When I heard the recent news that Ford was going to start reporting sales trends quarterly instead of monthly, I had to do a Napoleon Dynamite worthy “yessss”. I have absolutely no interest in Ford or automobile sales, but when I hear about organizations who really understand how to use and report data efficiently, I can’t help but to get excited.
So, what’s so exciting about waiting a whole quarter to check out some trend data?
It allows you to identify true trends
For starters, there are very few scenarios in which you could confidently identify a trend in a month’s time. A single month of data would likely be useful if you were collecting data points every single day in a controlled environment (e.g., a clinical drug trial) but most organizations aren’t operating under these conditions. Collecting data for an extended period of time and viewing long-term trends instead of monthly incidents gives you a better picture of the true trends in your organization or community.
It prevents you from acting on false trends
Most of us working in the health and social service fields want to make things better. So naturally, as soon as we see numbers that suggest a problem, we want to react and fix it. But when we respond to every slight change in monthly data with a new program or policy, we end up wasting valuable time and money addressing “issues” that may not be issues at all.
So, should you stop reporting your monthly data? Absolutely not! Monthly data can still provide some great insights and once you have years’ worth of monthly data, you can determine if there are months that typically have higher or lower rates of certain issues.
Is it possible to quickly identify and report both short-term and long-term trends in one graph? Why, yes there is!
Check out the video below for step-by-step instructions on setting up a single chart in Excel to show monthly data with 6- and 12-month rolling averages.