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Why Consistency Matters In Management Reporting (& How To Get There)
Is your management reporting style detracting from more valuable strategic discussions? Here's how consistency can help.
Have you ever been to a meeting where you’re reviewing information for the first time? Even though it’s the report for your department or division, it’s formatted in a way you haven’t seen before. It can be disorienting, but you adjust and get used to it. The challenge gets a lot bigger if the data is presented differently every time you meet. Maybe next time you look at a rolling average of the same information, or calendar year-to-date averages versus fiscal year-to-date sums.
For management reporting to be effective, information should be presented in a consistent way. Leadership teams will learn to understand the information, discuss it, and make effective decisions based on what they see. This repetitive approach allows teams to move beyond understanding the data and begin interacting with the information.
Consistency goes beyond the report itself.
On the back side of updating reports is the challenge of gathering information to actually build the reports. If the consolidated report has new charts and new calculations each month or quarter, it means that you need to collect the information again, in a new way, each month or quarter. This process can be time consuming and fraught with errors.
Further, if you don’t have a reporting calendar, you might be giving your data analyst seven days to gather the information one quarter and eight hours the next quarter. People cannot plan their time around inconsistent deadlines and will tune out the reporting process because it becomes too hard to manage. We’ll teach you how to avoid all of these challenges—here are some tips to create a consistent reporting process and deliver the results your leadership team expects and needs to become effective at executing strategy.
Need to fix your management reports? Download our All-Inclusive Management Reporting Guide.
Consistent reporting elements will elevate conversations.
By keeping the below aspects of management reporting consistent, your meeting discussions will start on a strategic level (where they should be):
Standardize your charts to head off any debates about design or style. When charts use the same colors, have uniform definitions, and keep data series in the same order, it’s easy to compare and consume data. Also, nice, clean visuals are appealing and professional-looking.
With ClearPoint, you can create custom charts by using your company colors, choosing specific chart types, etc. You can also set default charts to ensure everyone uses the same charts for the same type of information across different measures.
The summary report layout must tell a story, and tell the same story every time. Choosing a consistent layout helps others understand and absorb a report quickly because they instantly know where to focus their attention. Challenges, takeaways, and data that needs to be emphasized will be displayed in the same manner each month, helping your team read the story the report’s trying to tell.
ClearPoint offers several report templates that can be used by everyone in your organization. Your management reports will always have the same layout, yet customized with information pertinent to each department.
- RAG Status Icons
What does a yellow status indicator mean? Is an up arrow good or bad? It’s critical to keep RAG icons consistent to aid quick comprehension. Otherwise, it’s likely that all your conversations will start with, “What do your icons mean?” (That was the case for a ClearPoint client who was originally reporting with Excel.) Consistent RAG icons eliminate the need to ask that question and encourages readers to focus on strategy instead.
Anyone in your ClearPoint account can use the software’s existing icons or add custom icons. You also have the ability to set usage rules so icons are applied consistently by your organization in different situations.
When unclear or vague language is used in meetings, confusion quickly follows. Using consistent terminology will ensure everyone is on the same page when discussing a report, especially when acronyms are at play. It will also be much easier to manage and compare your reports to one another.
ClearPoint allows you to customize all the language in your account, and then applies consistency to those customizations. For example, if you call your measures “metrics,” they will be called metrics across the organization so there’s never any confusion about the term.
- Briefing Books
A briefing book contains the reports from all other departments and initiatives—in essence, it is the master management report. Each report within the book should already have the consistent elements previously discussed, such as charts, layouts, etc. The briefing book itself should have standardized sections, table of contents, page number locations, and more. This will make it quick to find information in what’s likely a large document.
ClearPoint’s briefing books are templated. You simply need to pull the monthly management report template and it will look exactly the way it did the previous month, but updated with new data.
- Reporting Calendar
It’s important to set expectations far in advance of a reporting process. Start with the management meeting and work backward: send out a read-ahead document 1-2 days before the meeting; update your objectives, measures, and projects 2-3 days before that. If everyone understands when information is due, you’ll ensure that your updates are on time and late information won’t be tolerated.
ClearPoint has reminder templates, so that you can consistently ask for updates. All owners will get customized emails with only their information.
Good management reporting software promotes consistency.
The value of a good management reporting system can’t be overstated. Management reporting software helps automate and streamline report creation, shifting your time to analysis and strategy instead. Software should include templates that allow your team to easily create the same reports each month, so people can quickly drop in the information they need to contribute. There’s also no need to worry about inconsistent formatting from one person to the next.
A final takeaway
Consistent management reporting facilitates meaningful strategy discussions. Don’t get bogged down in meetings with minutiae—foster a forward-thinking culture at your organization by taking a methodical approach to reporting.
Learn more about how ClearPoint makes it easy to implement these management reporting best practices. Our software is built to offer flexible customization without sacrificing consistency.