Business Visualization Design Services
A key ingredient of successful business intelligence systems and business communication in general is presenting information as effectively as possible.
Managility applies best practice business information design standards in all our projects and offers a variety of trainings and workshops that cover how to apply these principles in the context of business intelligence and planning systems.
These services are based on the International Business Communication Standards (IBCS® or IBCS® Standards) and works by information design specialists like Rolf Hichert, Barbara Minto, Edward Tufte and Stephen Few.
IBCS are a practical proposal for the design of reports, presentations, dashboards and the diagrams and tables contained therein. The concept was originally developed by Rolf Hichert.
The key objectives of the standard are to ensure report elements are meaningful and are understood as quickly as possible by the users.
IBCS is based on seven core principles: Say-it, Unify, Condense, Check, Express, Simplify, Structure (SUCCESS):
This principle postulates that a report creator should have a message when they use a chart or a visualization.
Unify is a concept that generally applies for all business content. As with music notation, maps, traffic signs etc. the idea is that the same concepts should use the same visualization options. This for example applies to how scenarios are visualised. As an example, Rolf Hichert suggests a dark black/grey for actuals, lighter greys for budget values and pattern made of dark and light colours for forecasts.
Another aspect for Unify is the usage of horizontal and vertical bar chart types. IBCS suggests for example that everything with a time detail should be displayed on a horizontal axis and anything else vertical.
The Condense concept is about increasing information density. In many cases it is important to understand the context of a situation. So, opposed to using just one visualization on a page the aim is to provide insight in the context by using a “small multiples” visualization. The same chart type is repeated multiple times on a report and in a comparable way (using the same scale on axes!) to provide the user with a comprehensive picture.
Check focuses on ensuring consistency of information presentation. A key area here are the handling of axes. Apart from obvious no-no’s like cutting axis and doing things like this that are obviously a plain misrepresentation: The “Check Principle” suggests using the same scaling when multiple charts are used on one dashboard. Rolf Hichert even goes so far as postulating in the context of annual reports that a certain monetary unit should always be the same size. E.g. a million represents 20mm.
Covers all aspects of choosing the proper visualization in reports and presentations.
Proper visualization means that reports and presentations contain charts and tables, which convey the desired message along with the underlying facts as quickly as possible.
This principle covers utilizing the correct types of charts and tables, replacing inappropriate visualizations and representations, adding comparisons, and explaining causes.
The key idea here is that information should be presented with a “minimal ink to data ratio” i.e. anything that is not relevant information should be avoided. This particularly applies to avoiding “information noise. This includes any element that is added to a visualization for “decoration” that doesn’t improve the clarity of the actual data. Examples here are unnecessary 3D displays, format garnishing of any kind (color added pictures without meaning, etc.)
This principle covers all aspects of organizing the content of reports and presentations.
Organizing the content means that reports and presentations follow a logical structure forming a convincing story line. Particularly around using consistent elements, building non-overlapping elements, building collectively exhaustive elemets, building hierarchical structures, and visualizing their structure properly.
Here Martin explains a few practically tips how to apply IBCS with Excel: https://www.acterys.com/5-tips-for-better-financial-reporting-in-excel/