Reporting

Build an Effective Performance Reporting Process with These 8 Tips

Say goodbye to generating reports via spreadsheets: 30+ experts spill their best-kept secrets on creating an effective reporting process.

Stefana Zaric Stefana Zaric on August 5, 2022 (last modified on October 13, 2022) • 13 minute read

Our recent survey revealed a surprising fact: despite all the available reporting tools on the market, 50% of companies are still relying on spreadsheets to create performance reports. And about half of the respondents are reporting via presentations or documents that require repetitive, manual work.

In the world of automation, copy-pasting and manually updating tables isn’t and can’t be an effective reporting process for several reasons:

  • You spend too much time creating a report than acting on it
  • Manual work increases the possibility of human error
  • Spreadsheets need to be manually sent to the rest of the team, clients, or managers, which increases the possibility of duplicated or erroneous data
  • It’s impossible to scale your operations as you will just need more and more time and effort to complete simple tasks

Already compelled to rethink your reporting process? Now that we’ve got your attention, we’ll share the best reporting practices applied by experts all over the world to help you improve reporting as soon as today.

Let’s dive right in.

What Does a Typical Reporting Process at a Company Look Like?

All companies that participated in our recent survey see their current reporting process is effective: 70% of them even assess it as very effective.

effective reporting process

But if you take a closer look at the data and what their reporting practices actually look like, you can see that there’s a lot of redundant work involved, from using spreadsheets and data entry to copying and pasting charts from data analytics tools into presentations.

reporting activities

What many companies aren’t doing is stepping away and taking a look at the whole picture of how reporting fits into their daily, weekly, and monthly activities. Luckily, many survey participants we talked to are aware that automation is the way to go, even if they consider their reporting process to be “good enough” (at least for now).

“We know there is definitely room for improvement, but our current reporting process is giving us the data we need at the moment,” says Craig Anderson of Express Dentist. “We will be optimizing our processes by adding more automation.”

Tim Schroeder of Starting a Blog and his team are also considering introducing automation tools to their reporting process. “We realized that doing everything manually is quite time-consuming, which has resulted in my team making human errors,” explains Schroeder. “This has affected our end results, so we might soon collect data using reporting software. As a result, it can generate real-time insights, which can be leveraged to our advantage.”

As most businesses we surveyed produce up to 20 reports per month, just imagine how much time they’d be saving by replacing just a few manual reporting steps with automated performance reports—like the ones available in Databox.

number of reports per month

Some companies are aware that there’s room for improvement in their performance reporting process, but the lack of time or specialized staff might be stopping them from making the necessary changes. However, even if your reporting process are still be a bit “scrappy” because you run a startup, Jeet Mehta of Swift agrees that reliable, quality tools that cater to your company’s needs can be critical for scaling. “We’ll need to adopt better reporting tools as we grow,” confirms Mehta.

Related: How Automated Reporting Saved 16 Agencies Time, Money, and Headaches

How to Create an Effective Performance Reporting Process: 8 Best Practices

We asked over 30 experts to share how they created effective, scalable performance reporting processes. These are the 8 best practices for you to follow.

  1. Use Automation Software to Generate Reports
  2. Encourage Creativity in Data Analysis
  3. Consider Your Target Audience
  4. Address Key Value Drivers
  5. Set Concise and Clear Objectives
  6. Include Industry Benchmarks
  7. Track Individual Team Member Performance
  8. Set Aside Time to Review the Reports with Your Team

1. Use Automation Software to Generate Reports

Automation software facilitates report creation and sharing as it eliminates redundant tasks that take up a lot of time: data entry, manual calculations, copy and pasting charts and tables, and more. As calculations are done automatically and the data is pulled directly from the source to your reporting tool, the possibility of human error is also reduced and the accuracy of your report is dramatically increased.

Kate Zhang of Kate Backdrop confirms that her reporting process benefited from introducing automation. “Automation ensures that the data is accurate and up-to-date. Additionally, we have saved time by not having to generate reports manually,” shares Zhang.

Daniel Chen and his team at Airgram have seen positive results after adding automation tools to their reporting process. “The software has helped us streamline the process and make it more efficient,” says Chen and adds that their performance reporting process is now automated from start to finish. “This means that we can create reports much faster and with less effort than before. The quality of our reports has also improved, thanks to the software’s ability to quickly and accurately gather data.”

Related: How to Set Up an Automated Reporting System: Tips, Tools and Best Practices

2. Encourage Creativity in Data Analysis

Different types of reports and data combinations will allow you to consistently track your performance, but also discover new ways to look at the data and come up with innovative approaches to your strategy. That will help you monitor your most relevant KPIs and progress toward your goals, but simultaneously search for angles to help you differentiate yourself from competitors.

“We have a set of reports that were thought through from the beginning and agreed to remain consistent to show the evolution of certain metrics,” says Charles Cridland of YourParkingSpace.

“At the same time, we don’t want to miss out on insights and limit the creativity of the team—so we encourage new ad-hoc angles to look at data. Thus, we achieve the reliability of data, a fresh look at market development, and work satisfaction as reporting doesn’t become boring and monotonous.”

Related: 7 Data Analysis Questions to Improve Your Business Reporting Process

3. Consider Your Target Audience

Performance reports are usually meant for team managers, but sometimes, company shareholders, investors, or even employees will be the ones reading them. Depending on the topic and type of your performance report, before you start compiling it, consider the target audience. Why did they want the report in the first place? What information do you need to convey? How do you represent the data? What takeaways is the audience hoping to get?

According to Candice Moses of Information, this approach is proven to work. “While trying to improve my performance report, I learned to take my target audience into consideration. Before I began writing a performance report, I considered their reasons for requesting one. I asked myself the following questions: What is my intended audience? What do they want: a broad performance report or a particular performance report? Is this performance report of any use to them?”

A critical matter in performance reports for different audiences is the level of understanding they have about the topic you’re reporting on. If the company’s executive managers want to know about your marketing team’s performance, you should take a simple approach and avoid overcomplicating the report with too many detailed metrics. The top management is usually more interested in budgets and revenue, so that’s what you should focus on: report on how efficiently your team is using the budget and the ROI you’re generating.

Related: Reporting Strategy for Multiple Audiences: 6 Tips for Getting Started

4. Set Concise and Clear Objectives

Setting SMART goals or using another technique for planning your objectives will help you define clearly what you want to achieve with your reports. With a specific goal in mind, it will be easier to determine what KPIs to measure, how often to monitor them, and how to present them to your audience. Clear and concise goals will also motivate you and help you understand how your reporting process goals are aligned with high-level company goals and how they contribute to business growth.

Tracking your progress against objectives keeps you on the right track, says James Jason of Notta AI and shares a simple tracking strategy.

“I have found that the best way to create an effective performance reporting process is to establish clear and concise objectives and then track progress against those objectives on a regular basis. Setting up a simple spreadsheet with the objectives in one column and the progress against those objectives in another column is the best way to track progress. This allows me to see at a glance how well we are doing and where we need to improve.”

5. Address Key Value Drivers

Performance measurements allow you to address key value drivers in your business, such as customer experience, employees, financial performance. Compared to KPIs alone, identifying key value drivers can help you prioritize tasks while staying aligned with what really defines success for your company.

For example, if you identify a step in your reporting process as a bottleneck that stops your employees from achieving maximum efficiency, automating that step can move the needle for the reporting process, and your whole organization.

According to Candice Moses, risk management is just as important as strategy execution, so knowing your key value drivers helps you “triage” the issues and opportunities that need to be tackled first.

“In addition to operational outcomes, I also focused on measurements that assess the progress of strategy execution as well as risk management, making sure measures support the investors’ decisions. KPIs focus on certain areas of the business that have possibilities and dangers. Such KPIs should be specific rather than broad. They should direct how certain areas of the firm should be managed rather than attempting to fix every problem and shortage.”

It’s also critical to focus on potential and future value drivers, not just what worked in the past.

“I learned that I had to also focus on emerging performance indicators rather than only trailing performance indicators that focus on previous performance and history,” says Moses.

6. Include Industry Benchmarks

In performance reports, it’s not enough to know where you’re standing compared to your last month’s or year’s performance. It’s also critical to assess your results compared to your competitors.

This data will:

  • Allow you to identify areas of improvement
  • Understand the trends happening across your industry
  • Help you set attainable, but meaningful goals

Alexandra Fennell and her team at Attn: Grace use benchmarks in their performance reports so they can have a clear picture of how successful they are within their industry, beyond revenue and customer satisfaction.

“Benchmarking helps us gauge our performance compared to competitors. We use specific, measurable data points to discover where we thrive and underperform. With this information, we can make targeted improvements that leverage our strengths and set us further apart from the competition,” Fennell explains.

7. Track Individual Team Member Performance

To make the most out of your reporting process, don’t track only team performance, but make sure you monitor individual team members’ performance as well.

The goal of tracking performance for each team member isn’t to identify and scold an underperforming employee. Quite the opposite, it’s to identify obstacles and shortcomings and come up with training, ideas, and solutions to help everyone on the team perform at the top of their game and introduce appropriate incentives. A good reporting tool can help here a great deal.

“Here at TeleCRM, the reporting tool helps us to track our team members in the sales department and help those who are lagging behind anywhere. We even track how much total revenue each member brought to the company so that we can give them incentives accordingly based on them reaching their monthly target,” Hardik Masani of TeleCRM shares his strategy.

“Initially, we had a reporting system where we only could see the total calls, total duration, and total sales. But gradually we built it in a way that now we can track multiple things including their First call (helps to track at what time they start working on that day) and the last call(at what time they finish their work). This has helped us tremendously in closing more leads, increasing our sales, and also retaining our customers.”

Related: Sales Metrics Reporting: Track These 16 Sales KPIs and Metrics to Improve the Performance of Your Sales Team

8. Set Aside Time to Review the Reports with Your Team

A monthly team meeting where you’ll review the reports with your co-workers is a great way to conclude your reporting process. Giving your team direct insights into their performance and allowing them to participate in the analysis gives them a chance to actively think about issues that arose and possible ways to fix them, as well as identify successful strategies that boosted their performance.

These team review sessions is exactly what James Jason does at his company.

“I have found that it’s helpful to review the performance reports with my team on a regular basis. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that we are all working towards the same objectives. The outcome of these efforts has been an effective performance reporting process that helps us to track our progress, identify areas for improvement and make changes accordingly, and ensure that we all do our best work to contribute to the same goals”, concludes Jason.

Liam Johnson of TheHitchStore agrees that performance report reviews are essential for maintaining efficiency and keeping your team accountable for their work.

“The best way to create an effective performance reporting process is to focus on two things: efficiency and accountability. For efficiency, I like to use a checklist of sorts for each employee’s monthly reports, so that there is no excuse for missing any of the required steps. We have a regular meeting where all employees get a chance to discuss their goals and how they’re going to achieve them. This helps us see what needs improvement and makes sure that no one is left out in the cold when it comes time for the next round of reporting.”

Put Your Reporting on Autopilot with Databox

We know, it’s hard to make a change. Especially when you’ve thought out a process from top to bottom, even if it has a few shortcomings. You’ve already learned how to make the most out of your spreadsheets and got really fast at copying and pasting pie charts.

But what if your process can instantly become more efficient? Take up less time and effort? Without disrupting your workflow?

You might be worried that the transition will take time. But we guarantee it’ll take way less time than your next spreadsheet report that you need to populate manually.

Ease your way into a new, game-changing performance reporting process with Databox.

The only thing you will need to do manually is to recommend the next steps based on your report, which would:

  • Be automatically generated at whatever time you want.
  • Have dynamic elements that ensure your data is up-to-date.
  • Be automatically sent to anyone who needs to see them.
  • Export the report if you need it for a meeting or presentation

Ready to tell more compelling stories with your data, boost your team’s performance, and save your time in the process? Sign up for a forever-free plan 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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