NBCU: FAST (Finance Ad Sales Tracker) 

USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN, INTERFACE DESIGN, DATA VISUALIZATION


The Brief

The FP&A team at NBCU had to look through several data sources for a comprehensive view of the money NBCU makes from ad sales across all its properties on a regular basis, creating major issues with efficiency and frequent misunderstandings. 

Our job was to create an unprecedented web-based dashboard to view the most commonly searched-for information in a clear and navigable way, with obvious hierarchy and drill-down capabilities the data sources were missing.

The Product

A web-based dashboard to help NBCU’s FP&A team view important financial information quickly and efficiently. It became FAST for Finance and Ad Sales Tracking.

The Client

The sales FP&A team at NBCUniversal


The Research

Starting out, we talked to two FP&A team leaders to discuss the current modes of acquiring recent ad sales numbers, how they’re put together, and pain points in the process of looking for the numbers they need for research, reports, and presentations.

First Findings

There were 3 different documents they had to search through on a regular basis, and therefore 3 hierarchies that needed to be reconciled:

  • Pacing vs. Budget Summary File – Most commonly used by this team, nightmare fuel  

  • PAM: Portfolio Asset Management Dashboard

  • Controllership Dashboard: Financial external reporting hierarchy

PvB.png

Pacing vs. Budget Summary File

Look at this excel monstrosity.

PAM preview.png

PAM

Drills down into info contained in PvB, like drivers behind R/P/V data, but has more than is necessary for our dashboard.

Controllership.png

Finance/Controllership Dashboard

Not often referred to, mostly used by higher-level employees for quick check-ins. I designed the navigation.

 

Interviews

In a few interviews and usability tests we could get with members of the Sales FP&A team, as well as group meetings, we were able to assess pain points of searching through these three documents and what would be most important to include in a new one.

Biggest pain points of current research documents:

  • KPI and metrics charts: most important and most searched-for info not highlighted in any way or being communicated efficiently, people have to dig for relevant numbers

  • No simple or visual way to see historical data or trending forecasts

  • No drill-down capabilities—PAM has some, but a lot of unnecessary info for people who’d be using this dashboard

  • No holistic view of each property network

  • Data is only as good as what people want to put in the PvB document

  • PAM and data in PvB excel file don’t always match up, making it hard to use either as a fully reliable source

  • No simple way to view for users to view how historical forecasts match up to current actuals

  • Steep learning curve to navigating PvB document that a lot of people had to use

Potential user requirements: 

Subject to change over time.

  • Organizational and metrics hierarchies that can be drilled down into

  • Make it as visual as possible

  • Simple table views available through segment menus

  • Historical data should look back as many quarters as possible

  • Financial AND sales view

  • Ability to quickly digest a trended view

  • Customizable dashboard view

  • See the totals on this dashboard vs totals in ledger (excel document) and quickly see discrepancies

  • Want this dashboard to help create estimates quickly

Key Challenges

With the foundation laid for beginning this project, these became apparent:

  • Our users were used to looking at everything in tables, but visualizations would be more effective—we’d need to ease them into viewing info in a new way.    

  • We’d likely not be able to determine exactly how data will look, mainly how long the most high-level numbers would be. We had to begin work before all that was figured out on the data side and plan for the numbers we expected.

  • We would have very little face time with end users throughout the project, we’d have to really optimize the time we had.

  • A dashboard like this, to our knowledge, didn’t exist yet—we’d be creating it from scratch with nothing similar to reference.

  • Navigation. With 3 different hierarchies to reconcile into one product, creating a clean and uncomplicated navigation with obvious hierarchy that feels familiar enough to users will be tough.