Data visualization has received a lot of attention in recent years, helping investors connect the dots on otherwise cryptic numbers by presenting a compelling visual. The problem is, not everything should be presented as a visualization. You know what I’m talking about … those “SmartArt”-happy PowerPoint presentations that attempt to demonstrate how everything is like a funnel.
The good news is that more experts are surfacing to help guide management teams to create visualizations that demonstrate a company’s performance. In certain ways, there is a parallel to be drawn here with a spiritual guru helping a subject ingest a hallucinogenic that leads to salvation.
I’m not suggesting that IROs need to eat Peyote to make a compelling visual. But Arif Ansari, associate professor of clinical data sciences and operations at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, makes a compelling argument about mind-altering practices that could, in fact, lead to better data visualization.
When I interviewed Ansari for a recent IRupdate story, he told me to close my eyes and think about how I could depict some aspect of my business visually. He sharpened his point by using the acronym “OPEN MIND,” which stands for identifying an “Opportunity, Pain point or need, Engaging, Nailing down a hypothesis, and Monetizing Insights with New Development.”
The first two times I attempted Ansari’s method, I came up with nothing but a bunch of gobbledygook, and then on my third attempt, all of the stars aligned and my mind presented the perfect visualization. NOT!
OK, there is no bullet proof method when it comes to visualizing data effectively. Perhaps seeing it done right is a good place to start. Following are a few examples:
- The Coca-Cola Company’s “Annual Review,” which highlights the company’s achievements for the year, is an example of how to select visual images after narrowing in on a target audience. In this case, retail investors.
- Procter & Gamble provides a visual overview of the company on its IR website, including how the company creates value for shareholders, a table that breaks down reportable segments, percent of net sales, percent of net earnings, categories, and brand names, as well as circles that convey parts of a whole for business segments, geographic regions, and market maturity.
- Colgate-Palmolive’s 2014 annual report utilizes slide shows and videos to highlight the company’s brands, strategies, and growth. The company also provides a visual description of its sustainability practices, in addition to financial charts that are animated when scrolling down the page.
— Evan Pondel, firstname.lastname@example.org