Data visualization can be a great tool to optimize your organization's strategic objectives and engage stakeholders - both internal and external. These instructions, developed by Farhana Hossain, will help you to set and prioritize short and long term goals for what you want to communicate with data and to whom.
Using Data Visualization to Meet Your Organization’s Goals
1. Identify ways in which visualizing data can optimize your organization’s strategic objectives and engage internal and external stakeholders. Set and prioritize short- and long-term goals for what you want to communicate with data and to whom.
When starting out with data visualizations, it’s best to start simple and set expectations and practices for increasing engagement with data over time. For example, engage frontline staff in understanding progress towards broader performance and outcome goals for the whole organization or individual programs and gradually set expectations for data use for performance/outcome management over time before rolling out company-wide dashboards that visualize indicators for individual performance.
2. Take stock of your data systems, measures and tools and make a plan for your short-term and long-term goals.
a. Revisit your data systems map to help assess data availability and management. Do you collect all the data you need to accomplish your communication goals? Do you have to retrieve data from multiple sources (reference data map)? Do you need to perform additional calculations to report the data as you want? If you’re reporting data for different outcome or performance measures, is the time period and the definition of the measures consistent (e.g. is enrollment defined the same way across all programs for which you’re reporting numbers?)
b. Medium and tools: How will you present the data to your audience — printed handout, presentation, interactive dashboard, etc.? Do the existing tools and systems allow you to create visualizations that meet your needs (e.g. Does your organization’s data system have dashboard or visualization functionality? Can you easily export data to Excel or Tableau for visualization?)
c. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lens: What considerations does your target audience need, including languages, color choices, descriptors, etc.?
3. Choose visual forms that align with communication goals and use color, type, space, and other design elements purposefully to meet those goals.
a. Start by sketching on paper or with a software and experimenting with visual forms (bar charts, lines, tables etc.) to make decisions on how best to present your data based on your communication goals.
b. “User test” with select staff or stakeholders to ensure that visualizations can be easily interpreted and understood and meet relevant DEI criteria.