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Wondering how to prepare a management report? First things first, ask yourself: who is this report for? Our recent original research about business reporting showed that more than half of the companies restrict report availability to managers and above.
The fact of the matter is that there are different needs for reports at different management levels. A Sales Director, for example, requires different reports than a Sales Team Leader.
Essentially, different management positions have unique roles and responsibilities. And, since the foundational role of reporting is to give a quick, eagle-eye overview to target readers, reporting needs at different management levels vary.
In this post, we’ll dive deeper into how to prepare management reports for folks at different levels of management. As always, we’ll give you the industry insider look at how others are creating their reports based on information we learned from 31 expert contributors.
Of these, 35.48% come from agencies (marketing, digital, or media), 35.48% are in the B2C services or products field, and the remaining 29.03% work in B2B services or products.
So here’s everything that you’ll learn:
We’ve already established how reporting to management varies based on who you’re talking about. So let’s kick off this section with the meaty details: who reads the most business reports in different departments?
It turns out Managers review most reports in marketing. In sales, Directors do the same. In the finance department though, the C-level review reports the most. The least reported department? HR with 17.24% of respondents sharing they don’t report to HR.
With that, let’s walk you through the three levels of management and their reporting needs:
This level includes people in director-level positions such as the Finance Director, Vice President of Marketing, Production Director, and so on.
As their position’s title suggests, their role covers supervising policies at a high level. This means their primary areas of interest are:
To make their job easier, quarterly and/or monthly reports briefly sum up key areas of operating performance.
The content can go beyond reporting KPIs though. For example, at QuickEmailVerification, Mayank Batavia shares, “While reporting to the C-level, our reports carry some future outlook scenario.”
“That helps us verify if our efforts match the long-term vision of the top brass. In turn, that helps us drill down to a more tactical, execution-level without leaving any major gaps,” Batavia explains. “Besides, this approach widens the way we approach business.”
This level of management includes departmental heads – say the Head of Content Marketing, Production Head, Sales Head, and more.
Their responsibilities? To be the bridge that ensures all policies approved by top management are executed. In their role as coordinating executives, the middle management:
Reports created for them should help them with their role – containing details they’re responsible for supervising.
That said, reports going out to this level are spaced out at shorter intervals than the top management. For instance, they need weekly or fortnightly reports to ensure things are being properly executed.
Sales happen every day, and if you have an active sales team, they’re busy setting up appointments, making calls, creating and nurturing deals, and closing them to generate new revenue. It’s your job to monitor their performance and work with your team to improve it. To do that, you need up-to-the-minute information at your fingertips, including:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our sales experts, who have put together a great Databox template showing all the most important KPIs for your sales team’s performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in sales reports, and best of all, it’s free!
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Junior management includes folks like Supervisors and Foreman who require daily reports. Again, reports for them should make their job easy by showing them progress on projects under their control on an almost daily basis.
For instance, a Sales Supervisor would want to keep track of leads outreached, orders booked, credit outstanding, and so on.
In a nutshell, it helps to remember that “lower levels of management need longer, more detailed reports whereas higher levels of management prefer short summaries,” in the words of Dean Kaplan from Kaplan Collection Agency.
“Lower levels are concerned with the execution of the work and need details to help them to increase their operating efficiency.”
On the flip side, “higher levels are more concerned with the strategy of the business as a whole and want to have a broad overview of each department. Hence when creating reports, keep the needs of your audience in mind and present the relevant facts clearly and objectively.”
The role of a management report is to organize and present business data in an easy-to-digest manner. The end goal? To not only give the reader an overview of what’s in progress and what’s working but also help them make more informed decisions.
So start with identifying data that is relevant to your reader – depending on their level of management.
From there, pick out (or agree upon with the management) important key performance indicators (KPIs) to add to your report. These KPIs will help tell managers how their concerned projects/campaigns are going.
That said, there are certain KPIs and metrics that you should always add to your management dashboards. We’ve discussed them in detail here but here’s the list:
When presenting all this data though, be sure to keep things readable. Here’s more on management reporting including tips to create easy-to-read reports and other best practices you need to follow.
With all that out of the way, the remaining question is: how do companies typically create their reports?
According to the majority of our respondents, 48% to be exact, their teams use reporting software that automatically collects data in one place. In doing so, it allows them to deliver reports in real-time dashboards and/or regularly occurring reports that show the KPIs.
Using the processes shared above, we learned that more than half of our respondents make 5-10 reports per month.
Essentially, management dashboards help present important KPIs on one screen. This way, the management can see all goals, metrics, action items, and KPIs in one place.
The best part: the tables, images, numerical data, and graphs on the dashboard make it incredibly easy to read. As a result, the data presented is more useful since it’s more widely understood.
Related: Reporting Strategy for Multiple Audiences: 6 Tips for Getting Started
Now that you know the reporting needs at different management levels and how to prepare a management report, let’s look at the best practices.
But, first, let’s make it clear: reporting to different levels takes different amounts of work. Of these, reporting to the C-level is the most demanding according to our respondents. This is followed by reporting to dedicated teams, managers, and directors.
Related: Executive Reporting: Management Reporting Best Practices & Report Examples
Now for the best practices to be mindful of when reporting to levels of management:
Admittedly, human error is all too common. On top of that, reporting to higher management can be challenging – taking up time and other resources.
As a solution, Wethrift’s Nick Drewe shares, “Using software to create customized reports is the best idea when reporting to different management levels.”
Their reasoning: “Because each authority might prioritize different metrics – software makes it easy to streamline reports and include only what matters most to each level.”
Says Drewe: “Reporting to separate levels doesn’t need to be a tedious task that takes a huge amount of work when there are so many digital solutions available that make real-time, ongoing report creation a breeze.”
“Using software solutions also gives you the ability to use templates and designs that communicate information in a way that best suits each different team,” adds Drewe. “What works for one might be unclear for another, and technology can help create multiple reports in a more time-efficient way.”
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“Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach,” notes Angela Bisig from 301 Digital Media “focus on creating reporting KPIs and dashboards with the relevant metrics and summaries for each level of management to which you’re reporting for a given campaign, program, or initiative.”
Office Consumer’s Denis Leskovets echoes the same. “It’s important to tailor your reports to the different levels of management, as well as to the type of information that is expected.”
“For example, if a manager is only interested in seeing how many sales have been made and what the current inventory is, you don’t want to send them a lengthy report that goes into every single detail of how those numbers were achieved.
On the other hand, if you are dealing with an executive who wants a comprehensive overview of every function in their business, you need to be prepared to provide them with the data they need — ideally in a format that will allow them to explore the data on their own.”
Sharing their management reporting example, Leskovets writes: “I always like to start by asking myself who I’m writing for and what they would want or need from this report. They usually need concise information that is relevant to their own objectives, and they need it fast.”
“I encourage my team to provide the bare minimum: a list of accomplishments for the week and a summary of anything that is taking up extra bandwidth and finally, I go out and find any data that might be relevant for their needs,” explains Leskovets.
“What I’ve seen work best with past clients when reporting to different management levels is getting a solid understanding of what each of their goals is then building reports that support those goals,” advises Adam Stahl of Remotish.
“Though their big picture company goals are the same, different management levels may have different parts to play and key performance indicators that they’re tracking in pursuit of those goals.”
“For example, while an individual marketing contributor may be interested in monitoring click-through rates of different visitor sources, their marketing manager may be focusing more on marketing qualified leads generated or revenue attribution,” Stahl explains.
“Ensuring that each of them has reports or dashboards that easily present the data they’re focusing on provides the most value from the reports as well as promotes greater use of the reporting tool.”
Not to mention, it makes creating reports easy and less time-consuming for you – all while delivering top-quality reports that make the manager’s job easy.
So consider starting with talking to your manager about their goals. It’s the best way to understand what their focus is on and how your reports can help them best.
Not to forget, a strong understanding of your reader’s goal helps you focus on the why – a hat tip to Matt Lally of MattyAds.
“Whether you’re communicating up the ladder or to your direct reports, the fundamentals are more important than the tactics.”
“Executives don’t have the time to care about the details, and junior workers don’t have the skillset to understand the details,” notes Lally. “To report to different levels, including management, focus yourself on the why.”
That said, once you know their goals, you can also focus on “choosing the right KPIs by considering what each management level needs to know most,” according to EasyLlama’s Samuel Devyver.
“The Head of Marketing will want to see different KPIs than the CEO, for example,” Devyver clarifies. “So put yourself into the manager’s shoes when you draft your report.”
Adds Devyver: “Generally, the higher the manager in the hierarchy, the broader the report data they need to make decisions. What data-driven questions need to be answered for the reader to inform their next moves? When you lead with this question, you’ll create useful reports at every management level.”
Related: Goals Based Reporting: Everything You Need to Know
A lot of readability issues surface from the technical jargon used in reports. It’s why Cliff Auerswald from All Reverse Mortgage Inc. suggests you “cut out the ‘management speak,’ no matter which level is reading the report.”
“Corporate language is used and overused, often when employees and managers are trying to make their data or statements sound more grand to impress upper management.”
Auerswald continues, “We need to focus on the data first and design all reports to management around the most effective way to communicate it.”
In short: “Avoid the instinct to impress, use plain language to convey your point, and then let the data speak for itself.”
The biggest benefit of this? The report is easily navigable.
Lee Wilson from Vertical Leap talks about it. “We use interactive reports that enable different levels of staff, and distinct roles to be able to gather unique insights specific to them and what they need.
We also simplify screens/dashboards and data down to make it easy for people to navigate to the parts of the reporting most relevant to them.”
“Reflecting the core audience types in sections such as overview and summary screens, also reduce the need for everyone to necessarily have to navigate the full reporting, as they can receive their headline stats from the outset,” observes Wilson.
“We also look to tailor reports to the meeting purpose as well as the bespoke needs of the customer, rather than sticking too strictly to a single reporting template.”
To recap, different levels of management have different reporting needs. From the depth of the report to its frequency, everything varies.
So it’s best to take the time to understand who your report’s reader is, what their goals are, and what KPIs do they want to track. Then, create reports that give them a quick overview of the progress made.
Of course, using reporting software makes all of this easy. Not only does it reduce room for error but helps you meet reporting needs at different management levels. For example, by creating unique dashboards for various management members.
So instead of wasting time putting together different reports for different managers, let Databox do the legwork.
All you have to do is to connect relevant data sources to our custom dashboard software. From there, Databox auto-generates data on one screen – presenting it all in a visually engaging and digestible manner.
Ready to simplify reporting to higher management? Sign up for Databox for free today.
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