As accountants, we often spend a lot of our time worrying about ‘getting the numbers right’. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that getting the numbers right is important, but it’s only the first step in supporting well-informed decisions. The next step, just as important, is communicating what you’ve found in a way that people can understand and use. Typically, our audience is time-poor executives who want to see the most important information they need for decision-making, as quickly as possible. A visualisation (a chart, a graph, a map or the like – anything visual based on the numbers) is often extremely helpful in achieving this, particularly for audiences that don’t have years of training in interpreting financial information.
A few things you might not know about visualising financial information:
- People take in a huge amount of visual information subconsciously, and so your choice of chart, and how you format it, can have a big impact on which messages your audience receives, and what kinds of comparisons they can make.
- There is a real art to designing effective management dashboards – you can’t just put a few charts together on a page, you need to carefully prioritise what information is most helpful for decision-making and lay it out so that the eye is drawn to what’s most important.
- There’s been a significant amount of academic study on the most effective ways to visualise business information. Many simple, common-sense best practices were described as early as the 1980s, but still aren’t commonly practiced today.
Starting on 2 May, Synergy will be running a Strategic CFO Program, aimed at helping aspiring CFOs to move beyond technical skills and become a strategic partner. During the program, I will be presenting on best practices for communicating financial and non-financial information in ways that make an impact and contribute to better decision-making. Please head over to the sign-up page if you’re interested!
Find more details on the Strategic CFO Program here.