When designing information displays to meet user needs the audience can often be split into three different groups. It’s worth exploring all groups’ requirements when designing new reports to ensure all needs are met even if not originally communicated.
The analyst / data explorer
The analyst is trying to understand what information the data holds and will typically be looking for relationships that they may end up modelling / testing with more traditional statistical analysis. They often won’t be seeking to answer any particular question or make a decision on the basis of the data but will be exploring data to understand if it can support a broad range of queries the HR team will have.
Tools for the analyst will often give an overview of the range, relationship and distribution of and between a large number of variables. Visualisations used will likely be geared towards the visual exploration of data and will likely include those that show the full distribution of the variable concerned, not just a count or sum. Specialist techniques like Parallel Coordinates might be used for some data sets. Generally one can assume a good understanding of statistical techniques for the analyst.
The decision maker / advisor
This is the core group for interactive data tools. The decision maker will want to be guided through the information so that they can make informed decsions. They may want to view the information in multiple ways, or view different filtered subsets but these views can usually be defined into a relatively small number of choices. They might want to understand how changing some assumptions would affect the outcomes (eg what would happen to total compensation expenditure if we give high performers a 7% pay rise).
Understanding the type and nature of decisions that this group has to make is key to developing tools to support their activities. We need to reveal information in a way to inspire action where it is needed yet reduce noise. Increasingly, mobile technology is important to this group.
The ‘to-inform’ group
This group needs to be informed of information but a few pre-defined views will usually suffice. Traditional static reporting is usually sufficient for this group and the frequency of this information can typically be pre-defined.
Slide packs, image-embedded emails are both good ways of meeting this need and how information is delivered will be influenced by company culture. Ideally the reporting system can publish and distribute these automatically. Additionally, expectional communication might be necessary if certain limits are met.
If action needs to be taken this group will typically contact those responsible for delivering the change for more information or clarification. Management progress reporting will often fit into this category.