Reporting is critical for all organizations because it answers fundamentally important questions that can ultimately lead to the organization making important investments in staffing, training, and hardware and software purchases.
The way we define reporting is that it is visual communications used to answer important questions. There will likely be many questions that need to be answered.
Key Factors of Reporting
Some key factors to successful reporting are:
- Reporting should tell a story. For example, tell a story through one or more reports in a single dashboard.
- Reporting should be flexible. The data should be presented in a way that fits a customer's way of thinking and preference.
- Reporting should be scalable. As the organization grows, more questions will be asked. As more questions are asked, the reporting should be ready and available.
Categories of Reporting
We believe that there are three high level categories of reporting. These categories are:
- KPIs and Status
- Trends and Context
- Data Analysis
This is the first part of a three part series about these categories of reporting. This post's focus will be on KPIs and Status.
We will walk through what it is, why it is important, and how to successfully implement it.
KPIs and Status
According to SimpleKPI.com "A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a type of measure that is used to evaluate the performance of an organization against its strategic objectives."
Basically, it is a metric that is measured against some kind of business objective. They are important because they contribute to the overall story by providing current status.
They tell us where we are right now and they can also tell us how that measures against where we want to be. KPIs are typically visualized as a number, or in some kind of chart.
Some examples of visuals used for reporting KPIs are:
- Pie charts
- Bar charts
- Numbers in a table or list
KPIs, as basic as they are, can tell a story by combining many of them together in a single dashboard. To successfully tell the story,
one visual should lead right into the next by answering questions in the order they will be asked.
For example, our IT department might have an objective of meeting all of our service level agreements (SLAs) 85% of the time. Below are some reports that together can tell the story.
How is our service desk performing against all of our SLAs? You can use radial gauges to answer that.
We see with this gauge that 15% of our incidents have breached all of our SLAs. What is the percentage of incidents that breached each SLA? Where can we improve?
Add some more radial gauges to visualize each individual SLA.
We now see the percentage breached for each SLA. Time to resolution is at 24%, which is almost in the yellow.
Now, what is the average percentage of incidents that met each SLA, and what was the average time to meet each one?
We can use a combination of gauges and numbered metrics and percentages to visualize this report.
You can see that by combining three different visuals on a dashboard, the customer can easily answer 3-4 different questions.
The visuals above tell us where we are at, what we are doing well, and where we can improve.
Answering these questions might lead to additional questions like:
How many incidents were created and resolved this month? We can use a bar chart report, where there is a grouping of bars per week in the month.
Each grouping shows a bar for the number of created incidents, and a bar for the number of resolved incidents.
Were there any common systems that had the most incidents reported against them? A pie chart by system (component field in Jira)
will easily show us which systems had the most incidents reported against them.
How many incidents did we have that were the highest impact? We can use a ramp gauge reporting off of the impact field that shows us the
number of incidents reported per impact level. We can see that 46% of the incidents reported were of the highest impact level.
As you start building out the dashboard thinking like your customer, you are now answering questions before they even ask them.
This process might result in less status meetings, less emails, less phone calls, and hopefully an increase in productivity and overall velocity.
Metrics + Context = Data-Drive Decisions
As great as KPIs are, they are answering 1-2 questions each. We might have additional questions that need to be answered by many KPIs in the same report.
In many cases, charts and individual KPIs are not enough. Some examples of questions that we may need answered that take us beyond simple KPIs:
- How many tickets have breached SLA in the month of March, submitted by the HR department, and that were escalated?
- What is our trend line for average number of tickets that have breached SLA over the course of the last 30 days for tickets that were submitted by Engineering,
were highest priority, and were moderate/limited impact?
- What were the linked incidents and change requests to a problem, and what was the risk of the change and root cause of the overall problem?
In the next part of this series, we will discuss the second category of reporting called Trends and Context.
Decision-makers need to understand trends over time, and also be able to answer many different questions in the same visual to have all of the information needed.
The article will also describe how if you know the questions you and your customers need answered, you can use metrics (KPIs and Status) plus context (Trends and Context)
to help make those critical data-driven decisions.