How To Improve Your Business Reporting
Whatever sector you operate in, it is impossible to know how your business is performing without proper reporting in place. Reports are a crucial element of your operational strategy, and as such, they should be given the time they need. If you feel that your business reports are currently failing to provide you with the right information, or that your employees have fallen into a poor reporting culture, then here are a few things that could help you.
Go back to basics and remember why you need reports.
One of the most common reasons why employees begin to resent reports is that they do not see why they are important to the business, and instead view them as a drain on their time and resources. To correct this and to cultivate a culture where reporting is seen as valuable to your business, you need to go back to basics and remind yourself, and your employees, why reporting matters and what reports can do for your bottom line.
Put simply, data is the driving force behind many business decisions and is a precious asset. The right data points can help you to see your strengths and weaknesses more clearly so that you can put improvement measures in place. Effective reporting has been proven to help businesses increase their growth by more than 30% – a figure that can’t be sniffed at whatever way you look at it.
Reassure your team.
Some teams, especially if they are struggling to meet their targets, may fear reports as they will often highlight their shortfalls. If you have employees that are reluctant to create reports for you or who are selective about the data they include so that it supports their own narrative, then you need to reassure them that all data, even data that shows weakness, is good data for the business.
It is essential that your employees do not fear a negative report but instead view one as an opportunity to learn and to make progress. More often than not, this positive attitude is one that must be passed down from the management team.
Identify the data that you really need.
Another very common error, often made by start-ups or inexperienced businesses, is to try and collect too much data and to demand reports that are too detailed. Although it can be argued that all data is useful, it is only beneficial if it can be interpreted and acted upon. If you are collecting data that is not specific to your goals just because it is available on your CRM system or reporting software, then it is ultimately unnecessary.
The key to good reporting is to keep your data concise and relevant. This not only reduces the amount of time that employees need to spend making their reports, but it also makes the data easier for you to digest.
Most CRM solutions and reporting software can be easily manipulated to remove unwanted or irrelevant pre-loaded fields, and most can also be customized to include a new data field that gives you the insights you need.
Customize your reporting template.
Reporting is not one-size-fits-all; therefore, the templates included with your CRM or reporting software may not be quite right for your business needs. If you need to create a report that is independent of particular software, then you may want to consider using a white-label report. There are a number of white-label reporting templates available, which can be customized to suit your needs and branded as your own.
Remember who your audience is.
If you are creating a report for a client, it is crucial to remember who your audience is and identify the data they want to see. For example, if you need to display SEO data to a client, you may choose to use a white label SEO report that is branded as your own and designed to clearly and concisely show data in a well-presented manner. The data that is relevant to you, as a business, may not be relevant to your clients and so it is important to understand your audience and what they need.
Present your data in a visual manner.
This point cannot be emphasized enough. When producing your reports, ensure that the data is presented in a way that is visually enabled so that it can be easily analyzed. Senior figures do not want to spend hours interpreting the figures on a report, and instead need to be able to see the analysis at a glance. If you are unsure how to present your data in an easily digestible visual manner, then once again, a white-label report may be a good place to start. In general, try to focus on comparisons between current and historical data, while comparing weak spots and trends, so future opportunities are clearly identified.
Automate reporting wherever possible.
Last, but by no means least, automate your reporting process wherever it is possible. Automated reporting can dramatically reduce the amount of time that your employees need to spend gathering data, improving your business productivity, and removing a burdensome task from their plate. Most software solutions are evolving to include automated reporting options in their packages, which can be well worth the investment when you consider the time that your employees gain back.
The bottom line.
Reporting is essential in any business, but it is easy to fall into a poor reporting culture. A reluctance to produce reports often stems from fear or a failure to understand their importance, and so it is crucial to educate your staff and to reassure them when necessary. While forming their reports, businesses should not be afraid of customizing their data fields to show only what is necessary, even if this means creating their own custom templates. White labeling an existing report is a great way to present your data in a visual manner that can be easily understood. And importantly, reporting should be automated wherever possible to save time and improve productivity. Like any aspect of your business, reporting is a process that can be continuously improved.