To increase the success of your business you must identify, maintain, manage and measure essential business data effectively through detailed analysis and reporting.

You can’t know how successful your business is unless success is defined and tracked. Once you establish what success is, you can adapt your business strategies accordingly, just as the famous management consultant Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Businesses should focus on creating reports that add value and provide actionable insights. However, as Daniel Thompson, founder of QueryTreeApp.com says, “Most of the corporate reports I’ve seen are unsightly, chaotic and difficult to understand. They dump information on the viewer and expect them to make sense of it with no clues about how that data should be interpreted or where the interesting bits are hiding. It’s up to the viewer to pour over the details and find the valuable nuggets that will make an impact on their business.” It is for this reason that we’re looking at how you can improve your business reports…

1. Identify Essential Data

As Paul Luehr explains on CFO.com, “The disorganized morass of nonessential files is now a critical issue for leadership…” Data is your business’ most valuable asset and those with usable data see a 10% increase in productivity and 35% faster growth year on year. It is therefore imperative to understand problems and challenges your business faces and what data can be measured and improved upon in order to enhance your business’ performance. By identifying the right data you’ll be able to obtain critical business intelligence that will help you create targeted strategies and improve customer retention, acquisition, satisfaction and overall ROI.

2. Record Required Data

Once you’ve identified the data that is essential to creating actionable insights, you need to know whether you’re currently recording sufficient and relevant data. It may you need to make small changes either by customising the software you have or redesigning your reports to include fields that will help you obtain a clear view of the information your require. Added to this, removing unnecessary “clutter” will enable you to drill down the data that matters so that you’re able to improve your business operation.

By analysing and reporting on accurate data you can create roadmaps, projections and forecasts that enable decision makers to set budgets, targets, identify trends and ways of making improvements. If you’re existing system doesn’t allow you to make customisations to record the data you need, its worthwhile considering something that is more flexible that can adapt with you as your business needs change.

3. Extract Meaningful Data

Predefined reports are a quick and easy way of gaining business insights. However, because no two businesses are the same it’s important to utilise business intelligence (BI) tools that can help you interpret your data. Tools that allow you to export data into Excel are ideal as it enables you to easily manipulate your data to create custom reports. Added to this, the Excel add-on, Power Pivots aids those with no specialised BI or analytics training, extracting the information you require and presenting it in an easy to understand format.

Dashboards are also a great way of extracting vital real-time data. They can pull information from your accounting software, customer relationship management system (CRM), email, website analytics, etc. into one place so you don’t have to log into multiple systems.

4. Present Your Data

Presentation is everything. Reports should present your data in a simple manner and be visual, providing decision makers with key information that will allow them to make informed business decisions. Dashboards are ideal for providing real-time data insights at a glance. When presenting your data your report should do the following:

  • Clearly identify performance compared to previous activities
  • Compare data from previous months, along with forecasts to provide context
  • Highlight anomalies, risks and success

Your reports should not blind its audience with various irrelevant data, but focus on one key area and do one or all of the above points.

5. Automate

Once you have identified what you want to measure, and how to extract the right information, be sure to look for a way of merging reports from disparate systems. By utilising one single system, all the data you require is in one place, ERP software for example, is a great way of consolidating your systems into one companywide solution. Added to this, rather than manually running multiple-reports you can automatically schedule reports to run and be emailed to the appropriate people, either daily, weekly or monthly, ultimately saving you valuable time. Furthermore, if you require real-time data, dashboards can automatically pull in the information you wish to drill down into one place.

Increasing Business Success

Businesses who’re not creating high quality reports are working blindly, as Paul Barnett explained in his article on LinkedIn, “It results in significant business under-performance and a cost in terms of lost investment, reduced finance options, and a higher cost of capital.”

The ability to monitor, maintain, measure and drill down data will enable you to manage and improve your entire operation. As clearly explained on IFAC.org, “High-quality reports promote better internal decision making and high-quality information is also integral to the successful management of any organisation. Therefore it is clearly in organisations’ best interest, for their internal decisions and management issues as well as external stakeholder needs, to provide stakeholders with high-quality business reports.”

What data adds the most value to your business? Share your thoughts below…

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