Storytelling in Financial Dashboards

Market watchers like Gartner talk about storytelling as a key feature for Analytics Platforms. The concept of storytelling is of course as old as humanity itself, but has been resurrected by many software vendors for product marketing. What does storytelling mean when we look at financial dashboard and reporting software?

“Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, sound and/or images, often by improvisation or embellishment” Storytelling, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

How to tell a financial story using financial dashboard software?

The best approach for story telling in a financial dashboard consists of three simple steps:

  1. create ‘story building blocks’ by combining dashboards with background information and explanations;
  2. create a story by putting the ‘story building blocks’ in a specific order;
  3. share the story on an easy an intuitive way.

1. Create ‘story building blocks’ by combining dashboards with background information and explanations

Different reports and dashboards show different facts. The first step towards successful storytelling is uncovering the story behind these facts by asking the responsible users to provide comments. Within CXO Software we support this with a commentary workflow.

Users can be asked to comment on variances exceeding a certain threshold:

Or users can comment on a full P&L statement:

2. Create a story by putting the ‘story building blocks’ in a specific order

A financial story you want to tell has a certain order of events. Just a report showing a problematic cash flow is not a story on its own. CXO Software offers a Storyboard module that allows storytellers to put reports with specific filters and comments in a specific order.

The example above shows a cash flow improvement plan for Q3. This Storyboard first zooms into sales details for the two operating regions, then presents a dashboard that analyzes the ‘days sales outstanding’ (DSO) and ‘days payable outstanding’ (DPO) per region to understand the cash conversion and finally, concludes with a report showing a full cash flow overview together with an improvement plan in the commentary field.
Instead of just being aware of the fact that the company is facing a problematic cash flow position, the story stakeholder now also understands the background and can read the plan for improvement.

3. Share the story on an easy an intuitive way

Times are changing and stacks of paper with reports, analysis and annotations are replaced by web-based applications and mobile apps.  The typical audience for financial storytelling are executives with limited IT knowledge.

With CXO Software a financial story can be shared in a very intuitive way using the CXO Software Viewer application. Executives can read through the story by swiping their iPad just as if they were reading a newspaper, but with the added “self-service” benefit that any question can be answered instantly through the dashboards’ interactive drill down capabilities.

” CXO-Viewer delivers a web-based presentation of your reporting book securely to the end-user, without any prior training. As such, the CXO-Viewer can be compared to receiving a PDF of a periodical reporting book, with one big difference: the data it contains is interactive, thus providing a far richer guided analytical experience to your users.” 

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