Three Steps to Impactful Reports – Which reports do you need?

I’ve already looked at ‘How to Create a Focused KPI Report’ [link], and in this short series of posts I’ll be looking at some simple steps to take to create the best business information reports possible for your business. The three part series will look at:

  1. Which Reports Do you Need?
  2. The Importance of Accessing Data.
  3. How to Design a Report with Impact.

Reports 1: Which Reports Do you Need?

Something I write about, and talk about again and again is the action of measuring what you ‘need’ instead of what you ‘can’. Often reports are full of every statistic available rather than the important information being presented and analysed in a way that is useful.

The value of a report is dependent on the quality of the data used to compile it. We’ll look at how to compile and access the right data in a later blog, but today’s focus is reporting on what matters.

These are a few simple steps to create a report that engages your stakeholders and gives them the information they need:

1. What is the question?

If you don’t know what the original questions are that the report is trying to answer, the chances are your data will not tell you what you need to know. Don’t use the data to see what answers you have, start with the question and then select the results, which give you the information you need to answer it.

2. Ask the users

How many people read every part of a report? The chances are that they will look at what matters most to them, and ignore the rest. But do they look at the results because they are interesting or useful? In other words, do they take any action based on the information being presented? This can be very telling as to what is required and what is superfluous.

3. Trim the fat

Start taking out what is not looked at, or are merely ‘interesting’, and increase analysis on the the areas that are useful. Then ask the same questions as step one again and adjust accordingly.

If your company is report focused and too big a change will cause friction, try producing two versions of the report in a single month – your improved one and the original so that they can compare and contrast the information they need.

4. Ask again

Ask the report users what decisions they use the report to inform. It might not be a question they’ve ever asked themselves! Help them to become conscious of the information they are using, and the ones which need close monitoring.

5. Find the balance

There needs to be enough meaningful data to inform decisions, without the superfluous data to distract from them. Go back to step one and ensure the questions are being answered.


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