10 Steps to Better Analytical Reporting

August 20, 2019
BI and Reporting, Business Technology
6 min read

Reporting is something we all do regularly in our jobs, but never stop and think about the reason why. Whether you are creating a cash flow statement or an annual sales report, the main purpose of every report is to show how your business is performing. A good report should give you the insight to help you identify problems, capitalize on opportunities, and make informed decisions.

The sad truth is that reporting can feel more like a pain than a blessing. We know plenty of accounting professionals who have spent years of their life manually consolidating data in Excel for the dozens of financial reports required for compliance. Without the right processes and people in place, reporting definitely comes with a price tag.

Most issues that people have with reporting stem from one or all of the following:

  • Time
    Ex. You spend weeks trying to manually consolidate data from multiple sources but little to no time on analyzing the reports themselves.
  • Accuracy
    Ex. The reports you deliver have a ton of mistakes and are constantly questioned by upper management.
  • Cost
    Ex. The endless queue of report requests continues to consume a gross amount of time, energy and resources from finance and IT
  • Complexity
    Ex. Every report is a different and inconsistent wall of rows and columns that is not conducive to quick decision making – or easy deciphering at all.

Depending on what technology you have in place, from Excel to accounting software, you might recognize some of these common pain points. As these problems add up, most people start to resent reporting altogether. So, what’s to blame? It could be due to outdated reporting practices, or maybe it’s because you’ve had some recent turnover and your new staff needs additional training. Either way, it sounds like you need a better reporting solution.

The good news is, better business reporting is not complicated. Take a step back to reduce the clutter, simplify your reporting processes, and make a few changes that are going to provide value to your business. Here are ten easy steps that you can take to improve your current reporting practices:

  1. Find the root of the problem
    To understand where your reporting issues come from, you need to talk to the people who create reports and the people who consume reports. During those conversations, you’ll not only discover if your staff is having difficulty using a program and building reports, but you’ll discover if management is having problems interpreting the reports themselves.
  2. Know your audience
    Once you’ve identified the major issues, you need to start to think about how your users build reports and the requirements that they need in a solution. Every department from finance to sales to operations uses reports in a different way. Before you start making changes, you should know how reports are used to support different roles and what the workflow looks like.
  3. Establish goals and performance measures
    All effective reports and dashboards start with a clear outline of goals and metrics. Reports are used to track all areas of a business so without a departmental objective or business goal to monitor progress, you’re just looking at a pile of data. Goals and measures, specifically KPIs, can help you drive more value out of the reports you use every day.
  4. Assess current report performance
    Now that you’ve spoken with the people who create and use reports, it’s time to look at the reports themselves. How long does it take to create a standard report? Is there a specific format in place for consistency? Are your reports customizable? How do you track changes? Are your reports slow to load data? How are you presenting data? At the end of the day, you need to know if the reports being produced are useful and if not, why?
  5. Update your report design
    Sometimes the quickest fix to reporting is right in front of you. Report formatting and pre-built templates are an easy way to refresh your reports, establish consistency across the organization, and breath life back into your data.
  6. Make some simple tweaks in Excel
    Jet Global has a great whitepaper that covers 10 best practices to Microsoft Dynamics reporting. In it, the gurus of reporting and business intelligence for Microsoft Dynamics bring up some solid points on formatting, labeling, and how to handle cluttering in large reports with report groupings. Read more here.
  7. Start visualizing your data
    A report is a summary of data. If you hand your boss a report with rows and lines of painful raw data, it’s going to take them a long time to decipher the information and make a decision that impacts the business. Through color, charts, and more interactive elements like PivotTables, you can immediately improve the visibility of your data, as well as the readability and usability of your reports.
  8. Automate manual data entry processes
    Let’s face it, manual data entry is the biggest time killer. If the majority of your reporting workflow involves manual data consolidation and entry, you may want to consider a reporting solution that integrates with your ERP/CRM solution. Or, take it a step further with a business intelligence solution. These solutions will bring your data together in one place and give you the tools you need to create reports quickly and easily.
  9. Consider self-service reporting tools
    No matter what reporting solution you use, your users need to be able to build and edit their own reports without technical help from developers. Self-service reporting tools will make it easier to create reports, make decisions based on accurate data, and take the strain off your IT department.
  10. Book report training for your staff
    If you want to invest some time into updating your reporting processes and refreshing your staff on how to build reports, report training can go a long way. At Tigunia, we provide training to new users, teach specific reporting skills, and help your team master new reporting features. In fact, here are 8 ways that your team can benefit from financial report training.

Improve Your Reporting Practices with Tigunia

The purpose behind each of these reporting improvements is to enhance decision making and increase the value of the reports you produce. By taking the necessary steps to streamline your reporting processes, improve employee productivity, and make your reports more readable, you will be able to make faster, more accurate decisions when it really matters.

Your reports shouldn’t be time-consuming and resource-draining, they should be efficient, cost-effective, and valuable. Specializing in Power BI and Jet Global’s reporting and analytics products, Tigunia offers complete report support and training to our Microsoft Dynamics clients. If you’re ready to improve your reporting practices, get in touch with our team!

You can also learn more about our reporting and analytics services.