Why should you consider a Reporting and Visualization Standard ?
As some of you have noticed, I returned to SAP and I am now part of the SAP Analytics Cloud team and I will try to share more insights and more “How to…” material with everyone here in the community, so that everyone – especially our customers – quickly can identify the value that SAP Analytics Cloud can deliver to you as our customers.
In the first set of blogs we will focus on how SAP Analytics Cloud can support you by following the IBCS (International Business Communication Standards) notation rules and what SAP Analytics Cloud is offering in terms of features and functionality, so that you can quickly create your own IBCS conform stories.
But lets start first of all with the question “What is IBCS actually and why should I keep on reading ?”
IBCS has their roots in a concept called SUCCESS – established by Rolf Hichert (www.hichert.com) – which outlines seven key principles (SAY, UNIFY, CONDENSE, CHECK, ENABLE, SIMPLIFY, STRUCTURE) and which was the base for the 2014 founded non-profit IBCS Association (www.ibcs-a.org).
We will spend more time in the coming blogs to outline the key principles, but here some of the key concepts already:
- Meaning: Information that looks the same, should also mean the same. This goes across several parts of your story, such as the use of common abbreviations, the use of identical scaling for charts. This will help the consumer to quickly understand the content that is shown.
- Design : This relates to a set of common components of the overall story and some rules on how this information should be presented to the consumer. This relates to elements such as chart titles, comments, footnotes, … and so on. All these elements should follow rules, so that the consumption of the information becomes easy and your layout becomes consistent across all your data visualizations.
Before we look more at the “why”, lets look at some very simple examples.
I am sure you all have either created or at least seen several charts. Most of the people place a title into the chart, which normally identifies what the chart is showing. In most scenarios the title looks something like this:
Yes – we do have a title and we can identify the measure (Sales Revenue) and the year (2017), but that is all we received in terms of information.
So if we would follow the IBCS concepts, our title would contain more valuable information. Here an example for the same information:
In this example the title not only mentions the measure, but also includes the unit (mEUR) and outlines the time periods that are shown and indicates (PY) that the information is from the previous year.
You also will notice that the second chart does not have a Y-Axis with labels and instead uses the data labels directly on the individual bars.
Both of these items – title and axis layout – are very simple examples of the recommendations that the IBCS provides for your data visualization.
So why should you try to follow the IBCS standards and why should you think about a corporate standard for your reporting and analytics requirements ?
I think we can all agree that the notion of a standard has huge benefits. Think about our daily life where we come across traffic signs when driving a car ? What would happen when the signs for stopping or the signs for the sign for no entry would be different in each country ?
So with that question in mind, now think about your own reporting and analytics ? Wouldn’t you agree that there is a huge benefit in agreeing on a set of standards across all your dashboards across all your departments ?
You might already have some rules in place for typical navigation elements, such as the print button always goes to the top right, but perhaps you haven’t thought about setting corporate standards for the visual elements.
Following a set of rules and agreeing on a set of standards has several benefits:
- It helps with conveying a clear and concise message, because everyone is following the same standards and the used visual elements will convey the same meaning every time.
- You are removing a lot of the typical “clutter” and the information in your story and dashboard will become much easier and quicker to consume.
- Your visual communication becomes much stronger, leading to a quicker adoption of your stories and dashboards, because people gain quicker and a stronger understanding of the information.
- You are helping people to “recognize” and consume the information, instead of “reading” a dashboard.
Lets look at the benefits of following a standard from a slightly different angle:
- Higher Quality
- Following IBCS will lead to higher quality output when it comes to your dashboards and reports because you are communicating a much clearer and more concise message, which will ultimately help to make better decisions.
- Quicker Consumption
- Your consumers will be able to quicker understand what is being said in your dashboards and reports and have a much clearer understanding of the facts, which also will help in making decisions quicker.
- By following a standard for all your visual elements, people will quicker recognize the visual elements and not spend time “reading” your dashboard.
- Reduced Costs
- Reducing the time that is required to understand your dashboard will help saving highly valuable time of your senior management and executive team.
- Following the IBCS standard will help to reduce complexity and help to reduce the number of visual elements required and in that way help to reduce the overall implementation time.
So you can see that following a standard has a lot of value, which is also the reason why SAP decided to make it easy for you to follow such a standard like IBCS by implementing the concepts already in SAP Analytics Cloud.
In the next blog we will look at the Top 10 of the IBCS standard and take a look how easy it is to implement the Top 10 in your next dashboard using SAP Analytics Cloud.