Reporting – a key element when working with clients. How to prepare a good report?
March 29, 2021
A report is an essential aspect of a company’s operation – including corporations, smaller agencies and freelancers – and is used both internally and externally. It is a formal statement on the implementation of specific tasks submitted to the parent entities: the manager or the client. It provides a perfect way to quickly transfer large amounts of data, which gets converted into useful information for analysis, planning and budgeting.
Reports are, along with statements, the primary communication tools in the reporting system. They enable an efficient flow of information in the company. In a modern business scenario, reports play a significant role in business progress. They can be saved in various formats, get printed and distributed, visualised and presented.
Table of Contents:
Importance of reports
- measuring the development of an efficient work environment;
- giving measurable information on various aspects of your business;
- providing the basis for data-driven decision making;
- helping managers solve problems;
- informing employees about the plans of the organisation.
Preparing a good report
1. The proper structure
A good report, internal or external, needs a good structure – just like a successful meeting needs a good plan. When preparing to write a story, make sure you understand your audience’s needs and how they intend to use it in their business. Complete reports are almost always in the form of written documents, following pre-developed schemes and procedures. Typical elements of written reports include:
- Headlines that identify topics to quickly locate relevant content, breaking it down into sections – from general to specific.
- Visual elements such as graphs, tables and figures that divide large parts of the text, giving access to more complex topics.
- Citations contained in the text.
- Table of contents, attachments, bibliography.
- Footnotes explaining complex terms and a list of references to help keep track of it.
- Abstract – a short summary of the content, usually at the beginning so that the recipient knows what it will be about.
2. The basic parameters
- Recipients of reports:
- internal client
- external client
- Frequency of reporting:
- Obligation to prepare reports:
- Subject of reporting:
3. The important features
Regardless of whether you are writing a traditional report – done in writing or defining the functions needed to generate it, the most important thing is the person to whom it is addressed, what information you want to convey and why someone needs it.
Typically, reports are created for the client to update his knowledge on the status of the project
Typically, reports are created for the client to update his knowledge on the status of the project. Therefore, it is worth considering what information are already known to the client. Whether the report is intended for people who have little knowledge of the topic or those with a good understanding of it, some things can be omitted or added.
5 features of a good report:
- objective – presenting a given topic impartially,
- formal – written without colloquial language and abbreviations,
- precise – describing topic concisely and comprehensively,
- transparent – having structured content and clear language,
- reliable – containing trustworthy sources of analysis.
Static vs interactive reporting
Due to the dynamics of creating a report, it can be divided into static and interactive. Contrary to static reports, which are in the database at the time of its creation and cannot be changed by end-users, interactive reports give interested parties access at any time and place.
Interactive reports allow you to:
- obtain detailed information through deep data mining;
- navigate within the story through various hierarchies and visualisation elements;
- view different levels of data with one click;
- sort and filter data as needed;
- extract the required knowledge to make better business decisions.
An example of an interactive report is the Reporting Services data reporting tool, which is part of the MS SQL Server package and is used in organisations to present data in the form of reports. This tool has a lot of possibilities when creating statements, charts or tables.
The increased level of interactivity, which has evolved with business needs, has also increased users’ interaction with reports. What used to be only a simple data visualisation is now more and more often used for comprehensive data analysis. It means that the ability to use formulas, view and model data is now shifting from specialised data analysts to non-technical decision-makers. This feature makes it easier for anybody to make objective, data-driven decisions.
Reporting and data automation
Nowadays, writing traditional reports takes a lot of time and energy, often at the expense of creating and implementing strategies. Automating the data needed to produce it can reduce the administrative burden. The ability to deliver reports in a variety of forms is increasing with advances in technology.
More and more companies are using online reporting systems. These gather information from a variety of sources, such as websites, spreadsheets, accounting software and systems for summing up time and labour costs. This data can be visualised, exported, printed and shared, then ready-made reports can be designed.
Software integration with reporting
Automatic reporting is also possible thanks to the tools built into modern software, which are increasingly flexible, scalable and visually attractive. They have functions like:
- deep data searching;
- “ask questions” about data;
- data exporting;
- presenting data on charts or tables,
- performance data management;
- providing analysis and reporting functions to the customers;
- creating operational reports with page breaks;
- making reports available in the form of hardcopy, electronic Excel sheet, PDF, HTML, e-mail or FTP file, etc.
Business Intelligence aims to transform data into interpretable and actionable information that helps you make better business decisions.
Business reporting – Business Intelligence
An example of a business reporting tool is Microsoft Power Business Intelligence (BI), which is part of the software with the same name. Reporting is one of its main elements and is functionally involved in the early stages of the analysis. The goal of business analysts’ work is to improve the company’s results and eliminate potential threats.
Reporting software connects to data sources, collects information and provides insights in the form of graphs based on the input data to find helpful information. There are many BI solutions on the market today. In the Gartner report, three products occupy the leading position: Microsoft Power BI, Tableau and Qlik. In practice, the choice depends on the individual needs of the company.
Other types of reporting tools
A reporting tool or software reporting tool is a system that takes data from a variety of sources and extrapolates it into tables, charts, visual presentations, etc., to make the information easier to analyse. Such tools are, for example:
- Dashboard software (managerial dashboard) – is a one-sided, easy-to-read interface consisting of the presentation of current and historical values of key performance indicators (KPIs). In business analytics, dashboards help monitor the current state of a given situation.
- Data visualisation software – is about transforming data into something visually oriented that users can easily read.
- Tools for creating scorecards – they relate to performance data, so you know how they work and who individual employees are;
- Ad hoc reporting tools – self-service analytics or ad hoc reporting functions increase the level of interactivity, giving you the ability to create and edit reports for companies with changing needs directly.
When speaking about achievements, it’s worth using “we” or “us” – such a form will deepen the relationship between you and a client
Reporting your working time
Today, modern work time reporting software is definitely more than just timesheets. Thanks to them, you can plan all employees’ work, using innovative tools for creating graphics. The time recording system covers the most critical areas of company management and can be combined with other systems.
After entering a few informations by a user, TimesheetKiller generates the time report automatically
They are also applications that prepare reports according to given assumptions. One of them is our TimesheetKiller app – a time tracking software based on artificial intelligence. The software monitors, sorts and groups all activity related to ongoing tasks and projects, as well as related documents, URLs and contacts. It records the working time, calculates and generates reports for the client without excessive employee involvement.
Tracking your working time
Recent time tracking statistics show that the US economy loses as much as $7.4 billion per workday just on unrecorded work activities. That’s loads of money that could have been saved by properly tracking and managing your project from your client – especially if you perform freelance work, or work in an agency. Each project should also be divided into tasks and track their time and the resulting progress.
US economy loses as much as $7.4 billion per workday just on unrecorded work activities
The key to using time tracking in reporting is to properly define various aspects of work. Doing in TimesheetKiller this results in the report practically generating itself. The parameters that are needed for it are the following:
- time spent working on projects and tasks;
- a system for tracking progress and performance on each of them;
- billable and non-billable activities;
- price estimates, forecasts and deadlines;
- adding “observers” to projects, e.g. clients.
Thus, the work filtered according to the relevant parameters can be copied as a link and sent to the client, who will be able to view the changes and follow the progress in real time.
Report development is an ongoing process that should be continuously improved to serve clients better. And while there is a different customer behind each report, this is the type of relationship where reporting and communication are designed to reflect teamwork. Therefore, when speaking about successes and achievements in a story, it is worth using “we” or “us”, e. g. “This month, we have achieved XYZ”. Such a form will certainly deepen this relationship and make you aware of the common goal.