Fix Your Reporting Process First, Then Pick Your Software


Many organizations think the right software will fix everything. Wouldn’t it be nice if some system existed that was the silver bullet you’ve been looking for? Unfortunately, that’s not how technology works. Software is a tool to help you fix different areas of your organization, but no platform—not even ClearPoint—can solve all your problems by simply turning it “on.”

There’s nothing out there that will help you reach your strategic goals if you haven’t established clear reporting processes first. Here’s how to clean up your approach so you can get the most benefit from a new software system. Click To Tweet

This is also true for management reporting software. There’s nothing out there that will help you reach your strategic goals if you haven’t established clear reporting processes first. Here’s how to clean up your approach so you can get the most benefit from a new software system.

Fix (or define) your reporting elements.

You’re now at the point where you know something’s wrong with, or missing from, your management reporting process. Perhaps you have a strategic plan and good reporting processes in place, but are using tools—whether Excel, PowerPoint, or another software—you’ve outgrown. Or maybe you’ve just finished your strategic plan, but have no way to manage it and are asking, “What is a reporting system?”

However an organization manages its reporting, we like to say, “process first.” Your quickest path to success is to iron out these important reporting elements before you sign up for new software:

Roles And Responsibilities

Define the roles and responsibilities of the people involved with the reporting process, not just the project. Don’t use titles alone—name specific individuals when identifying roles and outline the reporting responsibilities of each person. Include the executive team that’s being reported to, the core team building the reports and managing the reporting software, the individuals in charge of reporting on their department’s initiatives, etc.

Measures And Goals

One of the most critical parts of the management reporting process is to ensure your strategic measures and goals are properly reflected. Determine who is responsible for setting targets and the process for target setting, as well as how you’ll report on metrics at various levels of your organization (executive, department, division, etc.).

Calendar

Your process should include a consistent reporting calendar and cadence. If you’re reporting monthly, what day does everyone have to submit information? When does the project manager, or administrator, review the information? What’s the deadline to make changes to information after it’s been submitted? When are the meetings held, and who should attend them? Answer all these questions and, most importantly, highlight on your calendar the days you create reports. Then, enforce them.

Meetings

Similar to your reporting calendar, meetings should be consistent and predictable. Determine when your meetings should occur and how many you should have for each level of the organization. Identify who should attend each meeting, the content (including agendas), and expected outcomes. Standardizing the process around meetings in this way will help ensure they are productive and useful.

Software Governance

Don’t forget to create processes around the management reporting software itself. You’ll need to decide which metrics to track from the strategic plan and how to keep information within the system separate—for example, to cleanly divide strategic and operational reports. It’s also wise to determine where you’ll archive metrics you’re no longer reporting on.

There’s much more that goes into the nuts and bolts of management reporting. Learn more best practices in this all-inclusive guide.

What if your reporting process gets too complicated?

It’s valid to worry about creating processes that become too convoluted or complex. It happens and can derail your best efforts. The key is to document all your reporting activities.

Documentation provides context for how the processes were created and why. If an employee leaves, there is no knowledge lost and a new hire can be properly trained on the reporting processes without having to wing it, which would lead to new, aberrant versions.

Process documentation also explains the logic behind measures to be discussed by senior leadership, and how new measures can be added to a report. This is an effective way to contain the “scope” of your reports. For example, if an executive asks for a new report or measure, there is clear language outlining why that report or measure is not included (or has been archived).

As your reporting process changes—which it inevitably will—be sure to update your documentation so everyone can access the latest, most refined version.

Better reporting processes will pay off.

Defining or fixing your processes may seem like a lot of work, but improving from mediocre to excellent reporting will make a big difference to your organization. For one, it won’t feel like a struggle every time you pull a report. Plus, the information in the reports will be reviewed and discussed continually, instead of just at annual executive meetings.

When your management reporting process is smooth, you remove barriers to finding information and people can make decisions based on up-to-date, accurate data instead of assumptions. It’s worth your time and effort to make these fixes, and then you can get the full benefit of a system like ClearPoint. A defined process and great software combine to be your silver bullet.

Download: The All-Inclusive Management Reporting Guide