This page looks at questions you can ask after reporting, which might help you improve your reporting. By this I mean making the information you provide more valuable, reliable and timely and better addressing the needs of your audience. There is an associated blog post (part of the ‘Assisting with inquiries‘ series) which gives an example of how companies use questions to improve the way that their products or services are perceived by their customers.
Below, I have briefly explained each of the questions in this branch of the mind-map and how you might answer those questions. Where possible, I have tried to provide some practical examples, based on my own experiences with reporting.
Who asked you questions about the information you provided and how can you use these questions to improve your reporting?
If your colleagues have questions for you then that is a good indication that they are at least taking an interest in the information you provide. If you are reporting to many people then you are likely to consider some of these people particularly important when it comes to communicating your message. Those people who make decisions, or take actions based on your information are probably significant. If they are asking you follow up questions then this helps maintain positive relationships and allows you to continue the conversations which you started when discussing their needs with them before reporting. The questions they ask will give you clues as to where you might make your information more useful to them or where you might have missed something important.
Who received the information but did not find it useful?
This may require some investigation; it is not necessarily the case that your audience will tell you that they didn’t find the information useful. If you are reporting verbally, the recipient’s body language will give you a clue. If you have communicated in a less immediate manner, perhaps by a written report, then you may need to ask your audience a direct question as to whether the information was useful to them.
Who did not receive the information but might find it useful?
You may hear of somebody who you had not previously considered part of your audience who has taken on a new role or responsibility, or that perhaps was simply overlooked. There may be problems you uncover which require expertise from outside a project team and you may need to keep those specialists informed of what you discover during further testing.
Who did not interpret the information as intended?
There might be unanticipated reactions to your reporting. Perhaps you didn’t properly explain the circumstances under which a problem was identified, and something which you know has serious implications is not met with the concern you expected. The person or people whose reaction surprised you might need you to take a different approach next time.
What actions and decisions resulted from the information you provided?
It is almost certain that the information you provide will influence actions and decisions to some degree. Sometimes this may be obvious – for example, someone is asked to prioritise fixing a bug because it is preventing you from testing part of the product. At other times you may not immediately recognise how your information has influenced others. Developing an understanding of this can help you to provide more valuable information in future.
What information did you overlook which might have been useful?
What information did you provide which wasn’t useful?
Perhaps your filtering of information was not as effective as it might have been. Either you missed something which your audience needed, or you provided something they didn’t need. This is probably inevitable. As I discussed in the blog post about filtering information, you need to continually refine your understanding of the audience’s needs so that you can improve your filtering for them.
What changes could you make in your testing approach which might result in better information?
As you respond to the reactions your audience provide, you may come to the conclusion that you need to change your approach, not just to reporting, but to the testing you are doing. Sometimes an approach to testing (particularly when documented) is viewed as binding. It is so rigid that it might as well have been carved into a stone tablet. If the approach is failing to give people the information they need, this is a very good reason to change it.
When is information needed next and what improvements can be made by then?
Awareness of when you next need to provide information should help you determine when to make changes to your reporting. If, for example, you believe that a written report was not effective at communicating information, you might conclude that it needs an overhaul. If however your next report is due in a few hours you may decide that now is not the right time to make substantial changes. You need to give yourself time to address the problems – this includes time to talk with your audience to ask more questions which will help you improve next time.
How effective were you in getting the right information to the right people?
How well understood was the information?
These two questions get to the heart of your success in reporting. If the right people are receiving the information you provide, understanding it and finding it valuable, then you can take significant comfort in that. It doesn’t mean that you have done everything exactly as you or your audience might like but you are providing an important service. Now ask yourself one more question; how can you make it even better?
Quick links to the posts and pages in this series:
Assisting with inquiries – blog posts
- Introduction to the series
- Part 1 – your audience
- Part 2 – the mechanics
- Part 3 – filtering information
- Part 4 – how was it for you?