on March 24, 2022 (last modified on March 16, 2022) • 15 minute read
The main problem with writing only formal reports in your company is that you won’t be able to quickly and efficiently communicate important urgent messages and the latest updates to your management and team leaders.
You always have strict rules and formats that you have to follow, which will disable you from conveying crucial information in a timely manner.
The biggest issue is that your management needs that information in order to make the day-to-day decisions and create efficient strategies.
This problem can easily be solved by implementing informal reports.
Informal reports are shorter reports that are used for quickly communicating recent findings and information to internal members of the company. They are much faster to write since you won’t have to follow any strict guidelines.
In this article, we are going to walk you through what informal reports are, why you should use them, and how to create them.
Informal reporting is a type of business reporting where the information presented doesn’t need to be formatted or structured in any specific way. These reports include critical but brief information.
They are typically much shorter than formal reports and have lesser sections. In recent years, informal reporting has become one of the most common types of business reporting within companies.
While formal reporting is a great way to present some important findings, not every piece of information has to be formally presented. In some situations, it’s better to convey data and information quickly rather than formally. This is why many employees will overlook the formal structure and use informal reports to maintain quick and efficient communication.
By using informal reporting, you can communicate your findings without having to waste time on specific rules, formats, or structures.
However, these reports are only useful for internal purposes. Conveying information through informal reports to external parties can make your business look unprofessional.
Related: How to Write a Great Business Development Report: A Step By Step Guide with Examples
Informal business reports are the shortest and simplest types of reports, and they are used for presenting certain information in a brief manner. They usually come in the form of person-to-person communication and they do not have any strict formation or structure.
You can create these types of reports rather quickly and you won’t need to do any comprehensive planning. They are typically from one to ten pages long and have fewer sections compared to formal reports. For this reason, they are also referred to as short reports.
Informal reports also don’t strictly follow any writing style – the information is presented in a natural language.
The main goal of informal reports is to quickly communicate important messages to internal members of the company. Adding any sort of personal comment or opinion is unnecessary.
When it comes to the nature of the report, they are either informational or analytical.
Informational informal reports include routine information that should allow company members to acquire additional insight into specific cases. The sections are typically introduction, main findings, and conclusion.
On the other hand, analytical informal reports provide answers and solutions to specific issues. It includes all the same sections as the informational report, with the addition of a ‘recommendations’ section.
Related: How to Write a Great Business Consulting Report: Best Practices and Report Examples
The main purpose of informal reporting is to quickly communicate relevant findings and information to internal members of the company.
Informal business reports include information and data that can be critical for making day-to-day decisions and developing operational strategies.
Employees that create informal reports only focus on making the information clear and understandable, they don’t lose time on following any structures that could delay the conveyance of the message.
Formal reports have a similar objective, but when creating them it is impossible to overlook the structure and formatting guidelines.
By implementing only formal reports, companies risk losing the efficiency and quickness that informal reports bring to the table.
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When comparing informal and formal reports, there are a few differences that stand out.
However, the main difference between the two is the one we already mentioned – structure.
Employees that conduct formal business reports have a preset structure and a strict format that they have to follow. Informal business reporting has neither.
Also, formal reporting is most often used to communicate information to external parties, while informal reporting is more suitable for internal parties.
By using formal reports, employees aim to help the management make better strategic decisions. On the other hand, informal reports shift the focus to operational decisions.
The size of the report is also one of the bigger differences. Formal reports can take up dozens of pages while informal reports are typically only 1-10 pages long.
Companies are generally more reliant on informal reports since they are necessary for making standard day-to-day decisions.
Related: What Is Strategic Reporting? 4 Report Examples to Get Inspiration From
There are several types of informal reports that you should consider before you start writing them.
Let’s explain how each type works.
Meeting minutes are standard practice in companies and it involves taking notes on meetings that require official recording.
Informal meeting minutes reports are used to highlight the key findings that were discussed, proposed, or voted on during the meeting. It is essentially a summary of the meeting’s discussion, ideas, and outcome.
This type of informal report is strictly informational since it only involves summaries, there isn’t an attendee statement collection included.
Informal expense reports are the most similar to formal reports since they do have a prescribed format that makes the writing process easier.
These reports typically include the exact amount of expenditures categorized by expense types. There shouldn’t be any sort of free writing included in the informal expense report.
Status update reports have the purpose of informing management and team leaders on all the regular updates that are taking place within the company.
These reports are purely informative and they provide information to internal parties about certain business situations or inform external parties on how specific projects are progressing.
Trip or conference reports are informal reports that provide information on why you attended a specific conference, who did you meet, and what did you learn.
You can also include some suggestions or recommendations based on the findings and knowledge you acquired.
An informal feasibility report is used for proposing examining the different solutions to occurring issues in the business. It determines which solutions are the most viable and have the highest chance of resolving the issue.
This type of informal report is mostly integrated for smaller projects. Feasibility reports are also strictly analytical since they propose the next steps based on previous analysis.
Here is a good example of how you can structure your informal business report:
Now let’s talk about these sections a bit more in-depth.
The introduction will be the first section of your informal report and you can use it to describe the reasons why you are conducting the report.
For reports that are a bit more complex, you can also add a background, specific goal, or problem statement.
In this section of the report, you should include all the relevant data, information, facts, and findings.
Some practitioners make the mistake of simply presenting a collection of data in this section, but this isn’t enough. You should also include a summary of your main findings and ideas based on research.
Also, you can choose to add a research methodology as well.
The ‘Recommendations’ section only appears in analytical informal reports. It is primarily used to display how the data that you gathered backs up the given recommendations.
Keep in mind, making recommendations without backing them up with data can make your report look extremely unprofessional.
This is the final section of your informal report and you should make it as short as possible. Give a brief overview of the pain points that you have gone through and include a short summary.
Before you start organizing and structuring your report, you should always first think about the audience that will read it. Based on the audience, you will know which information you have to include and why the readers will be interested in going through the report’s content.
For example, if you assume that the reader’s reaction to the report will be either neutral or positive, you can consider adding the recommendation section somewhere at the beginning of the report. The section should be followed by sufficient data and evidence to back it up.
On the other hand, if you expect the audience to have a negative reaction, it’s better to position the recommendation section at the end of the report.
This way, you first introduce all of the important information, research, and findings, which would eventually lead the audience to come up with a similar conclusion to yours. Even if they don’t particularly like the idea, they will know it is the right conclusion based on the data.
Compared to other types of business reporting processes, writing an informal report is much easier due to the lack of strict rules and guidelines.
However, that doesn’t mean that a certain amount of planning isn’t involved. To write an informal business report, it’s best to follow the PWR rule that stands for Planning, Writing, and Revising.
Follow these few steps to create a great informal business report.
If it’s your first time conducting an informal business report, check beforehand if there is a certain template that your organization expects you to use.
This isn’t the same as having strict rules about the structure, it’s just a form that could be helpful when organizing the report.
Next, you want to make sure that you understand what the purpose of the report will be.
For instance, let’s say that you are one of the employees in the IT department and there has been a sudden increase in laptop malfunctions. Your boss asks you to write a report on this issue. First, you need to determine whether your boss wants to know the cause of the malfunctions, or what happens with the laptops after they are received (the way they are handled or stored). Depending on what the purpose of the informal report is, you will have to gather different data and conduct different research.
After determining the purpose, you should move on to data collection. Once you gather enough data to analyze, you can create an overall outline of the report.
Avoid adding any side issues or information that isn’t relevant to the purpose of the report.
If you have created a clear outline that you can follow, the writing process shouldn’t take up too much time.
Your main focuses will be wording, paragraph structure, and phrasing.
Many times, when writers think about creating reports, they automatically assume that they will have to change their writing style.
While there are some overall guidelines that should be followed, that doesn’t mean you will have to create longer and more complex-sounding sentences. The primary focus should be on communicating the main message by going a bit more into details.
Remember that different companies use different styles, so you should always be familiar with your organization’s specific style before you start writing.
Keep in mind, you are always better off using a slightly more professional tone since you never know for how long the report will be retained and how many readers will go through it.
As we said, informal reports don’t use any strict formats, but you can’t have the information in your report all over the place.
By using headings, summary statements, separate sections, and clear paragraphs, you make the informal report much more understandable and you will have an easier time conveying your important message.
Make sure that you use a catchy heading for each new section and write a few attention-grabbing lines in the beginning as an introduction.
Don’t just add sections because ‘you should’, focus on giving each section a purpose and make sure they support the overall goal of the report. Remember, your headings should always suit the content, not the other way around.
The writing style in informal reports should be more relaxed since the main purpose is to make the information easily understandable to readers.
It’s understandable that after spending a few days writing the report, you will want to submit it as quickly as possible.
However, revising your report is a crucial step that can’t be overlooked.
You can use certain reviewing tools for proofreading and finding grammar mistakes, but make sure you read it yourself at least once more. A good idea is to also ask a friend or a colleague to also read the report, so you have an extra set of eyes.
There are plenty of different ways to share your informal reports. The way in which you choose to deliver it might affect the overall format, but it won’t make any changes to the writing style and purpose of the report.
Depending on who is your audience, informal reports can be written specifically for internal or external readers. While writing for internal parties is the most-common type of informal reporting, it’s not impossible that you will be asked to write a report for external audiences.
This will also affect the way in which you align the format.
Here are a few different formats:
Once you know to which party you are reaching out to with your report, you will have a clearer idea of how to structure and what to include in the document.
For decades, business reporting has been considered to be one of the most grueling tasks within a company. Each step of the process had to be done manually, from gathering data and analyzing it, to later updating the report each time a new change occurs.
This inevitably takes up too much of your valuable time and frankly, it causes too many headaches as well.
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Databox provides users with customizable dashboards that allow you to integrate all of your most important data from various tools into one place.
By using the different visualization features, you can also make the key metrics and KPIs of your report much more understandable to the readers. In only a few clicks, you can turn that ‘dry’ data into beautiful and professional graphs and charts.
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