Business reports provide an effective way of communicating complicated, in-depth material. They’re a means of relaying graphs, pictures and other visuals, as well as associated written copy, to illustrate the points you want to make. Plus, reports form a record of a business' development.
Types of business report
There are many types of business reports often used by organizations across all markets. Here are a few:
- Analytical reports – Useful when analyzing how well your business is doing, or if you're trying to get to the bottom of why your sales have decreased. The report can include sales data, financial results and successful strategies like a recent radio ad campaign. It can also include your conclusions as to the cause of the issue you're looking into.
- Feasibility report – This can be used to assess whether a new venture is a viable option. For instance entering a new market, expanding a business or a new investment opportunity. The data gathered from the research is presented in various formats in the report, with a conclusion. The report can be produced by research experts, which could give the report more detail, depth of knowledge and integrity.
- Progress report – Whether you're reporting to a client or a director, this kind of report is to provide an update on how a project is progressing. Let's say you're building a new website for a client; your progress reports would include information on how far you've come, any issues or delays that you've had to overcome and what you plan to do next.
- Conference report – If you've been on a training course or to a conference, you might be asked to write up a report detailing what happened, what you've learned, and what you plan to do with the new information.
The purpose of the report
You need to be clear on the report's goal before you start working on it. If you're trying to persuade someone, you'll need to include information that backs up your argument or request. If you just want to share facts and figures, you don't need to use those tactics. Basically, the purpose of the report influences its format, structure and contents – hence the need to think about this before you type a single word.
Think about the report's readers
Before you write a report, think about who you're writing it for. If it's for senior management and board members, you need to include information that's relevant to them as experienced decision makers. If it's for general staff, the format and contents will need to be more suited to a broader audience who might may only have a few minutes to scan-read it.
If the report is aimed at an external readership, think carefully about what information you want to release beyond your company walls. Some information might be too sensitive to share for instance.
Also, if the reader has requested certain information – an investor, a funding provider or a regulatory body for instance – make sure you've fulfilled the required criteria for the report.
The pros of a business report
Business reports are an efficient, convenient way of communicating important information. They can be used as tools for measuring progress, monitoring growth, tracking problems, evaluating performance, and finding solutions.
The cons of a business report
Creating and distributing a business report unfortunately comes with a few drawbacks. Unlike delivering news or information in a face-to-face meeting or presentation, the business report doesn’t provide the reader with the opportunity to ask questions or give feedback. It's not interactive, and it can also be open to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Also, whoever is creating the business report can produce biased messaging, potentially providing people with potentially misleading information. Always check the sources of a report before drawing your own conclusions.