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Business communication

For our purposes, Business Communication means the materialization (e.g. paper, screen views) of quantitative information for analytical and reporting objectives. In this sense, we organize business communication into products (e.g. reports and presentations), consisting of one or more pages (e.g. PowerPoint slides) comprised of objects (e.g. charts and tables) with both specific elements (e.g. columns, axes, labels, etc.) and general elements (e.g. titles, comments).


Communication products

Assembling one or more pages into a report or presentation creates a (communication) product.


Reports are written documents with a predetermined, consistently applied formal structure such as

  • Statutory annual and quarterly reports
  • Management reports
  • Project reports
  • Decision memos
  • Records, minutes, proceedings
  • etc.

Interpretations and summaries by the authors are mandatory parts of any report. Reports report something; they are written to convey messages to defined addressees.


Presentations are formal verbal communications concerning situations such as

  • Status of projects
  • Interpretations of current financial figures
  • Speeches on the business outlook
  • Preparation stages in the decision-making process for major investments
  • Training
  • etc.

Interpretations and summaries by the authors are mandatory parts of any presentation.

Addressing only the material used in presentations (presentation material), the IBCS standards take into account the design of the slides projected during the presentation and the handouts distributed before or after the presentation. In this sense, presentations are a short form for presentation material.


Statistics - in contrast to reports - are data compilations without messages by the authors. Statistics do not make use of charts and tables to support a given message, rather they aid in finding a message, demanding active search and analysis by the users. In general, comprehensive statistics have a detailed list of contents but lack a summary.

In practice, no clear border exists between reports and statistics.


Interactive analytic systems (also called management information systems, executive information systems, decision support systems, and reporting systems) are compilations of interactive statistics covering a certain business topic (e.g. analysis of sales). Similar to statistics, these software solutions do not make use of charts and tables to support a given message, rather they aid in finding a message, demanding active search and analysis by the users.


Interactive analytic systems are being built using information technology like analytic databases and business intelligence software.


Although they focus on reports and presentations, the IBCS can be used for the design of interactive analytic systems, too.


Communication pages

Single pages in a written report, one slide of a presentation or one screen view of an interactive analytic system are called (communication) pages. The page size and grid determines the layout.


The size of a page depends on the application and the media used to display the report or presentation material. The IBCS standards recommend a corporate-wide standardization of page sizes for the different products.


A thorough and consistent grid concept in all management reports and presentation material makes it easier to obtain an overview. A grid concept allocates the objects and general elements in the visualization space. The IBCS standards recommend the development and use of corporate template grids for the most common page types and sizes.


Dashboards are pages of an interactive analytic system designed to achieve a high rate of visual perception: the time necessary for the reader to oversee und understand the situation illustrated by the charts and tables of a dashboard is a valid quality criterion. Similar to a car dashboard, it should support the reader (driver) in understanding the situation within very short time.


Communication objects

The charts, tables, texts and pictures posted on a page are called (communication) objects. Communication objects represent an analytic view of a situation and can stand alone with or without a corresponding message.


Communication elements

Objects are comprised of (communication) elements such as object specific visualization elements (e.g. bars, columns, and lines), legends, labels, axes, etc. In addition, general elements exist such as titles, footnotes, and messages, which are not used for the construction of objects but necessary for the design and understanding of complete pages.


International Business Communication Standards (IBCS)

The International Business Communication Standards (IBCS) are practical proposals for the design of business communication. In most cases, this means the proper conceptual, perceptual and semantic design of charts and tables.


The IBCS Standards are published for public use under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA).


IBCS Notation

IBCS Notation is the designation of the semantic rule set suggested by IBCS. IBCS Notation covers the unification of terminology (e.g. words, abbreviations, and number formats), descriptions (e.g. messages, titles, legends, and labels), dimensions (e.g. measures, scenarios, and time periods), analyses (e.g. scenario analyses and time series analyses), and indicators (e.g. highlighting indicators and scaling indicators).


IBCS Association

The review and further development of the IBCS Standards is an ongoing process controlled by the IBCS Association. The IBCS Association, a non-profit organization that publishes the Standards for free, engages in extensive consultation and discussion prior to issuing new versions. This includes worldwide solicitation for public comment.



The IBCS Standards are based on the HICHERT®SUCCESS rules, an action-oriented approach for the conceptual and visual design of successful Business Communication covering the following rule sets:



Convey a message

Apply semantic notation 
Increase information density

Ensure visual integrity

Choose proper visualization

Avoid clutter

Organize content




© 2015 IBCS Association. Except where otherwise noted licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 International.