Visualising Data

This week’s webinar with PMO Flashmob was an opportunity to share some ideas with PMO practitioners around how to engage senior stakeholders more with the insights they are providing.

Many were surprised when one of the polls during the session indicated that the most popular way of sharing information is via Microsoft PowerPoint.

I must admit that I didn’t find this surprising at all; as an independent consultant I find myself in many companies that just don’t think of any other ways to prepare for governance meetings or to share progress updates than to prepare pages of PowerPoint and email them to senior stakeholders already facing overflowing inboxes.

With my background in data analysis it’s something that I’ve been interested in for most of my career, and we have so many tools and techniques readily available to us these days that can help deliver information better – so what I am surprised at is the apparent lack of progress in this area.

There is a long-held belief that senior executives are wedded to paper; indeed one of the questions raised on the webinar was how to encourage them to consume more information online.

I observe many business travellers on my daily commute using their tablets or smartphones to consume news updates, the latest issue of their favourite magazine or to participate in virtual meetings – and not a piece of paper in sight.  Many hardly ever sit at a desk when they are in the office, such is the number of meetings they attend – in rooms with big screens and video conferencing facilities as standard.  Instead of laptops they carry tablets to access the information they need.

So perhaps getting them to consume information online isn’t the challenge? Time to put on our business analysis hats and ask some questions!

Even such an enthusiastic adopter of PPM solutions as me is fully prepared to acknowledge that they don’t make it easy to get information out in easily digestible formats – usually involving some supplementary Excel-based wrangling of the data. And once that data is back in Excel?  It’s often back to the “old” ways of producing and distributing reports to stakeholders.

Many PMOs aren’t aware that they are already sitting on several potential alternatives for sharing information online – alternatives that often involve no additional cost, unlike most PPM solutions. So is it time to shine some light on those potential alternatives, so that PMOs can investigate if these may work better to engage their stakeholders?

Perhaps it’s a lack of inspiration on how to visualise data differently, beyond the standard set of charts and models available in Excel and PowerPoint?  There are some great resources out there, many also freely accessible.  As a starting point, check out this list published by the Data Visualisation catalogue; we’ll be discussing what people find particularly useful from this list over in the PMO Break Out Area on Facebook in the coming weeks.

One of the most iconic brands of this century encouraged us all to Think Different – perhaps it’s time PMOs did the same about data?

Below is a selection of visualisations shown in the vBAR during the webinar; for a virtual tour take a look here (opens in YouTube).