Reporting

What Is Data Reporting and How to Create Data Reports for Your Business

Collecting data for a report is the first step towards improving your business performance. Learn how to implement best practices in data reporting.

Stefana Zaric Stefana Zaric on October 11, 2021 (last modified on February 18, 2022) • 17 minute read

According to Gartner’s prediction, 90% of organizations will consider information the most valuable asset a business may have.

And where does this information come from?

Here’s a magic word – data.

Even though many companies report making important decisions based on their gut feeling, 85% of them would like to improve the ways they use data insights to make business decisions.

It’s because they know data is critical for growth, especially when modern software allows you to monitor data in real-time and create effective reports for better and faster decision-making.

Want to learn more about data reporting? This article will walk you through what data reports are, how they can benefit your company, and show you how to use the right tools to create effective, well-organized, and actionable reports.

Let’s dive right in.

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What is Data Reporting?

If you’re looking for an exact data reporting definition, it comes down to the following:

Data reporting refers to the process of collecting unprocessed data from different sources that you later organize into meaningful and digestible pieces of information to gain valuable insights into your business performance.

After the collected data has been pulled from several sources or tools, organized, and visualized in an easy-to-follow manner, you can perform data analysis to assess the current state in your organization and create an actionable plan or give recommendations about future activities based on this data. That said, reporting on data is practically the step that leads to data analysis.

You can create a data report in different formats, but nowadays, reports created via data visualization tools are the most common ones. You will often find all kinds of illustrations in such reports: tables, pie charts, graphs, timelines, and more. Data reports can be static or interactive, more or less detailed, and the data can be grouped in different ways: by category, by importance, by objectives, or by department.

Financial data reports are one of the most common types, but, in reality, every department within a company can benefit from data reporting: marketing, sales, HR, and others.

Why Is Data Reporting Important for Any Business?

The eternal question for any business is this: which strategies are profitable and which ones need adjusting?

Having a consistent data reporting process in place helps you answer this question accurately and quickly. Without data reports, data analysis can’t happen, and without data analysis, you can’t plan your further steps towards your business objectives.

Based on the data you collect over a specific period of time, you can draw conclusions about your business performance and make future decisions about allocating time and money into activities that bring you revenue or help you reach other business goals. Data also helps you identify any problematic areas of your business that need your attention or strategies that need improvement because they’re not generating satisfactory results.

Having accurate data at your disposal in real-time helps you discover patterns and notice red flags so you can prevent potential problems before they occur. It also enables you to identify correlations between two or more trends and find their causes, so you can replicate your most successful tactics any time.

Without frequent reporting on data, you may end up with one of two scenarios:

  • You make wrong business decisions because you don’t have accurate data to rely and act on.
  • You believe your figures are better than they really are because some of the data hasn’t been reported – this is called underreporting and can give you a wrong overall picture of your business.

By understanding the importance of data reporting and analysis, you can easily avoid these situations.

What is the Difference Between Data Reporting and Data Analysis?

Now that we’ve mentioned data analysis, the next logical step after you’ve crafted a data report, it’s worth mentioning that some people use these terms interchangeably.

However, they are not the same. Here are the main differences between data reporting and data analysis:

Data Reporting

  • This process comes first as a preparation for analysis
  • It’s used to track performance
  • Data needs to be pulled from multiple sources and it’s unprocessed
  • Enables you to ask the right questions about your business
  • Use of the “push approach” – the data is pushed to you so you can analyze it

Data Analysis

  • This process relies on data reporting and comes after it
  • It’s used to create actionable plans based on the conclusions
  • Data is organized and available to you in dashboards, reports, etc.
  • Enables you to answer the questions asked while reporting
  • Use of the “pull approach” where a person pulls out specific data to explore it

How to Write a Data Report

If you’re getting ready to write a data report, you may be looking for the best practices and writing tips to explore before you get started. Here’s what you need to do to write a great data report.

Step 1: Define what type of data report you need to write. There are several types of data reports, such as informational, analytical, investigative, recommendation, KPI, and more. All these data reports focus on providing facts or analysis, help to identify risks, come up with recommendations for further steps, monitor business KPIs, etc. Determine your report goal first, and then you’ll know exactly what sections you need to include.

Step 2: Determine who you’re writing the report for. Is it upper or middle management, or potential clients or investors? Different audiences may require using a different tone, terminology, and can affect the choice of data you’re going to include.

Step 3: Create an outline. Before you start compiling the report, plan its structure. It’ll be easier to stay on track, choose the right KPIs, and ensure you’ve presented everything relevant while excluding the information that doesn’t contribute to the report.

Step 4: Include data visualizations. To make your data report more readable and beautiful, make sure you use data charts, tables, graphs, and other data visualization tools to make the data easy to interpret for the reader.

Step 5: Write a summary. Every great report has a summary that briefly explains the purpose of the document and its key findings. Sometimes, depending on the report type, you may even include a few action steps in this section.

Data Report Examples and Templates

Good teachers teach by showing rather than telling, right? Well, that’s why we also wanted to share a few great examples of data reports and templates you can use for building your own data report.

Marketing Data Report Example

One of the best things about this marketing dashboard is that it’s intuitive and easy to follow. It allows you to track your website traffic, engagement, and conversions, and monitor user activity on your website. If metrics like page CTA clicks, bounce rate, pageviews per session matter to you, you will love this HubSpot Marketing Website Overview dashboard template.

Marketing Data Report Example

SEO Data Report Example

To track your SEO efforts and report on them, you can use this streamlined SEO Campaign Performance dashboard template. It gives you insight into the performance of your SEO strategy by integrating Google Analytics and Google Search Console and allowing you to monitor metrics such as sessions by channel, goal completions, clicks by devices, position by pages, and more.

SEO Data Report Example

Sales Data Report Example

Is your current sales pipeline successful? A sales team can easily find the answer to this question by using this Sales Overview dashboard template. It provides valuable insight into monthly performance and allows you to track all the relevant metrics, such as new contacts, new deals, average time to close, closed-won amount, and more.

Sales Data Report Example

Customer Support Data Report Example

Customer support is an incredibly important part of any business. To track their metrics and collect the necessary data, you can use this Customer Success dashboard template. It’s accessible and allows you to track your churn rate and other relevant metrics to find out if it correlates with the performance of your customer support agents.

Customer Support Data Report Example

Ecommerce Data Report Example

This Full Funnel eCommerce dashboard template helps you collect important data so you can discover what works in your funnel and what could use improvement. If there’s a stage of the conversion funnel that needs optimization, you’ll be able to identify it. Thanks to multiple integrations, you can track metrics like CPC, ROAS, open rates, audience growth, average order value, and more.

Ecommerce Data Report Example

Project Management Data Report Example

Do you need a great dashboard for your IT department projects? This Jira dashboard template allows your IT specialists and developers to track important metrics at a glance. They can monitor completed tasks and who completed them, as well as numerous other Jira metrics that are already built in the dashboard: story points by project, value points by project, issues resolved, issues created, etc.

Project Management Data Report Example

Financial KPI Data Report Example

Finances are one of the most relevant KPIs of your company’s health. This QuickBooks + HubSpot CRM dashboard template helps you get a streamlined overview of your financial performance. You can track your expenses and goals, and numerous metrics, such as closed-won and lost deals, sales activity by sales rep, cash flow forecast, purchases by vendors, customer balance, inventory valuation, etc.

Financial KPI Data Report Example

How to Improve Your Data Reporting: 15 Best Practices

Does your data reporting process need improving? The good news is, it’s possible to do it by implementing these 15 best practices we’ve selected for you.

Understand Your Audience

What do your readers actually want to know? What do they think? Are they too busy to read your data reports? By understanding what your audience wants and needs, you will be able to craft attention-grabbing data reports and at the same time show your reader that you can put yourself in their shoes.

Ensure Data Accuracy and Data Consistency

Using accurate data is one of the fundamental conditions that need to be fulfilled for successful data reporting and analysis. Evaluate your data sources and only use them if you consider them high-quality. Reducing manual data entry in your data reporting process can eliminate errors almost completely, and this is where automation tools help a lot.

Create an Appealing Presentation

Who says data can’t look beautiful? Visuals such as graphs and charts are much more digestible than mere text, so don’t forget to include data visualizations in your report. Other than looking well-organized, charts and tables will facilitate the process of data analysis. It’s much easier to draw conclusions about data when you can actually see a timeline and how it changed over a specific period.

Choose the Right Format

It all depends on your audience, but some people will want to be included in the whole process, while others prefer more traditional formats. Consult the client or the manager on how they’d like to access the report, and then decide if you’re going to use a PDF, a presentation, or give them access to an interactive dashboard where they can see data in real-time.

Keep the Report Concise

Whether you’re writing for your team manager or a client, your data report should be to the point because its purpose is to enable successful data analysis. Going too much into detail or straying away from the main topic will make the data difficult to analyze and understand. Ensure you use a professional tone and stay objective throughout the whole report, no matter how little text there is to accompany the visuals.

Use Data Storytelling

Use unprocessed data to organize it into a story. A list that contains a bunch of numbers won’t tell as much as a well-put-together narrative that the reader can easily follow and gain insights from. When you combine the story the data tells you with nicely-looking graphics, you get a quality report that you can later effortlessly analyze.

Focus on Relevant Metrics

You may feel compelled to include data that showcase significant progress, but if these metrics have nothing to do with the goal of your report, you should avoid doing it. Data reports should be as objective as possible so proper action can be taken after the analysis. That’s why you should stay true to your objectives and report the correct data in a straightforward way even if it’s unpleasant.

Align the KPIs with Priorities

Whether they’re low-level or high-level KPIs, they should be aligned with your company’s priorities. Including everything that can be measured in your report can be overwhelming for the reader and they may miss the essential information due to too many numbers and charts. Focus on the KPIs that matter the most for your business at the moment.

Track Progress Towards Goals

It’s important to be better than your competitors, but it’s also vital to be progressing towards your goals. Comparing your data to the industry benchmarks is okay, but don’t forget to check where you stand compared to where you want to be. Include the data that shows whether or not you’re on the right track to achieve your objectives.

Make the Report Actionable

Reports aren’t made just so we can KNOW specific data – they’re made so we can do something about it. Depending on the data report type, you may need to include suggestions – what you believe would be appropriate further steps. These suggestions make your report actionable – people who read it will have a better understanding of what is going on in the company or a specific department, and get an idea of what they need to do next. 

Keep Records

Sometimes, you’ll want to pull your old data reports to compare the data you can no longer pull with the tools you’re using. You might want to see how much progress you’ve made compared to a few years back or identify trends that may have appeared in the past. At the same time, you may want to track how your data reporting processes changed over time so you can improve it in the future or present best practices to your trainees.

Customize Your Reports

Sometimes you’ll prepare data reports for senior management, investors, or partners. Sometimes, your prospective clients will want insight into your business health. Don’t use the same report format and the same KPIs because these people will want to know different information about your company. Also, some will ask for quarterly data reporting, while others will want to see the reports on an annual basis. Customize your data reports to fit the reader’s needs by including and excluding different sections when necessary.

Find Optimal Reporting Frequency

Reporting typically occurs on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. More frequent data reporting enables better communication and faster reactions when there’s a trend to take advantage of or an issue to fix. However, it doesn’t mean each client or manager will want daily reports. Find the best reporting frequency based on the purpose of the report and the person who will be reading it.

Use Automation Tools

Data reporting can truly be daunting if you always do it from scratch. Luckily, with automation tools like Databox, you can create visually attractive dashboards with all the important metrics and simply customize them whenever you need to create a new report. Data reporting tools like Databox can also automatically pull all your data from different sources so you don’t need to enter anything manually.

Update Your Reporting Process

Just like your business objectives and KPIs need revisions from time to time, your data reporting process may need to be updated. New information, best practices, and effective strategies become available every day, so if you learn something that could optimize this process and make it even more efficient, don’t hesitate to update it.

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Automate Data Reporting with Databox

You already know data is essential for efficient decision making. But collecting, processing, organizing, presenting, and analyzing data can be so challenging! Seeing all those numbers gives you an instant headache and you feel like you spend ages compiling the report that your clients or managers end up only skimming over and asking you a million questions – your effort was for nothing.

The whole point of writing a data report is to lay the groundwork for effective data analysis and drawing the right conclusions so you can make further decisions for your business. And can it be less painful?

Yes, it can!

We created Databox with the goal of making data reporting less time-consuming, tedious, and demanding. Instead of wasting your time on manual activities, you can pull all your data in one place in seconds, create custom metrics with ease and adjust reporting dashboards to your needs.

What’s more, you can automate custom calculations, which makes calculating metrics from several sources or tools 10x easier than before, without any coding or spreadsheets. Now you won’t need to spend hours calculating ROI, conversion rates, and other relevant financial metrics stakeholders typically want to know about.

If you think we stopped there, think again. Databox also enables you to build custom metrics with Query Builder’s dimensions and filters so you can have a more detailed insight into your performance. You can also connect your account with any of the 70+ integrations we offer: Google Sheets, Google Ads, Google Analytics, HubSpot, Zapier, Stripe, and pull data from anywhere – even a SQL database or custom API, in a safe, fast, and simple way.

Can you believe it’s all found in one place, a single dashboard? Actually, you don’t need to believe a word we say – test your own dashboard and see for yourself: sign up for a free trial today.

About the author
Stefana Zaric
Stefana Zaric Stefana Zarić is a freelance writer & content marketer. Other than writing for SaaS and fintech clients, she educates future writers who want to build a career in marketing. When not working, Stefana loves to read books, play with her kid, travel, and dance.
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