or not, there will be times when you have to work with a difficult coworker or two. Maybe even coworkers you say you ‘hate’. Now, while hate is a very strong four lettered word (which is also injurious to health), we do understand the strong sentiments at play there.

While you cannot avoid these situations where you will be needed to work with coworkers you don’t exactly get along with, here are some tips that will probably lessen the suffering.

  1. Stop. And Breathe.

    It is strange how much we underestimate the value of this critical life function. Breathing is the only thing that separates life from death. ‘Take a deep breath’, is the most under rated thing. Every time you feel overcome with anxiety and pressure because you are unable to cope with a difficult coworker, breathe. Just remind yourself to breathe. You will be surprised how effective this technique is. Try this zen technique called STOP: S- Step back. T – Take a breath. O- Observe. P- Proceed.

  2. Take it as a challenge

    This situation won’t last forever. But while it lasts, how about you make the best of it? If nothing else, let it teach you how to function in what you may call, adverse situations. Does it feel like if you survive this, you can survive anything? Well then, you’ve got to get through it. Anything that makes you feel invincible is worth it. Find a way of making this seem like a challenge, and then take on it. By the end of it, you will feel proud of yourself.

  3. Play by the rules

    In case the lack of harmony between you and the other party concerned stems from mostly difference in opinion regarding the work you are doing, play by the rules. That way, you cannot get into any trouble and any cause of discontent regarding the rules is not your problem. You did not come up with them, you are simply following them. Every time you need to remind your co-worker about the same, do so gently. And do let them know that they have the option of taking it up with the management.

  4. Don’t make the mistake of trying to change them, change yourself

    When we are sure that we are right, we bend over backwards to ‘prove’ to the other person that we are right. What we do not understand is, that the person at the other end perhaps also has his/ her very strong reasons in believing they are right. Which they are hell-bent on proving. Getting into a tussle of this sort in a professional space can be extremely draining, not to mention a serious deterrent to your productivity. So instead of trying to change the other person involved, change your approach. You can have absolutely no control over anything which is beyond yourself. The sooner you realize this, the more time and energy you will save. And by no means will you be conceding defeat in any way by doing this.

  5. Be professional – No matter how angry you are

    Dislike for a difficult coworker is no reason to display unprofessional behavior. Remember that by doing so you will be harming no one but yourself. No matter how angry you are, handle the situation professionally and in a respectful manner. When you feel that the situation is getting out of hand, reach out to the management for a conflict resolution intervention. Take care for the situation to not turn into a judgment call on your reputation or professionalism.

While it can’t be easy to deal with a situation like this, it surely isn’t impossible. And like they say, it is the worst situations that bring out the best in you! What is the worst quality of a someone you would call a difficult coworker? Comment below and we will include your take on that, in our next blog!