Reports – do they work for you?

How often do you see reports that have little meaning or are too ponderous to use, this then makes the reports ineffective, simply because no-one wants to use them.  Then there are the reports that you have been instructed to put together and although they are useful, they have little relevance to your own position or function.  What you need are reports that are concise, relevant and effective.

To design a good report, list the minimum information that is required to manage that part of your business you are reporting on.  Next, find what is the required data to compile this information. And lastly, source the data – where does it come from. Preferably, most of this data is already contained in spreadsheets (or can be imported into one easily).

Now review the source, include other fields that will beef up your report, but ensure it adds value to the report and is not just filler.  If done in excel the report should also include a tab that has the data in pictorial format – graphs! This is where KPIs can be viewed and valid assessments made.

A good report will show trends, both positive and negative, as well as status.  It will also be timely, easy to produce and even easier to read.  This then will allow you to see what is happening, or has the potential to happen, and take the appropriate action.

For all the SMBs and Operations people out there, I have written a brief on ‘Focus’ that may help you design your own reports on Freight, Inventory and Staffing (Operations reporting 101).

DATA – is raw detail, usually one line of data contains information related to one transaction. Doesn’t tell you much.
INFORMATION: an assortment/combination of data, providing information and trends in simple format.
REPORT: Information in a format that tells a story. Big picture stuff.