Why are management reports important?
Management reports give managers and those creating them a data-driven indication of the progress, success, where things need to change, and how activities contribute to strategic goals. They can be an early warning system if KPIs aren't met, or they can show that a project is going well and could use further investment. They also show how specific projects or initiatives contribute to budgets, revenue, the strategic plan, and the organization's greater good.
What are examples of management reports?
The category of management reporting extends to virtually every department. The following are all examples of management reports:
- Financial reports
- Project reports
- HR and personnel reports
- Compliance reports
- Cash reports
- Variance analysis
- Finance color books
- Status reports
- Forecast reports
- Financial reports
- Board reports and packages
- Budget books
- LoB reports
- Variance reports
- KPI reports
- Systems reports
- Internal audit reports
What makes an effective management report?
Effective management reporting is all about clear, frequent communication. Does the management report tell a story? Does it prompt action? Does it give decision-makers critical information promptly? Does it identify problems or opportunities? Does the report contain information relevant to the manager and their decision-making?
Universally, effective management reports communicate the following:
Clear communication of objectives: What is the purpose of the management report, and how does it contribute to department or company goals?
Key performance indicators (KPIs): How will you measure success? What performance are you monitoring, and what is the threshold you're trying to reach? Key performance indicators reveal if the tactics you're using work. KPIs might be related to effectiveness, quality, sales, budget, timeliness, financials, or people (prospects, customers, etc.).
Think critically about the report's structure and content: Start backward. What exactly does management need to do with the information in this report? What do they want to know in this report? What's the progress been from one reporting period to the next? Creating the report with the end in mind allows you to get to the point and avoid extraneous, distracting information.
Always include a "so what?" section that analyses and explains performance. Include an analysis of performance that breaks down what the results mean for management and your recommendations for the next steps.
Consider the following essential components:
- KPI performance trends
- Current KPI performance
- Recommendations and next steps
Make it visual: Facilitate at-a-glance analysis by making your management report tell its story through visualizations that illustrate performance. Charts, graphs, heat maps, and big, bold percentages show management what matters most in a way that quickly conveys results. Bonus points if those metrics are dynamic, so management can explore them transparently if an investigation is required.
Key in the frequency: Depending on the project or reporting function, weekly, monthly, or quarterly reporting might be necessary. Determine a timestamp that balances time to re-evaluate efforts, take remedial efforts to address unwanted results, and identify performance trends without inundating management. Dynamic data automation has huge advantages during report creation. Reported performance automatically updates, removing the need to cut and paste data manually.
Real-time KPI dashboards: Reporting mechanisms should be put in place before the final output so that reporters can take steps to improve activities to meet KPIs. Reporting dashboards help you keep a real-time eye on KPIs to monitor progress and, if necessary, take steps to improve performance before the report gets into your manager's hands.
How to create a management report (in a nutshell)
There is no one way to prepare a management report. Every management report has a different purpose. No matter what type of management report you're creating, your management report should contain the following sections:
- Set specific goals and understand the results you desire before doing anything else.
- Determine the most relevant KPIs for your management and lay out the performance metrics you should monitor. Remember: Managerial views will be broader and more long-term. Your perspective might be narrower and short-term.
- Visualize the data's story by adding visuals to the report using graphs, pie charts, dashboards, whitespace, heat maps, etc.
- Create a colorful but direct narrative to help executives understand your findings. Use a combination of hard data and storytelling to present your results. Your storytelling should be clear and concise, and seek to answer all potential questions from your superior before they ask.
- Compare real-time information and historical information over given periods. In other words: Showcase past KPI performance, progress, and current progress.
- Make sure your data is correct and up to date. (A single, automated source of data ensures accuracy.).
- Outline next steps and action items based on results.
What are management reporting systems?
Management reporting systems are control systems that standardize the communication of business information. They seek to expedite the production of reports while improving the accuracy of performance reported.
Management reporting systems:
- Automate low-value tasks, like data collection, to help users create reports faster and accurately so they can focus on high-value tasks, like analysis.
- Reduce data redundancy, data duplication, and data quality issues by centralizing and automating the distribution of performance data.
- Improve management responsiveness by promptly generating reports, providing reporters with dynamic visualizations and customizable templates, and automating the delivery of reports to relevant stakeholders.
What’s the difference between a management report and a financial report?
Typically, management reports are developed at the job function or department level. For example, you might have a management report on revenue generated from a specific product, sales leads generated from a particular campaign, or social media engagement and growth over a period of time. On the other hand, financial reports, like the P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow, are high-level and paint a picture of the entire company’s financial performance.