If you’re here now, hopefully you’ve also been following along with our other recent blog posts dedicated to the previous stages of the strategy reporting process:
The last step in the process is to build reports for the right audiences (which we cover in this post) and distribute the information into the hands of decision makers, who will react to the data. Keep reading to find out what you can do to ensure everyone has the information they need when they need it, and how best to simplify information sharing.
Most organizations have a constant flow of communication, whether it’s communication with external parties, internal corporate information sharing, or messages about strategy. Your strategy reports need to stand out from the noise because they are so crucial for decision making.
How can you get them the attention they deserve? One way to separate your strategy reports from other types of communication is to make them visually distinctive. Include a cover page, custom headers and footers, and organizational logos and colors. Attractive reports aren’t necessarily the norm, so the more appealing you can make them look, the better.
You may also choose, for instance, to design the Board report using a red theme, the Executive report a blue theme, and the Finance report a green theme. Then, at first glance on the report title page, the viewer knows what to look forward to and what “hat” to wear when reviewing the information.
Another way to encourage people to view your report is to send it in the right format for your audience. Reports can be formatted in a variety of ways; distribution may look different depending on the report. Briefing Books are a common format; these are clickable PDF reports that can be viewed both on and offline. But some recipients may need an HTML version, which you can link to or embed on your site. Still others might simply want a printed copy. Find out what format (or formats) your audiences prefer and streamline the process accordingly. Then let people know where to find the information.
A final tip to boost recognition: Send your reports to recipients on a consistent timetable. They should be distributed, along with recommended action plans, in advance of every strategy meeting. “Training” participants to be on the lookout for your communication each cycle will ensure your messages are well received.
The distribution stage effectively brings each strategy reporting cycle to a strong close—that means giving decision-makers a consistent, simple, and timely way to access relevant performance data. But this step, which could easily become an afterthought, has the potential to wreak havoc on your strategy meetings if not done right. It can also add significantly to your strategy team’s workload unless you take steps to automate the process.
Some of the issues organizations tend to run into when it comes to distributing their reports are:
The bottom line: It’s important to gain control over this stage to avoid having management meetings turn into debate sessions about the numbers rather than informing crucial decisions. The last thing you want is for leadership meetings to feel like an expensive waste of time.
To overcome these challenges, consider implementing the best practices below. We also make note of how ClearPoint strategy reporting software can help streamline and simplify distribution (as well as the other phases of reporting) to reduce your workload, and promote sharing and readability of this crucial data.
We recommend that you choose a main data platform (like ClearPoint or a similar strategy reporting software) where all your strategic information “lives.” This makes it easier to create the different report formats you need. For example, when users update data in ClearPoint, it updates everywhere—in every report where that data appears. ClearPoint also allows you to export reports in many formats including Excel, PDF, PPT, and HTML web pages.
Automation has two benefits: It reduces the amount of time your strategy team spends on distribution. It also improves the accuracy of the information—the fewer people there are touching a report, the fewer chances for error.
If you’re using ClearPoint as your strategy information hub, the system can automatically generate reports each month (or each quarter) to be used in strategy meetings and even send them to meeting attendees on a specified schedule. That way, everyone always has the information they need, when they need it.
Templates allow you to save the layout of a report and use it to create standardized reports. ClearPoint makes it easy to choose the measures and layout for report templates; you can also include your organization’s branding/colors, standard headers and footers, and cover pages. So there’s no need for you to create new reports each cycle; simply set up the various reports you want for each audience once, and turn it into a template for future use.
When you don’t have help from the software that you use, keeping your document versions in order can be difficult, especially if you’re using spreadsheets that are passed from person to person. To help with organization, put the date the document is created or revised on the first page of your reports.
ClearPoint automates the addition of timestamps. You can also establish view-only users to keep your reports password-protected, only granting access to certain sections of the account as needed. You can even track changes—and undo them if necessary.
The management reporting cycle doesn’t end with report creation; if you don’t have an effective way to get those reports into the hands of decision-makers, your efforts are for nothing. The best-run organizations have systems and tools in place to handle information sharing seamlessly.
To see how you can produce and distribute more accurate reports with ClearPoint—and spend less time on the process to boot—schedule a demo of our software. We’d love to show you around!