5 Tips on How to Improve Management Reporting
With better information, you’re able to make better decisions, which is why management reporting should be geared specifically to this goal.
Yet so often, organisations struggle to report business information in a way that aids decision-making, in turn improving business performance.
Articles on management reporting often overlook two fundamental flaws.
Firstly, that those who have the technical skill to create reports are not the same people who intimately understand what information is needed and when.
Secondly, those who understand the business drivers usually don’t realise what is possible from a technical point of view. It’s these gaps in understanding that cause most problems in management reporting.
Couple these flaws with a general lack of clarity – whether that’s through poor visual representation of data or sheer noise of information – and you have a report that hinders rather than helps your team achieve success.
Here are some tips on how to improve management reporting processes:
1. Improve communication
Poor communication is a common problem. Sometimes those using reports never talk directly to those who create them.
So put the two groups together and encourage a crowd sourcing approach to problems.
Sit back and watch how technical staff and end users come to a collaborative solution but be prepared to do some interpreting for both groups!
2. Make it visual
An image has the power to communicate complex information with greater speed and clarity than words alone. Intelligent use of images in management reports is essential.
Encourage uniform notation and colour schemes so that report users don’t have to decipher meaning each time.
You may even wish to consult your graphic designer.
3. Say what’s important and say it clearly
Two common mistakes to avoid are saying too much and using confusing language.
In a desire to ‘cover all bases’, useful information gets buried in an avalanche of facts and figures.
Strip down your reports to include only the information that is useful and relevant to the issue you’re focused on.
Your colleagues will thank you when they receive your laser focused, slim-line report. If details are required, include them as an appendix or a link.
4. No management speak!
Management reports are also a breeding ground for ‘management speak’.
Corporate language is used to sound clever and important (so it’s all about ego and nothing about making good decisions) or to avoid a challenging, even painful, truth. Yet truth in management reporting is exactly what you’re looking for!
Use plain language, avoid jargon where possible, and describe reality (e.g. it’s not an ‘improvement area’ – it’s something you’re getting wrong).
5. Use an external expert
An effective, often overlooked, option is to contract external reporting and modelling experts to bridge the gap between technical staff and front line decision makers.
A good business analyst has the expertise to get straight to the problem, then quickly implement robust and flexible solutions.
Fresh eyes will often spot previously unnoticed errors. When you consider the cost of mistakes, inefficiencies, lost productivity and the damaged morale caused by the status quo, using an external expert is usually a highly cost-effective option.
Creating relevant, timely and useful management reports is challenging. Encourage your IT and management staff to gain a greater mutual understanding of each other’s roles and improve communication. Have a read of our post on email communication and how it can affect internal communication pathways in your business.
Agree on best practice in data presentation and, finally, ensure the report has a lean, clear and focused message.
By following these tips, you’ll quickly improve the quality and effectiveness of your management reports.
Feel free to share your tips on how to improve management report processes in the comments section below.
Jeff Robson is a guest blogger and CEO and principal business analyst at Access Analytic, a leading provider of business analyst tools and services, specialising in Excel financial modelling, management reporting, training and financial model auditing.