Big Ideas for Small Business

What Your Reports Aren’t Telling You

Ratios and charts give you much more information than another set of reports.

Ratios and charts give you much more information than another set of reports.

Do you get too many reports? Most of us are overwhelmed with reports. A recent article stated the average manager receives over 100 reports a month. If you’re already receiving all the detailed information, why would you need to make a chart?

Are your reports telling what you need to know now? Probably not. They were designed for a different purpose or designed for a different person who likes to see the numbers in a different context.

Reports Contain Raw Numbers

Reports also tend to capture raw numbers rather than ratios or trends. Raw transaction numbers are not usually the best to use for managing an organization. They are too detailed.

Ratios and trends calculated from these transactions are much more useful. Not only for your understanding, but for the rest of your organization as well.

Reports Don’t Usually Adapt to Changes in Your Business

Do your reports change as quickly as your business needs do? No? This is because the reports are usually created in some sort of a programming language. People with specialized skills must be hired or contracted to crate them. Because this is expensive, reports are usually designed once and not changed.

You can use these legacy reports for your current needs if you have the time and resources. You need to select the relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Then you calculate performance and productivity ratios.

Different Audiences Need Different Performance Measures

It’s not just about you understanding the numbers. You also have to share them with your team. You may also need to share them with your stockholders, your investors and your creditors.

These groups usually consist of people with various experience levels and backgrounds. In over 30 years of business experience, I have never seen a report with the flexibility to provide the right information to all of the necessary audiences.

Each of these groups have different information needs. Legacy reports do not provide the numbers they need as quickly as your business demands.

Charts Provide Flexibility

Charts give you the ability to adapt to the needs of different audiences. You can use one set of charts to show your team how you expect them to perform. Another set to show them feedback on how they performed. And a third set to show your executives how well you have performed against the goals they’ve set for you.

You also may have to present your performance to your organization’s board. In most organizations, Board members do not focus on the day-to-day operations of the business. So legacy reports designed to manage the day-to-day operations do not provide the information they need.

What addresses these needs is a series of charts which provide the overview of your organization’s performance. You should have more detailed sets of slides to provide drill-down on specific KPIs. You may want drill-downs to feed the board’s interests. Or to explain the changes shown in the overview.

Supplement Reports with Charts

Supplementing your reports with charts will provide you with three benefits. You’ll understand the numbers better, your team will understand and be able to perform better, and your board will have a much better understanding of how well your organization is performing.

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