Business reporting is a vital building block for small business success. After all, it’s difficult to create an effective sales plan or build a blueprint for the future if you don’t know where you’ve been – and what’s helped and hurt your business along the way.
Whether you’re looking to identify inefficient processes, drive productivity or increase sales, data-driven business reporting can help. But not all data is essential, and not all business reports are created equal.
Here’s how to create business reports that can take your organisation where it wants to go.
If you’re looking for a broad overview of your organisation’s past year, then annual accounts are a great place to start. However, when it comes to making business-critical decisions quickly, you’ll need to generate more detailed information, and on a more regular basis.
The most successful business reporting offers bespoke information that’s tailored to your needs. This enables you to get a more granular view of your organisation’s KPIs (key performance indicators), and how various functions and roles are performing. For instance, if you want to gain insights into how a particular marketing campaign performed with a certain audience segment on a certain channel – that’s not something that annual accounts will show you.
Instead, you can generate weekly marketing reports, and quickly tweak campaigns based on the information presented. You can leverage real-time data to immediately respond to small business trends and avoid burning valuable resources on outdated strategies.
Data is everywhere. Today’s businesses are inundated by this by-product of work. And while data can be an SME’s most valuable resource, it needs to be made ‘smart’ to be effective. In other words, it needs to be turned into information, and that information needs to be visualised or presented in an impactful way.
The most successful business reports are centred around an organisation’s unique needs or pain points. For instance, if you’re having problems with your sales pipeline, you can use business reporting to deliver revenue intelligence. You can then use that intelligence to reduce risk and improve the accuracy of your sales forecasts.
Timeliness is especially important for data-driven decision-making. You’ll need to ensure that the right report is being generated at the right time so that you can make informed decisions when they matter most.
Business reporting can help organisations optimise every step of the value chain, but not all business reports are created for analytical purposes.
Businesses are legally required to submit various financial reports to regulatory bodies, dependent on their country of operation. This type of regular financial reporting is also often required by stakeholders and board members.
When creating business reports, you’ll need to consider who and what those reports are for. Some of the most common types of reports are –
Once you know what type of reports you need, you can capture the data you require.
Here are 5 tips for gathering the right data and delivering the right insights to the right people.
Centralise your data management. Free-floating, rogue data can not only obscure essential data; it can skew analytics, pose a security risk and leave your business open to regulatory violations. Centralising your data management will help you identify essential data and keep your data organised and connected. This makes it much easier to trust the business intelligence in your reports.
Create a schedule that works for your business needs. Different business needs require different reports and different schedules. Marketing campaigns may require weekly reports. Other business initiatives may take longer to evaluate, requiring only a quarterly or bi-annual report. Other functions or processes may be highly changeable, benefiting from daily or even real-time reporting.
Introduce automation. One of the best ways to level up your business reporting is to automate it. Automating your reports enables you to avoid the headaches of data wrangling, meaning that the workforce has more time to focus on other areas. It also lets you refresh your reports regularly. Automation can also reduce the chance of error.
Pay attention to presentation. When you’re telling the story of your business through data and reports, you must do it in a way that connects with your audience. This means tailoring the right report to the right readership, but it also means paying attention to how you present the reports. Using dashboards and graphs can visually tell a powerful story. Meanwhile, longer-form reports may be useful for presenting insights in a narrative context.
What are some benefits of business reporting? Better decision-making. Increased productivity. More efficient workflows. A more engaged workforce. Improved ROI on marketing activities. An optimised sales process. Superior service. But most of all, business reporting will tell the story of your organisation. Whether you want to tell that story in real time or across the years is up to you.
To see more about how to help your business reach its peak potential, download our eBook, The Connected Small Business: Your Guide to Smarter, Faster Business Processes.