When managing risk and compliance programs, one vital part of the job is reporting your program’s status and results to other groups: the board, management, external auditors, regulators. And when building reports, CISOs must pay careful attention to the relationships of the intended audiences.
In Get the Most From Your GRC Data Reports, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) experts warn that relationships typically don’t get the attention they deserve, because many GRC professionals believe the proof is in the pudding. For instance, if a report shows you’re compliant with SOC 2, you’re done!
Experts say otherwise: If you want to create reports that matter, it’s not that simple.
How to Build Reports for C-Level Audiences
Compelling data visualizations provide quick, actionable, and visually appealing information. Delivering data that different people can easily recognize, assimilate, and approve goes a long way toward gaining confidence, preventing countless hours of rework, and re-establishing credibility.
That said, tread carefully with reports about compliance. In this field, ignoring information can generate significant financial, operational or reputational risks — so creating clear, actionable reports can save your organization many headaches further down the road.
There are a few elements to keep in mind when building a report for senior executives.
Align the Dashboard Design with the Mission
Understanding your audience is the first step in creating an effective dashboard.
- Who will make use of this dashboard?
- What metrics are they interested in?
- What do they expect to gain from this dashboard?
Once you know the objective of the report and how they could use the information, you can focus your time and resources to visualize the most critical data in clear, compelling ways.
Select the Most Valuable Charts
The most successful data visualizations address the executive’s most important concerns. Those concerns might be about operations generally, or the executive might be trying to work through specific decision-making processes. Each chart should have a clear set of operational definitions to guarantee clarity and understanding of the data.
Give Readers a Way to Get More Data if Needed.
Business dashboards give high-level perspectives, but an executive must be able to drill down for more information by clicking on a piece of data. Effective dashboards deliver those methods to find more data as needed.
Seek Out Real-World Examples
Most executive teams have preferred reports or data sources that they value (or despise). Their feedback and preferences may help set the dashboard-reporting style and culture in your department, team, or business.
Top Reasons Why Relationships Matter When Building Reports.
Here are three reasons our GRC pros say it’s critical to keep relationships in mind when building reports.
One-size-fits-all reporting fits no one.
Each audience member will have a different requirement from your compliance reporting – So if you want to keep everyone in support of your GRC program, you will need a way to provide reports tailored to what each person cares about without overloading users with too much information.
For example, your executive team probably doesn’t need a requirement-by-requirement report on how you’re staying compliant. Most likely, they’ll only be more concerned with an aggregate number or a yes/no answer. But stakeholders in different departments within your organization will be focused on the issue they’re responsible for maintaining, which means they’ll want a separate report.
Less involvement leads to less relevancy.
How do you know what each person or department wants to see? Ask them. You need to be open to hearing about what others want to see and help them identify what will be most valuable to them. Then you can tailor individual reports for each stakeholder.
It’s important to remember that building reports is a trial-and-error process that doesn’t stop once you confirm what others want in that initial report and submit it. If your reports aren’t valuable to your audience, these key stakeholders will not use them, which means they’ll be less involved in your GRC process.
Once you start these reporting relationships, you must maintain an open and ongoing dialogue about the reporting process. Ask if the reports are helpful, and be open to editing your reports to keep them relevant.
Taking the easy way out only makes it harder.
You may wonder, “Why go to all this trouble?” It’s tempting to throw in all the information that you have and let your stakeholders sort it out. But be careful with this approach. Providing too much information will overload your readers and dilute your message. In the end that just creates more work for you.
Watch our full webinar on the subject to learn more tips on creating more robust reporting.
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