When Data Tells a Story

When Data Tells a Story

Tom (*) was a very laid-back character.  “It will work itself out” was a common response you would get from him.  But he also understood the importance of credibility.  Especially when numbers were involved.

Tom would sense check his numbers at a very high level.  Back in the day he could do the maths in his head.  He could easily test his logic.  He was managing a standard operation with not much change.

But today things were different.  He was managing an operation that involved multiple projects and non-standard equipment.  The question that Tom could not answer confidently was “Are we tracking okay?”

No-one had asked him how the project was going yet.  But he was nervous that one day soon the questions would come.  Is the project going to be completed on time and within budget?

I was given the task of developing a financial model that would provide Tom with a guide to his forecast spend for the remainder of the year. The financial model needed to be simple and easy to understand.  Most importantly, it needed to be clear on the logic behind the numbers.  This logic would help Tom piece together the story to answer his questions, in particular:

Are we capable of completing the works before the end of the year?

What would happen if we pulled up short?  Why did we pull up short?

What does it look like with revised volume estimates?  How does this compare to our original costing estimates?

I knew I had delivered on the project brief when I over-heard Tom ask one of his colleagues, “Do you want me to run you through the latest numbers?”

The next day I asked him how he went.

“I don’t know how I would’ve constructed the story without the data”, he replied.  “By using data to tell the story it was easier for others to understand as well.”

(*) not his real name

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