Why no one likes your reports

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What a good report looks like

A large number of reports in large businesses are often the subject of criticism and jokes, because sometimes it seems that the working day consists only of preparing these documents. However, in small companies, where there is more freedom, good reports are also rare.

Let’s figure out why internal reports do not work and whether it is possible to refuse them.

Let’s clarify that internal reports are those for which you develop forms yourself, define the terms and everyone who uses them.

What a good report is

Any report, even the smallest one, should be useful and answer three questions:

1. Where are we (plan-fact / was-now)?

2. Is everything according to plan or do we need another?

3. Is it good or bad (in terms of profile indicators)?

You can also assume that you have a really good report if:

  • it takes no more than 10 minutes to read it
  • after it there are a minimum of questions for a specific request (for which it was made)
  • you come back to it regularly and find information easily
  • you can quickly transform this data into different formats (text, table, dashboard)

3 rules of good reporting in the company

1. The report should help in the work, but not replace it

The information in the document is a “freeze frame” from the life of the company. It is needed to assess the result of actions and make the following decisions. But do not chase after a large number of reports and do not try to enter data into the accounting system with a margin “just in case”. A report is a regular and useful addition to work, but not its replacement. Do not require them to be done every day, even if they are easily unloaded from the system (except for an emergency).

Use reports to monitor tasks and results, not the workload of colleagues.

2. Ask employees to submit information professionally

Analyze what your colleagues are sending you? Registers, inventories, forms for calculating indicators are not reports (even if deviations from the plan are indicated there). Train and require your employees to write conclusions, recommendations and comments.

A good table-report contains not only the final, but also analytical indicators (two or three, but important), conclusions, suggestions. “The machine is counting,” but the person still has to think. The Text Report also has a clear structure and conclusions. Likewise with presentations and dashboards .

We need to move away from camera work, but the share and quality of analytics must increase. For example, the reports on the financial performance of a company look strange, in which 90% of the information is a description of the calculation formulas. If you find them useful, then make a separate application, but do not replace the report with them.

Be customer oriented and make useful modifications on request. For example, if the manager constantly clarifies how much the company has lost due to changes in the exchange rate, supplement the report with this data in advance. But remember that there is no document that will answer all the questions.

3. Comunicate personally, not just silently watch reports

There is a point that even experienced specialists miss – this is feedback . If you do not like the way your colleagues’ reports look (inconvenient, without analysis and conclusions), voice your comments. Even if they concern too creative, albeit modern, way of presenting information.

When your boss is silent and you don’t ask anything, that can also be a dangerous situation. Get a positive answer at least once that your report is clear and useful to him. Otherwise, one day the manager will say that he does not understand “what are you all doing here.”

3 tricky reporting situations

As a rule, they are created by the leader himself, because he has more opportunities. Sometimes with the aim of putting things in order, sometimes – to strengthen control, or simply as an educational measure. The effect can be both positive and negative.

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1. “Here’s a great report from my previous job, let’s do the same”

What is the problem: these are duplicate options for management reporting, which you also have. In addition, your company now does not have the ability to quickly fill them out.

Reasons: habit, dislike of change, a sense of security (especially during the adaptation period), over-pride in my past results (“I worked in the best and most correct companies”).

Solution if the report cannot be canceled:

  • adapt the proposed report to your business (maybe it really has some useful ideas)
  • automate data migration from your pre-built production reports
  • gradually acquaint the manager with the current company reports (especially if they are corporate)

2. “Let there be several versions of the report at once”

What is the problem: the work turns into a practice of filling out documents. These are not necessarily different data, but separate forms: for banks, auditors, partners, or reporting in accordance with IFRS.

Reasons: an approach from the past (including different accounting systems and a desire to prepare for any situation).

Solution if the report cannot be canceled:

  • automate data transformation into different report formats
  • it is correct to propose a win-win option (for example, we apply certain principles and ideas of IFRS for the alternative calculation of specific indicators)

3. “We are a serious company – we will have one big report”

What is the problem: This situation is a trap. Everyone in the organization has been working for weeks to create one Huge Table. Then everyone tries to add something new to it. Someone has everything in order with analytics, someone is constantly waiting, someone deletes someone else’s information. If such a report was invented in the parent company, then until it is approved, all work is blocked. In fact, we often use 2-3 indicators.

Reasons: it is inconvenient to look at information in 10 different reports from 10 different departments, or it is an element of educational work in the company.

Solution, if the report cannot be canceled: to automate it and work out the algorithm of interaction of all departments.

The basic principle of communication in each of the three situations is not to get into conflict. Study the sentence and then:

  • rate the workload of the staff if you decide to agree
  • correctly suggest an alternative if you think the idea is ineffective

Is it possible to do without internal reports

Cope completely without them will not work. Company management is impossible without information, and good reports accumulate it. Moreover, sometimes it is useful to “reflect” over a simple sign: ideas appear to optimize work.

The main thing is not to create a report for the sake of a report. If the accounting system allows you to make a variety of requests, then additional documents may not be required. Just announce the time when the information from your department will be updated, otherwise colleagues will use the raw data.

You can opt out of:

1. Reports that do not bring benefits , and for the urgency of their preparation you have to pay a third of the working time (this happens even with automation).

2. Internal mailings that colleagues do not use for their tasks (but only after confirming this fact and analyzing the reasons).

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