August 31, 2021 by Nicole Izbicky

Part 4: Making Data Actionable

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Industries: 9-1-1 & Law Enforcement

Topics: Analytics Intelligence-Led Policing Public Safety Applications

Tailoring to Your Audience

In previous posts, I discussed ways to think about data and intelligence and how to compile it into actionable products. Now I want to talk about one of the most important things to consider when creating an intelligence product or report: your audience. 

If you’ve been following along, we discussed in my first post that making data actionable is all about making that data usable. If, for whatever reason, your audience can’t use what you give them, then you haven’t done your job. 

As a civilian analyst coming into public safety from academia and the private sector, I had to adjust my work to my new audience. I was now producing reports for police officers and command staff, many of whom had little time to waste investing in things like charts or graphs. While it made sense to me to report a statistic or analysis a certain way, if the beat officer I was creating the report for had to put in extra work just to understand it, then all my efforts were for naught. 

Tailoring a product to your audience is similar to Goldilocks finding the right bed. In terms of scope, readability and the complexity of your products, you don’t want to be found doing too much or too little – you want to get it “just right.” A report shouldn’t be too simple, but it shouldn’t be overly complicated either. A patrol officer looking for deployment intel regarding a special event shouldn’t receive a 10-page threat assessment for the entire jurisdiction. While it’s important to find the happy medium for your reporting, keep in mind that “just right” changes depending on who is receiving your work product. 

When it comes to reporting, consider taking advantage of simple methods that can make your products easier to understand. For example, if you give your audience a map, highlight the areas that are most important by utilizing a bold outline or color-coded legend. If you have text in your product, consider presenting it in bullet points instead of paragraphs, utilizing bolding and underlining formats. The goal is to quickly and easily draw your audience’s attention to the most important information. 

It’s also important to consider your role in how the final work product will be disseminated to your audience. If you are sending out a static report via email or hard copy, chances are you will not be there to add any supplemental explanation or context. On the other hand, if you’re giving a presentation, you may have an opportunity to answer questions. This should all influence how you put your reports together. 

Overall, remember that your audience will not always share your experiences or background. Keep in mind that products and solutions differ for people at different levels within your organization, and especially if your audience is external to your agency or the public safety industry. If you deliver your intel in a way that is “just right” for your audience, you’ll have nothing to worry about. 

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