SUCCESS formula of the IBCS®

SUCCESS formula of the IBCS® – Tableau Training

All too often reports, dashboards and business presentations have low impact which don’t communicate their message quickly enough, leading to slow decision making or worse still, no decision. Indeed, all too often, they do not convey a message at all and the user takes too long to decipher it from the visualisations presented.

Enter the SUCCESS formula of the International Business Communication Standards (IBCS). Based upon the in-depth works of people like William Playfair, Willard Cope Brinton, Barbara Minto, Gene Zelazny, Edward Tufte, Stephen Few and Dr. Rolf Hichert, they provide a set of design rules for successful reports and presentations.

Applying the IBCS standards helps organisations significantly improve their reporting in the following ways:

Quality: Improved reporting quality standards means reports and presentations are much easier to understand, deliver clearer information, and ultimately lead to better decisions.

Reaction time: Reduced reaction times add value to the overall decision-making process. Management and  executives can make decisions faster and drive action. Business analysts can answer questions more quickly.

Cost: Standardised, reusable report templates save time and cost for analysts and administrators. The delivery time of new reports and presentations will be shorter.

The IBCS ® Standards consist of seven rule sets forming the acronym SUCCESS:

ST 5 Visualize structure

Having organized the arguments hierarchically, visualize this structure in order to make the storyline transparent.


First of all SAY covers all aspects of conveying messages to the recipients of reports and presentations. Conveying messages means that reports and presentations intend to say something to the recipients. IBCS ® defines messages in this sense to be determinations, explanations, clarifications, recommendations and other forms of statements. Read more.

UNIFY covers all aspects of applying semantic notation in reports and presentations.
Applying semantic notation means that reports and presentations follow this IBCS ® governing principle:  similar content should be visualised in a similar manner. As a result, what looks the same should also mean the same. On the opposite side if the content is not the same, it should not look the same.

In addition CONDENSE covers all aspects of increasing information density in reports and presentations.
Increasing information density means that all reports and presentations include all information that is necessary to understand the respective message on one page.

CHECK covers all aspects of ensuring visual integrity in reports and presentations.
Ensuring visual integrity means that reports and presentations present information in the most truthful and the most easily understood way by avoiding misleading visuals.

Furthermore, EXPRESS covers all aspects of choosing the proper visualization in reports and presentations.
Proper visualization means that reports and presentations contain charts and tables, which convey the desired message along with the underlying facts as quickly as possible.

SIMPLIFY covers all aspects of avoiding clutter in reports and presentations.
Avoiding clutter means that reports and presentations avoid all components and characteristics, which are too complicated, redundant, distracting or merely decorative.

Finally STRUCTURE covers all aspects of organizing the content of reports and presentations.
Organizing the content means that reports and presentations follow a logical structure forming a convinc-ing storyline.

Of course it’s not as simple as it sounds, but is clearly worth the effort, as organisations such as Canon, CocaCola, Daimler, Philips and SAP, who have already successfully standardised their reporting with the SUCCESS formula in part or all of their business, will tell you.

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