Here’s everything you need to know to create a first-rate business strategy report.
If you haven’t followed this process, be aware you could run into a number of problems at the report-writing stage, like not having enough data to support decision-making, an absence of accountability over performance data, or conflicting data from different departments. But if you have followed this process, you’re good to go—and all that’s left to do is compile your analysis and distribute it to the relevant parties, where it will be the basis of discussion at the strategy review meeting.
So, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of how to write a business strategy report (aka a briefing book) and identify a few best practices associated with the task.
There’s no “one size fits all” strategy report—accurate report generation requires you to know your audience. You likely have a large amount of insightful data, but not everyone needs or wants to see all of it; nor will everyone necessarily be viewing the same data sets. Your management team, executive team, and board of directors will all be looking for different levels of data. For example, the executive team will want to see what progress has been made toward the organization’s goals and any areas where progress is off track, and a Project Management Office might just want to look at project status and details of executing the key milestones.
Here are the components of a sample strategic report:
This reminds your review team of the overall objectives, or goals, and helps put the information in context.
Next, show data around the measures that support those goals. Include a chart—or grids, color-coded icons, heat maps, dashboards, etc.—that shows the latest performance data, along with a target to help readers visualize progress toward that goal. If you can link data points and efforts to objectives, all the better.
Include some qualitative analysis provided by the person who is closest to the data. Why are you in danger of missing a target? Was it due to something beyond, or within, your control? Qualitative data helps readers determine whether or not additional help is required to reach the target.
The individual closest to the data (the “measure owner”) should make a recommendation of what to do next. This could be to continue on the same track, make an adjustment of some sort, bring in additional resources, or prepare for missing the target.
Depending on the audience, you may want to include information about what you’re working on to achieve the goals—these are your projects (also known as initiatives). Provide high-level information about timelines, percent complete, spending, and milestones.
Over the course of the strategy review meeting, you need to capture any decisions or action items. The resulting tasks should have clear deliverables that express what should be accomplished and the due date of when the owner should complete the action item. For future management reports, you’ll start with this list of action items from the previous meeting.
To make sure your reports continue to be effective, month after month:
Keep it simple. Only include the most important data that is relevant to your audience, but make sure your reports allow readers to drill down to supporting data should they want further explanation.
Provide context. Quantitative data is great, but also include qualitative data—the stories that provide context around why the data is what it is.
Make it pretty. Branding and attractive formatting go a long way in making your report look professional, especially if you’re delivering it to a board or executive team. (Trust us—they’ll notice.)
Automate as much of the process as possible. ClearPoint strategy reporting software automatically generates reports and even distributes them ahead of your scheduled meetings, so attendees can familiarize themselves with what will be discussed.
Remember, strategy meetings are only as good as the reports that precede them! A good report calls attention to problems, celebrates wins, and keeps meetings on track to be productive. So it’s crucial to be thoughtful about the components of your report(s) and the audience(s) you’re tailoring them to, as well as how to gather the right data to include for each.
After building your initial set of reports, it’s equally important to find a way to create all future reports quickly and easily. ClearPoint users can produce consistent, attractive, and accurate monthly reports with just a few clicks. It also allows you to create reports that show linkages between your projects and goals so everyone can see how the various components fit together.