How to Tell a Facilities Data Story

October 9, 2014

Combine Facilities Data & Story Telling to Achieve Your Objectives

Reporting has always been part of most job roles in one form or another. Whether it is hours worked, tasks completed and so on, reporting is the way in which we measure the result of time and money invested. Due to advances in technology and the availability of data, reporting has become a more formalized task in existing roles. It requires data retrieval and storage, software, and a way to communicate to other departments and stakeholders. And with the abundance of data today, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the weeds.

overcome facilities data hurdlesThere are a few roadblocks to overcome when incorporating reporting into your role. Some roadblocks are internal. You might believe:

  • you’re not good with numbers;
  • you disagree that reporting is part of your job role;
  • you simply have no interest in what the data has to say.

My advice for jumping these hurdles is to remember:

  • it’s not about the math, it’s about being able to tell your data’s story;
  • the ability to analyze and report on data is a skill in demand in any role;
  • you’re missing out on opportunities that the data can identify.

The external roadblocks like access to data, reporting tools, and organizational culture can be overcome with a business case that discusses how your ability to tell your data’s story is beneficial to your organization.

Part 1: Get Data [ Casting Call ]

In order to build a story, you’ll need a cast of characters. Identifying the leading and supporting data is crucial to setting up your reporting program. It’s also important to consider which metrics resonate with different audience members and your ability to obtain the data itself.

facilities data questionWhat data is important and to whom?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by too much data, particularly if you’re too close to it. Try backing up and taking a higher level view. Consider both departmental and organizational initiatives. How can their successes be measured? What data will help you show this? Consider both your time and monetary expenditures. What data will help show the return on investment? If you’re unsure which metrics are important, it’s best to cast a wide net. A monitoring time period will help you determine which metrics are helpful and which do not contribute or muddy the waters.

You should also determine who your audience is and what data is important to them. Try to put yourself in their role and anticipate their questions. Your finance department will have different concerns than your IT department and so on. Communicating in metrics that speak to them will make your story more successful.

Don’t limit yourself

Consider what data is currently available to you, whether it is provided via already integrated systems, publicly available, etc. Then consider what data you need to be successful. Put together your ideal reporting program and if necessary, make the case for additional resources.

data-checkWhat about stage fright?

Confidence in your data is key. Establishing checks and balances in your reporting program gives you a solid base on which to make informed decisions and recommendations. Corroborating data when possible makes your story even more airtight. One way of doing this is identifying additional sources of data. A second way of doing this is vetting the numbers with a subject matter expert who is particularly close to the data set.

Part 2: Analysis [ The Plot Thickens ]

Once you’ve determined the data at the heart of your story, the next step is to identify what is happening to that data. If your metrics are the characters in the story, then your analysis will unveil the plot. What is the history of the data, what is it today, and can you tell where it will go in the future? Answering these questions forms the backbone of your data story.

What are the trends?

Now that you have the data, what is it saying? Frequently the data can be surprising; metrics that should be show stoppers don’t say much at all and metrics that seem innocuous can unlock a tidal wave of questions. The key is to quantify how the data has changed and investigate why these changes have occurred. This investigation will help you truly uncover which metrics are your stars, or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which metrics play supporting roles, and which metrics end up on the editing room floor.

Call the SWOT Team

The final piece to your analysis is translating the trend into something meaningful for your organization. Performing a SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) Analysis based on the trends you’ve uncovered will take your data off the page and into action. What does the data say about the success of current initiatives? Did you identify any opportunities for improved efficiency? Did the data unearth any concerns?

facilities data percentages and benchmarkingYou Do the Math

Assemble any meaningful statistics from your data. Can you determine any rates of completion, percentages of goals achieved, or ratio of return? Identifying compelling statistics will help you write attention getting headlines. You should also consider benchmarking data because it can help create a compelling storyline.  How well are you performing compared to your peers and what percentage ahead/behind are you?

Part 3: Report [ Tell Your Story ]

Be Compelling

When you have your data and analysis assembled, it’s time to create your story. It’s important to set up your analysis effectively. Consider the objective of your story as well as the perspective of your audience. Lay your story out in a way that is logical and also builds towards your story’s objective. Be sure to include any background or historical information that clarifies your outcomes and leverage visuals and charts that drive your points home.

starring facilities dataWho Are the Stars?

Make sure your stars shine. You may need to define some of your metrics or explain how they’re obtained. It’s important to include enough information to support your story without distracting your listeners by introducing information that may derail the plot. Only include what is essential to supporting your objective.

Be Ready for Questions/Criticism

There will always be questions and critics. Anticipating questions and having supporting data nearby will put you in the best position to respond. Having well informed responses on standby will give confidence to the story and support whatever next steps you suggest.


Take the Next Step with Your Facilities Data

Are you ready to tell your story? Download this free planning sheet to help you get started with your data story.



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