Why numbers without context are pointless 

In any large organisation, decision makers rely on reports to give them the information they need for strategic conversations and decisions. The numbers are the foundation of goal setting, budgeting, forecasting, product development, sales strategies, and so much more. The more you can rely on your numbers, the better decisions you are able to make. 

However, numbers can be fickle. While they seem to be entirely objective from the surface level, the truth is much more complicated than that. If you take figures at face value without understanding the underlying context and choices and compromises that went into producing the report – then those assumptions and biases are simply baked in, and you’ll never have a true understanding of what the numbers are saying. 

Context is everything 

No number exists in isolation. In a complex operational system, every factor and assumption is interdependent and so you really do need to be able to dig deeper than what you see on the final report. This is why businesses spend a lot of time writing up descriptions, commentary, appendixes, and the like to try and uncover the true meaning behind the number. 

This storytelling is a crucial aspect of running a successful business and yet, without the right technology and workflows behind you, it can remain elusive, leaving you with a false sense of certainty that can come back to bite you. 

The context surrounding your numbers is of paramount importance but it remains a moving target. 

Dynamic reporting 

It’s for these reasons that sophisticated FP&A tools like what we offer here at Apliqo focus a lot on unearthing that context in real time to enable better decisions to be made. By enabling drill-down functionality, dynamic dashboards, cell-based commentary, intuitive UI, and self-service reporting, anyone in the team can investigate the context behind a number with ease. 

This context can be qualitative and/or quantitative, it can be financial or non-financial, and it can change based on parameters adapting to real data on the ground. But what matters is that when you’re analysing numbers of any kind, it is surfacing the context that you need to make sense of what you’re reading and to enable a more nuanced understanding of how those numbers came to be. 

Different comparison cycles 

Another way of looking at contextual information is to consider the benchmarks set in other planning cycles. We often look at monthly, quarterly, and yearly comparisons which give vital information as to how we’re doing, but we can go further than that. What about comparing numbers based on season? Or on demand factors? Or on geography? Or on customer segments? 

All of these data views can be sliced and diced with Apliqo’s suite of tools and they provide highly sophisticated means of comparing information in a contextually aware manner that makes for much more advanced decision making. 

If you’re looking to upgrade your contextual capacity for understanding your numbers, why don’t you give Apliqo UX a try. It’s built on the powerful platform that is IBM Analytics / TM1 but it overlays a highly intuitive visual interface that can bring meaning and significance to your reports. It unlocks a whole new level of analysis that can supercharge your strategic decision making and avoid a lot of the logical fallacies that we can delude ourselves with. 

Get started today and let’s work together to harness your complexity rather than being overwhelmed by it. 

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