How To Improve Reporting In Your Business

Posted by Russell Clark, Director of Consulting Services on December 3, 2013

improve business reporting

Reporting is important to all of us, whether we need to measure how our business is performing; how our team is achieving; or how well we as individuals are delivering against our goals. What is apparent is that reporting is personal to us; it is our only way to prove that what we are doing is working, whether this is a justification to our executive, shareholders or immediate management. Reporting is frequently used as an input to salary & bonus calculations and determines how we value and interact with our customers.

Measuring the performance of an individual or organisation is a serious business and no-one wants to mis-represent key metrics. However, the importance of the resulting data should not mean that the data itself must be complex. Many people have highly complex reports to measure key statistics, whether this is through complex formula comparisons in Excel or even from their ERP system. So why is this? Most KPI data is simple on the face of it, whether you want a Profit & Loss report by department or profitability report by client; these are not complex models. Indeed when you consider executive demand for dashboards presented graphically, it is clear to see that the requirement is for simplicity.

In many instances, complexity arises from over-analysis and over-compensation for insignificant factors which may contribute to the calculation. For many, the risk of being wrong or even challenged on one element of a report is enough to increase the complexity of the report generation significantly.

How can you gain more from your reporting output?

Trust the data

It is essential that data input is accurate. If you have a focus on measurement, then you must ensure accurate data entry so that you trust the output.

Agree what to measure and why

Shared goals and shared analysis is paramount in a measure-based environment. Agree what to measure and why at the outset and be confident that all parties use the same data as an input to analysis. Multiple versions of the truth help no-one.

Spend time adding value

As a data user, your focus and value to the organisation should be in reviewing trends, identifying opportunities for improvement and executing based on the intelligence provided. Generating the data should be a tiny percentage of the time spent acting on it.

Accept standards

Many people try to invent their own reports and metrics. Ask yourself whether you really need to do this or if there is a standard you can adopt. Standardised reporting is easier to communicate and share throughout the organisation.

Keep it simple

Many organisations have complex reports to try to correct for specific scenarios. Keep the data simple so that everyone understands it and don’t add additional “noise” which can detract from the key data.