The art of exec translation

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Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be invited to give a presentation on “Generating Exec Buy-in For Your Customer Segmentation Model” at the CLV Revolution

This is me.

If you missed it, you can watch my playback along with all of the fantastic content from the day by signing up via Crowdcast here

So it was only fitting I thought this week, I’d share the written, framework-based version of what I discussed.

The art of executive analytics translation is a skill I have by no means totally mastered, but am focused on continuing to hone. Quite simply because it’s exactly this skill, the ability to influence key decision makers, that supports us to gain the sponsorship needed to bring together disparate teams across the business and realise true customer value.  

While mastery is something I am certain will be a career-long journey, there are a few things I’ve figured out along the way. So here’s that list. As shared earlier in the week at the CLV Revolution.


Upon reflection, I have realised there are four tried and tested steps that are fundamental to an ability to craft a clean executive narrative. Here are those steps, in order. 

1) Nail the brief 

Nailing the brief means not only knowing what the core job to be done is, but ensuring the information required to define and see through success of the project is established up front. 

Specifically, in my experience it’s the following four questions that are to be asked and answered:

1. What is success?

What is the analysis being built to support? What does the business need to achieve through this body of work? Is there a targeted and specific problem to be solved? Or is this analysis more strategic work that can support “now”, “next”, “later” horizons of activity?

It might be acquisition, retention, market protection, growth. Knowing whether the business has an acute problem to be solved, or is using this analysis as a launchpad to build capability and evolve their offering will support understanding what language to use when contextualising your insights. 

2. Who is this for?

Who will be the key readers of the analysis? Who will be required to make key decisions?

This will later support providing examples of the application. 

3. How often is this needed? 

What would the ideal cadence of insights be? Is there an expiration date on the insights from this report? Should the insights move to a productionised, real-time state quite quickly as refreshing the data will be key to ongoing decisioning? 

4. What are the literacy levels?

What is the maturity and literacy of your readers? If you caught last week’s “Rules to live by”, you would have seen that “Match Maturity” is one of our team’s key rules. This one can be tough to intuit, but conversations in the briefing phase to get a sense of how much education will be required in the build of a report or presentation pack can make all the difference to adoption. 

As an example of what to look for: do teams already adopt and understand concepts of needing statistical significance? Do teams have standards around achieving specific confidence thresholds? 

Regardless of the output (the report and presentation), understanding what the work is there to solve, who will be reading and adopting it and how they might be influenced gives the baseline context needed to build an influential narrative. 

2) Ensure your project sponsor is leading change 

Ever been on a project where you provided a brief and then heard nothing but crickets for 6-8 weeks until people surfaced out the other side with a report they hope you’ll read? Yeah, I don’t know about you but in my experience those projects didn’t really “stick”. 

Ensuring there is a project sponsor on the ground who  continues to share progress updates while removing barriers for adoption of the output can not only be a time-saver upon delivery day – but ensures stakeholders will be receptive to the narrative when it lands. 

My favourite framework for change management is John Kotter’s Leading Change. One of my top 5 business books that I keep coming back to again and again. 

Fantastic framework, book and program. Read more about Kotter’s framework here

3) Write a detailed report for the key project owner 

It might sound obvious, but there is a huge difference between writing a report to be READ vs producing a PRESENTATION to be spoken through.

This section is about the former. 

It is absolutely imperative that a least one, preferably two people on the client side own the detail on the analysis.

That is:

  • A deep understanding of data quality; for example how are events configured, fired, free of errors etc.
  • Cognisant of the data spread and sample that was used; for example, removal of outliers
  • Assumptions that were made; for example that the data sample is a full and complete representation of a typical cohort of customers
  • Limitations of the analysis; for example if a key metric wasn’t available but a proxy metric was used in its place

Why is it so important that this is owned by key stakeholders on the client side? Well, a few reasons. 

  1. Consistency of the direction of insight:
    In order to ensure adoption, the overarching insights should not conflict with analysis that is commonly referred to throughout the organisation or there will be confusion.
  2. Confidence in the integrity of the analysis: 
    People will have questions and “I don’t really know how that was calculated” doesn’t tend to fill people with confidence.

Once you’ve done your report detail and included all of detailed answers to the key questions, you’re in a position to craft the simple executive narrative. 

Yes, many of you are about to feel like this right now. The most accurate meme I’ve seen in a while (only I’m 32, not 20). You need the report detail to be owned by the key project owner and to have them in the room with you when you share the exec sum. JUST IN CASE you are asked the curly methodology questions. But yeah, it’s the simple exec sum that the ELT come to see. 

So let’s talk about how to do it.

If you don’t already follow Consulting Humour – what are you even doing with your life?

4) Craft the exec presentation with the key project owner 

Depending on who your key project owner is, there’s a good chance they have key information you need to know. Things like knowing the personalities and agenda’s of key ELT members. This information can be key to ensuring the pack is carefully crafted so that it lands and resonates with the people of influence in the room. 

With the report detail as the base, creating a high level presentation pack with consideration to the following key principles, alongside the support of the project owner will support a warm reception. 

  1. Language

    Even seemingly small efforts like the alignment of language to what the organisation can ensure the room doesn’t get hung up on details and therefore, miss the key themes of your “ask”. I’ve produced decks that remove all mentions of “agile” language because I’ve been told people in the room simply aren’t a fan. These nuances are important when your only job in this presentation is to hold attention and ensure focus on a few key soundbites.  

    In your report detail – you may need to use specific statistical terms but in your ELT pack – use plain language. 

    “Project Overview” becomes “What we did.”
    “Model output” becomes “The biggest opportunities.” 
    “Commercial next steps” becomes “What do we do next?”
  2. Link to Value 

    Possibly the most important aspect – if you do nothing else. Quantify the specific value of what you are proposing. Whether it be the points of lift, opportunity cost of not taking action or efficiencies of hours or dollars saved. 

  3. Strategic & Tactical Framework for Execution of Insights 

    Though you will not have all of the context to understand all the decisions to be made by each team, gaining this information in the briefing phase was exactly so you can provide some prescriptive examples that will lead each team to water! You can’t make them drink of course.. But leading them will be your best bet to influence action. 
  4. Ensure Actionability 

    One of our favourite moves to influence adoption is to craft a simple, one page poster of the output that includes a framework we want the organisation to adopt along with the insights we want them to rally around. 

    Outside of this, the ELT pack must include a list of next steps, a RACI, timeline/roadmap and costs for implementation. 

    For more colour and a tangible case study to go alongside the key points above, sign up and watch back my talk at the CLV Revolution this week.

    In the meantime, I’d love to hear what tips you’ve learned to keep eyes sharply on you (i.e. no eyes glazing over the detail) when presenting the output of your analysis. Be sure to reach out to me via my contact page or on LinkedIn and let me know!  

Hi I'm Kate! I'm relentlessly curious about the attribution and origin of things. Especially as it relates to being a corporate girly balancing ambition and a life filled with joy.

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