Case Study

Clean Energy Advisory Results

This case study is about the importance of knowing your audience, providing context and getting the analysis right before the creating the graph. The numbers were changed to protect confidential information.

Before

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Every quarter, a client issues an internal newsletter about his clean energy work. At the top, there is a summary of results, a measure of the benefits that its programs delivered. While it is good to put the results upfront, how useful are these numbers? What do they tell the reader? It is impossible to know whether they are high or low, good or bad. The audience comprises staff working on clean energy projects. Likely, they’ll want to know how they are doing, whether they are achieving as much as they promised. With this table, they don't have the tools or the context to understand the data.

After

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The graph adds the missing context to the numbers of the original table. The graph now compares the results achieved against two targets. The horizontal axis represents the total targets. The target to date appears as a vertical black line. The results are also broken in two: results achieved in the current fiscal year appear lighter than those achieved earlier. Notice that we took out the "Number of cars taken off the road" because it's of little relevance in the current context.

At a glance, you can now make several observations about the data and ask relevant questions.

  1. There are wide variations of achievement between the indicators. Only one total target is anywhere close to being achieved, while the others are grouped between 5 and 20% of achievement. Is this normal? If so, is this the right level?
  2. The result of the top indicator ("People receiving access to improved services") seems to be much higher than anticipated, while the result of the bottom one ("Company Investments Enabled"), much lower. Does this point to an issue with the achievement or the target? Is it possible that one target was set too high and the other too low?
  3. The top indicator had achieved a lot already and yet is also the one that has achieved the most this fiscal year. The gap is increasing and, if this is problematic, likely needs to be addressed quickly.
  4. The are no new results this year for the bottom indicator. Since they are already quite far from their target, it is worth checking whether any results are expected in the second half of the fiscal year.

Thinking about the needs of the audience and adding context paid off and resulted in a richer display of information that takes the same space as the original table.