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What Should Go In Your Monthly Management Report?
There are 10 things your monthly management reports shouldn’t be without. Find out what they are—and why you need them—here.
Organized and consistent monthly management reports help keep your organization’s strategy on track. And while it can take time and patience to get past common management reporting issues and perfect the process, getting to reporting nirvana makes it all worth it.
Your strategy management software is only as good as the company that offers it. Find out 29 questions you can ask a potential vendor to see if their software is right for you.
What Is A Management Report?
A management report is a collection of data and operational information from various business departments that is presented in an understandable way, allowing managers to make better-informed decisions. One question we’re asked regularly is what are the components of a solid and successful monthly management report—so to help out, we’ve recorded the top 10 elements you absolutely need. Whether you already have a defined report format but want to be sure you’ve covered your bases or you’re struggling to get your management reporting process going, this article should help.
What Should Go In Your Monthly Management Report?
Before you send out your monthly management reporting package, make sure each of your reports looks great and contains information to enable decision making across your organization. Each monthly management report should include:
1. A Branded Cover Page
You’d be amazed by how much more professional a branded cover will make your report look. Including your organization’s logo or seal takes the report’s appearance to the next level.
2. Mission, Vision, & Values
Mission, vision, and value statements define your organization and summarize your strategy at the highest possible level. If employees across all departments don’t know these statements, your strategy isn’t likely to catch on. Include them at the beginning of your report in order to reinforce your identity and overall strategy.
3. Table Of Contents
Your monthly report could be 20 pages or longer, which can make navigation difficult. By including a table of contents at the beginning of the report, you’ll make it easier for management to find the section they’re after quickly. If you’re using ClearPoint, keep in mind that your ClearPoint-generated reports have PDF navigation hyperlinks on every page so you can jump around your report without any hassle.
4. Organizational Scorecard Views
A good report contains all information your management team needs to make decisions. To make this easier for them, be sure to include a high-level overview of your organization or department scorecard. The information in this scorecard should be organized in the order that it will be read. For example, a Balanced Scorecard will typically start with the Financial perspective, followed by the Customer perspective, Internal perspective, and then Learning and Growth perspective. Briefly explain the status of each objective and its linked measures and initiatives so your management team gets the picture quickly.
5. Detailed Pages
Be sure to include at least one detail page dedicated to each of your objectives or strategic goals. As you move through your perspectives and discuss each objective during the monthly management meeting, you should navigate to this detail page and use it as a place to present pertinent information. Include a brief analysis, a few recommendations, and information on the supporting metrics or projects. If you find that your meetings result in management wanting to have more detailed discussions on these linked elements, it would be smart to include their detail pages as well.
Any solid report will include information on key performance indicators. Chart are the easiest way to quickly explain your quantitative performance as a snapshot—so be sure to include charts where you will be discussing your measures. If your charts have clear targets, are easy to read, and consistent throughout your report, you’ll have a happy leadership team.
7. High-Level Project Overviews
You don’t want your monthly report turning into a discussion on the nitty-gritty details of every project in the works. But it is important to review the projects driving your strategy. Therefore, you’ll want to include an overall status for each and all additional critical information, like percent complete and budget spent. Save the lengthy discussions on these topics for your project review meetings.
8. An Online Version Of The Report
Printed PDF reports are a go-to for some organizations—but if someone makes changes right before the meeting, that report becomes immediately outdated. By using a cloud-based software solution for your reports, you’ll know that the information your team is viewing contains the most up-to-date information possible. Additionally, if any small tweaks need to happen during the meeting, your software can facilitate that process without version control issues.
9. A Customized Time-Stamped Footer
You want to ensure everyone is viewing the same version of the document—and a good place to do that is in the footer. You’ll also want to include the name of the report, like “ABC Company monthly strategy report.” Some companies choose to include copyright information or confidentiality statements as well.
ClearPoint users, keep in mind you can create a password to gain access to your reports that contain highly-sensitive information as an added safeguard in securing your data.
10. A Place To Capture Action Items
The purpose of your monthly management report is to review your strategy and take action; so you need a place to capture action items and major decisions from your meetings. While this won’t be included directly in your report, online reporting solutions like ClearPoint provide a quick and easy way to add these details as they are defined. After the meeting ends, these items can be linked to the appropriate scorecard components and assigned out to the appropriate owners. In future meetings, be sure to start with a review of action items from previous meetings.
How To Onboard New Employees Into Your Reporting Process
If your report has all of these elements, that's great! Of course, it doesn't matter what is in your report if the people you're sending it to don't know how to interpret it or how they contribute to it.
When a new team member begins, there are plenty of new systems and processes they’ll need to learn. If they come in regular contact with your reporting—say, if they’ll be gathering or inputting data into your reporting software—onboarding will be easier if you have a system in place for introducing new employees to your reporting process.
The system we recommend has been broken down into four simple steps below; take a look!
Step 1: Explain how reporting fits into your strategic plan.
Your new hires need to understand that reporting isn’t something you take lightly; it’s not just a task, but an integral part of achieving company goals. Without this knowledge, it can be easy for them to become entrenched in your reporting processes and lose sight of the larger goal. We recommend explaining it like this:
Management reporting helps us measure our company’s performance and enables our leadership to make intelligent, performance-enhancing decisions based on our long-term strategy.
We also suggest you walk your new hires through several examples that highlight the impact your reporting has previously had on your organization, or examples of when your reporting led to a positive change taking place. Take the city of Arvada, Colorado as an example. As Jefferson County—the county Arvada is located in—began to grow, local government officials determined that the creation of one regional emergency dispatch center would benefit citizens. Arvada city officials convinced other neighboring cities to commit to tracking information important to the regional dispatch center using ClearPoint’s reporting software, so that countywide project data could be accessed in one central location. This decision made the county’s emergency service implementation efforts more efficient, and ongoing countywide collaboration using ClearPoint has helped ensure that the emergency services offered to citizens are consistent and effective.
Step 2: Provide context around the new hire’s specific role in your reporting.
Let’s say your new hire will be tasked with gathering data from all measure and project owners and compiling it into monthly management reports. Now that this individual understands why reporting in your company is important, they need to gain a better understanding as to why their particular role in the reporting process is important. For example, you’ve spent a lot of time deciding on the objectives and measures to include in your reports. Having complete data is essential to decision making, and your new hire’s role is to make sure that data is ready to go when it’s time for the report. Make sure they know where the data is going, who is going to be reading the report, and that decisions will be based on the data they provide.
Step 3: Give the new hire a tour of your reporting software.
Technology can, at times, be a roadblock for new employees, so we recommend setting time aside to give them a tour of your reporting software.
Once you’ve walked through the basics, don’t forget to point them toward the software’s Support Center. ClearPoint, for example, offers videos on navigating the software, updating charts, adding measures, making edits and updates, exporting reports, and much more. Additionally, it offers hundreds of helpful articles organized by topic, like articles on how to design your summary report or how to share your results.
Additionally, check to see if your reporting software offers a “Getting Started Guide” that highlights the most important elements of the software a new hire will need to know about. These resources will be indispensable as they get started in their new role.
Step 4: Set up reporting reminders for the new hire.
At this point, your new employee understands why your organization cares about reporting and the impact their particular role has on the company. They can also find their way around the software. But even with the background they now have, it can be extremely helpful to get reporting reminders in the first few weeks and months. For example, ClearPoint allows you to set up emails reminding designated employees to make updates in the reporting software by a certain date. It also allows the new hire to set up notifications if, for example, one of the measures they have ownership over turns red.
19 Tips From Reporting Superheroes
Just in case the tips we already provided weren't enough, we compiled a list of tips that cover your entire management reporting process. The experts below have worked with many organizations to improve their reporting.
Getting Started With Your Reporting Process
1. First and foremost, define your reporting process. Everyone in your organization should be on the same page before the reporting process begins. You should have a policy document (this can be simple or complex depending on your organization). The document would define roles, responsibilities, the reporting calendar, and rules for evaluation and analysis. Ted Jackson, Co-Founder of ClearPoint Strategy
2. Centralize reporting to avoid duplication. Make sure multiple people are not working on similar analyses. This can be particularly tricky if you’re working on reporting through Excel, because there isn’t a good way to handle version control. To remedy this issue, you may want to consider moving from Excel to reporting software. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation
3. Be consistent in your reporting timeline. You should always set a “data deadline,” and enforce it across all departments. If you allow reports to be turned in late, then you are ensuring a frenzied process where everyone is scrambling to gather data. To avoid this recipe for disaster, set simple and strict deadlines, and stick to your guns. Dylan Miyake, Co-Founder of ClearPoint Strategy
4. Send out pre-reads. As we learned in this article, surprises are great for birthdays––but not for reporting. Distributing your slides or data early will help prepare your team for what they will be seeing. Trust me––upper management isn’t going to want to hear about a significant drop in leads or a missed earnings reports in front of other executives (without being prepared for how to handle the situation). Ted Jackson, Co-Founder of ClearPoint Strategy
During The Reporting Process
5. Be consistent with your reporting structure. Intricate, difficult-to-read charts are not impressive––they’re annoying. No manager wants to spend an inordinate amount of time interpreting a chart. Do your best to present the same fields for all measures to ensure consistency. Joseph Lucco, Customer Support Manager of ClearPoint Strategy
6. Have clear accountability. One person should ultimately be responsible for what is missing. If Tom doesn’t show up to the meeting with the correct version of the report, Tom should be held accountable––not the last person he sent it to for revisions. Ted Jackson, Co-Founder of ClearPoint Strategy
7. Define what matters before you define measurements. When it comes to reporting, if you want to be terrific, you've got to be specific. Be specific about what your customers care about and how you can measure it. Do not provide reporting or measurement on something just because it's easy to measure. Tom Cooper, Principal Geek at BrightHill Group
8. Avoid offline manipulation of data. If you pull data from a system that is not accurate and then have an individual make it accurate, it will cost you in the long-term. Take the time to get your source data accurate. Joseph Lucco, Customer Support Manager of ClearPoint Strategy
9. Designate an unbiased facilitator. Assigning someone who is not vested in outcomes will help keep you on track and making decisions. Avoid swirling and posturing in meetings because you cannot seem to move past specific topics. Dylan Miyake, Co-Founder of ClearPoint Strategy
10. Maintain consistency in your reporting. The more consistent, the better. With that, you can assess changes and fluctuations over time. When reporting is consistent and predictable, it is easier to rely on it for business decisions. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation
11. Create consistent and understandable RAG rules. “Red, Amber, Green” rules can help your team assess and manage high, medium, and low performance. These should be made clear to everyone. Be sure there is no manipulation of the status indicators each time. 90% can be green for some measures and red for others, but be sure everyone knows the rules and how they apply. Joseph Lucco, Customer Support Manager of ClearPoint Strategy
12. Take full advantage of exception reporting. It's often beneficial to have reports that are only designed to draw your attention to significant differences (either positive or negative). Retail store owners, for example, may want to see only stores who generated profits 30% above average for the weekly period, or 20% below. By focusing on these outliers, you can quickly determine where your time is most wisely spent (like trying to figure out what was responsible for the increase in the best stores). Shawn Veltman, Strategic Lead of Peritas Solutions
Sharing Your Reports
13. Present your findings—don't just send them. Even if you can only schedule a five-minute phone conversation, presenting your data or reports will solicit solid discussion and feedback. As a result, your reports will become more relevant. This is particularly relevant if your organization only meets for a more lengthy discussion only a few times each year. Chris Grant, Director of Analytics at Enlighten
14. Define a purpose for your meeting. If you are just meeting to go through the motion of reviewing reports, it’s time to make a change. Every meeting should have a clearly-defined (and understood) purpose. When your meeting comes to a close, schedule a “check-in” to be sure you’ve accomplished what you wanted. Dylan Miyake, Co-Founder of ClearPoint Strategy
15. Have the right people attend the meeting. This is a simple concept, but it is overlooked frequently. If you think you will have questions about a project that you’d like to cover during a meeting, a project manager should be in attendance. Similarly, if you’ll be making a decision during a meeting (or need to discuss an important decision for the future), make sure the key people are there. Ted Jackson, Co-Founder of ClearPoint Strategy
Evaluating Your Data & Reports
16. Be certain the report holds decision-making value. If your report just looks impressive, but isn’t really functionable, understand that it’s a “vanity analytic”––and it’s useless. When your team looks at a report, you should know within 10 seconds whether everything is performing up to expectations. It's often necessary to restructure your reports (especially if they're long-standing) to match the information you really need. Shawn Veltman, Strategic Lead of Peritas Solutions
17. Perform regular quality checks. This is especially important if you're using Excel or Google Sheets instead of a dedicated business intelligence system. Many companies find that existing spreadsheet reporting sheets accrue errors introduced to them over time, often by well-meaning employees who make changes to some areas of the sheet. The longer the sheet has been around, the more likely it is that it's had some errors introduced, so take the time to ensure that all the numbers are true. Shawn Veltman, Strategic Lead of Peritas Solutions
18. Be specific about the reports that are useful. Spending time on reports that are not valuable can be a waste and can lead to feelings of wasted time. No leader wants team members to waste time, and team members do not like to do reports that are not needed for the betterment of the business. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation
19. Be open to what the data means––and what it doesn’t. Confusing counting creates confused customers. For example, if your company has successfully installed antivirus software for a customer on 90% of the “targeted machines”, they may think that sounds pretty great. That is, until they find out that only 10 of them were targeted––leaving 9,991 out of 10,000 of them without antivirus protection. Not only should you focus on gathering data, but you should be able to correctly interpret what it means and fully understand what might be misleading about it. Tom Cooper, Principal Geek at BrightHill Group
Did you know you can do all of these things in ClearPoint?
Schedule time today to talk with our team and learn how. You'll be the reporting superhero at your organization in no time, we promise.