Do you dread your reporting responsibilities? Or are you consistently dissatisfied with how your employees and subordinates report to you?
You’re not alone. The truth is, most businesses struggle with reporting – and for many independent reasons. With a better, more focused reporting strategy, you can get more value out of all your internal and external reports – and ultimately improve your profitability.
Why Most Businesses Struggle With Reporting
These are some of the most common reasons why businesses struggle with reporting.
- No clear, high-level strategy. What are the essential reports for your business, and for each department? Why are these reports important, how should they be generated, and how should you act on them? Unfortunately, most businesses don’t have a clear, high-level strategy. Reporting is deemed essential, but on an arbitrary basis, and without clear definitions for why it’s essential or in what contexts it’s essential. Without this valuable information, you won’t be able to use reporting effectively. Instead, your employees will generate and send reports almost aimlessly, and without effective direction.
- Bad software. Generating reports is a nightmare if you’re not using user-friendly and intuitive software. If all your reports must be generated manually, if the software is clunky and hard to use, or if it takes too much time to generate reports, you’ll end up with wasted time and money. Thankfully, most modern software platforms have tools specifically designed to make report generation quick, easy, and consistent, but this isn’t universal, and if you’re missing this feature, it could render your reporting woefully ineffective.
- Overreporting. Are you generating dozens of different reports every day? Are those reports full of so many details and so many data points that it’s practically impossible to view them all? Do you have full-time staff members dedicated to generating or reading reports? If so, you may have fallen victim to overreporting – spending too much time, money, or other resources on reporting and/or reporting too much information to be valuable.
- Underreporting. It’s also common for businesses to exist on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re not generating enough reports, or if you’re not providing the critical data points necessary to make better decisions, you might not be getting the full value out of the tools you’re using.
- Lack of expertise and context. Reports aren’t especially effective unless you have the proper expertise to interpret those reports and the context necessary to understand them accurately. If you don’t have data analysts on your team, if you don’t have true experts in the field, or if you’re generating reports without much secondary or tertiary forms of contextual understanding, you could walk away with the wrong conclusions, ultimately rendering your reporting counterproductive.
- Lack of actionable direction. Data isn’t valuable unless it’s actionable. It might be interesting to know that your conversion rates have gone up by 15 percent in the past month, but what exactly does that mean, and how can you act on that information? Too often, modern businesses accept reports as a form of indulging curiosity, rather than a form of guiding decision making. There are some data points that will be interesting without necessarily informing a new action to take, but these should be the exception; overall, your reports should be generated with actionability in mind.
Key Strategies for Improvement
Is your business’s reporting in dire need of improvement?
These are some of the best places to start:
- Start with a plan. If you don’t already have a high-level strategy or plan for your internal reporting, develop one. Identify your key objectives and the problems you’re hoping to solve through reporting, then chart out the path to get there. Who should be generating reports and when should they be generating them?
- Choose the right software. Having excellent software in place can instantly make your reporting more streamlined and consistent. Simple features, like automated generation and better tools for producing data visuals, can greatly reduce both the time you spend generating reports and friction when attempting to interpret them.
- Automate with purpose. Automation is highly valued in business, especially with relevance to reporting, but there are also some important downsides to consider. Leaning too heavily on automation can end up making unproductive processes a consistent norm – or force you to replicate historical mistakes indefinitely. Automate with purpose instead of using it blindly.
- Focus on relevant, actionable information. Your reports should be made with relevant, actionable information in mind. Meaningful data should lead to more effective decisions.
Improving your business reporting isn’t especially difficult when you know the root causes of your reporting woes. Once you identify the factors that are holding you back, you’ll be able to correct them and put a better reporting process in place.