Powerful techniques for insightful analysis and effective presentation

SMCD Training teaches analysts and staff with data related responsibilities to analyse and to look for the meaning and business significance in data, and to communicate it simply, We show them how to work effectively within the organisation, and teach managers how to base decisions on evidence, and how to think critically.

We also provide courses in research skills and fundamentals for Operational Research and Analytics specialists. The importance of relationships and non technical considerations for effectiveness is stressed.

Courses cover basic data analysis, presentation methods, the efficient use of Excel spreadsheets and more advanced techniques. Practical exercises are a key feature of all courses. Data presentation courses include group exercises in extracting and communicating messages from complex data.

Basic Data Analysis (1 Day)

Who is it for: This course is for non specialist staff who need to improve their data analysis skills. It is suited to people or teams who need to summarise or derive meaning from large quantities of information.

Requirements: The course uses guided Excel based practical exercises. A basic or intermediate level of Excel skill is needed.

Topics: Documenting, exploring and condensing data. Checking and ensuring data quality. Averages, variability, histograms, samples, scatter diagrams. Trends forecasting and seasonality, introduction to simple regression and correlation. Excel basics and statistical functions. Pivot tables and cross tabulations, the analysis toolpak.

Benefits: Data is not enough! Insights from data are needed to improve business outcomes.


This course can be paired or combined with Data Presentation. The duration can be extended if Data Analysis is entirely new to the participants.

The course uses Excel and some new Excel skills may be acquired. However it is not a course in Excel.

Data Presentation (1 Day)

Aim: Introduce standard and effective methods of data presentation, the difference between findings and messages, and the need to gain insight then demonstrate your messages simply and clearly using small tables and graphs.

The course is focussed on how to present data in reports to non specialist audiences who may have no taste for numbers or not enough time to absorb complex charts and tables. It does not teach Powerpoint or speaking skills. The course uses practical group exercises. The material is based firmly on research into what is effective and what is not.

Who is it for: This course is for staff who need to gain skills in data presentation and produce better, more influential reports aimed at non specialists. It can be run for non-specialists or for technical specialists.

Requirements: Participants need numeracy skills. Breakout groups will prepare charts and graphs for discussion – each group needs the skills to do this. The course works best when all participants are at roughly the same level of numeracy.

Topics: The audience, and how to consider them. Messages and Stories. Data and chart fundamentals, when to use tables and charts. Demonstration tables: essential standards, derived statistics, aggregates and order, guidelines for formatting and layout, how to read and analyse reference tables. Presentation charts: essential standards, accessibility, simplicity, types (pie, line, bar and column and variations). What to avoid. Narrative – an introduction. Optional discussion of powerpoint and formatting.

Benefits: Management spend less time trying to understand obscure reports. Reports are more effective and communicate your position more clearly.

Notes: Basic Data Analysis is a good preparation for this course. The two courses combine well.

Introduction to Statistics (2 days minimum)

Aim: To introduce the essential techniques of parametric statistical analysis using Excel: condensing data, sampling, some hypothesis tests, correlation, regression and time series analysis.

This course refreshes the topics of “Data Analysis” and introduces some more professional concepts such as statistical tests. These are explained in a simple and practical way, but because the concepts of statistics are not very intuitive the course needs at least two days.

Who it is for: This course would suit numerate analysts, including economists, researchers, scientists and engineers, who have previously had little or no background in statistical analysis. If you have completed our basic data analysis course, or are already at that level, “Introduction to Statistics” could be your next step, but it is a distinct step up in sophistication.

Requirements: The course uses Excel based practical exercises. A basic or intermediate level of Excel skill is needed.

Topics: Overview of the fundamentals: condensing data, histograms, averages, etc. Exploring the data before analysis. Excel data analysis and statistical functions and pivot tables. Sampling: introductory concepts. Inferences from sample to population; confidence intervals and introductory hypothesis testing. The Normal distribution and its uses. Further hypothesis tests of a mean and a proportion. Sample size determination. Charting your results. Tests of associations using proportions. Simple correlation of values & ranks. Cross plottings. Simple regression. Introduction to Multiple Regression and some simple testing procedures. Charts & trends. Smoothing and forecasting.

Benefits: Ability to provide a deeper level of data analysis, with a greater understanding of the value that formal statistical procedures can add.

Evidence Based Business Decisions (1 or 2 days)

Aim: Show why and how to make sound decisions based on evidence and good reasoning.

Who is it for. The course is aimed at Middle Management, and particularly those who are heading for Senior Roles where they will make significant contributions to important business or policy decisions.

Requirements: The course has no special requirements

Topics: Why use evidence? Types of evidence. The right question. Sourcing and finding evidence. Judging and grading individual items of evidence systematically or in a team context. Judging and grading evidence as a whole. Identifying gaps. Avoiding common logical errors. Technical evidence. Working with experts. Project appraisal. Statistical terms. Project and policy cycles. ROAMEF and other frameworks.

Benefits: Improved decisions for complex issues. Better team communication. More effective use of experts. Improved accountability.

Research Skills and Risk (various courses)

Courses on research skills can often be customised to suit the need.

Dr McCormick regularly teaches an introduction to Operational Research and a course on modelling skills for research on behalf of the Operational Research Society. He has also delivered a full range of foundation courses for beginning Operational Researchers, on the topics of modelling, statistics, optimisation, and simulation. If you need a course of this nature, Dr McCormick will work jointly with the Operational Research Society. Specialist lecturers may be used depending on availability.

He has contributed to courses on Risk, Social Research and related topics, and can incorporate these into customised courses. If you need something strongly focused on such topics he would seek to either direct you to suitable experts or work with experts to provide training.

Face to Face

We can train at your own place of work, or we can arrange to run courses at an offsite centre.

Online Courses

All courses can be delivered via Teams or Zoom, with adaptations. We can advise about the pros and cons.

Wherever You Are!

Dr McCormick has taught in Dubai, Addis Abbaba and Johannesburg as well as England Scotland and Northern Ireland.


SMCD was founded by Greg McCormick, Simon Prager and Edward Morris with the particular aims of teaching how to extract simple (and important) messages from data, and delivering high quality training which provides good value for money .

Our courses have been well received by central and local government, higher education, government agencies and public services.

Simon Prager and Edward Morris have since retired.

Courses are now taught by Dr Gregory McCormick, formerly a Programme Director at the National School of Government.

Dr McCormick

MA(Cantab) MSc PhD FORS

Senior Lecturer and Trainer

Dr McCormick has years of experience as an Operational Research and Analytics professional, plus many years more of designing and delivering courses to analysts, managers and staff at all levels. He has walked the walk, and doesn’t just talk the talk.

Starting as a Scientist and Analyst in the National Coal Board he went on to work in the Water Industry then the Highways Agency. He finally moved to the National School of Government where he took responsibility for all courses in Statistics, Economics, Research Skills, Data Presentation and Critical Thinking (Analysis and Use of Evidence). His doctorate was on Optimisation of Water Networks under Uncertainty. Dr McCormick is a Fellow of the Operational Research Society.

Greg McCormick

MA(Cantab) MSc PhD FORS

What People Say

“Really good breadth and depth balance – good depth on easier topics and just right coverage on more specialist areas.”

“Excellent. Difficult topic handled with humour in friendly atmosphere.”

“Excellent. Surprised at the depth of coverage and will now feel more comfortable producing tables and charts knowing I am following good standards.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the course. Both tutors were very knowledgable, helpful and friendly.”

“The trainers presented this course in a way that made it easy to follow but still challenging.”

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