Despite the significance of meticulous details, many analysts encounter a challenge when conveying the outcomes of their efforts to stakeholders and decision-makers. Frequently, these analysts unintentionally complicate their message, leading to the audience failing to comprehend the message and fully grasp the genuine value of their work.
Technical ability and attention to detail have always been crucial to robust analytical work, and always will be. They are what enables the analyst to make the right connections, and therefore draw accurate conclusions that drive commercial value. However, the analyst’s job doesn’t start and end with the execution of those technical tasks. For their hard work to actually make a difference, they have to feed their findings back to the business decision-makers in a way that makes clear sense.
And this is where many analysts can struggle.
What causes overcomplication?
Numerous factors can contribute to the failure of analytical work to distill essential messages effectively.
To start, heavy workloads play a significant role. Many analysts find themselves grappling with stakeholder demands, leading them to shoulder workloads that exceed their capacity. When deadlines loom and stakeholders await results, the analyst may well prioritize expediency over spending time translating technical jargon into digestible insights.
Perhaps most commonly, the analyst has a poor gauge of their audience’s level of understanding – both technically and in the subject at hand. Stakeholders and decision-makers need things spelled out for them, because they’re non-technical and they don’t have their heads in the detail day in and day out. If the analyst is unaware of that, and therefore produces work that assumes far too much understanding, they’ll fall at the first hurdle.
Another common scenario arises when the analyst feels compelled to convey the complexity of their day-to-day work, possibly to validate their role within the business (in a way that is similar to ‘showing your workings’ in academia). While this is understandable, stakeholders will generally be more focussed on actionable takeaways from the analyst's discoveries - they care less about the science that led to those findings. Their interest lies in the outcome rather than the methodology. If you have developed sufficient trust and credibility with stakeholders, they will have faith that your technical work is robust and precise, so sharing your technical process is generally not necessary.
3 steps towards clearer, more digestible outputs
Craft a Clear Top-Line Message, and present the information in layers: Begin by articulating a concise message that encapsulates your findings. Imagine summarizing your results in a single sentence that a non-technical person could grasp. This approach should guide your introduction. Initially, focus on sharing the high-level information, including recommendations and conclusions. If people want more information, they can ask further questions and you can delve further into the detail – just don’t assume they want this detail from the off.
Eliminate Technical Jargon: Speak the decision-makers language! Analytical jargon only makes sense to analysts. Colleagues outside the analytical sphere will respond more favourably to straightforward language and common business terms. To effectively influence decision-makers, you must be able to simplify your messages.
Embrace the Obvious: Do not shy away from stating what may seem obvious. Immersed in data, analysts possess an intimate familiarity with the subject matter. Consequently, you can draw connections and inferences that non-analysts may not grasp. When summarizing reports and making recommendations, keep this in mind. What seems self-evident to you, might not be obvious to the stakeholders you’re aiming to inform and who are looking at the subject with fresh eyes.
Taking these steps is especially important if your stakeholders are in senior management positions. They will be spinning many different plates, and will have very little (if any) time or inclination to absorb the technical detail. Make your outputs as simple as possible for them. Talk straight and keep it short.
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