It’s the process, stupid.
The process of making a report, exploring the data, getting your mind wrapped around the inputs and outputs generally leads to a greater and deeper understanding.
I’ve been a big proponent of weekly reporting for a long time. I like having a forcing mechanism that makes the person incharge of that part of the business understand what is going on. By requiring weekly reports, you essentially force that person to explore the realities of their responsibilities.
As a secondary reason, reporting forces that person to share an appropriate amount of information with the appropriate people. Based on the content, that report could be disseminated to the entire company, the entire department, or possibly the entire executive team. Transparency as a forcing mechanism.
Here are a few simple hints for making good reports:
- Make it simple.
- Give context – give baselines, deltas, goals, etc so people can understand what numbers mean.
- Show and explain. A well placed chart with a few sentences can be very powerful. Did all your customers go on vacation in august? Explain that.
- Try to put it in email. The more complex the delivery method the less useful the report.
- Focus on the data. Don’t worry about adding a ton of formatting, it’s better to spend time on the analysis.