Workbench Blog

Implementing an effective reporting strategy

[fa icon="calendar"] 23-Jan-2017 14:38:08 / by Justin Gardner

Justin Gardner

Business Intelligence.jpg

 

Why do I need a reporting strategy?

 

These day’s business decisions are increasingly being driven by data.

The collecting of data and the analysis of this data for specific trends / conditions within your business can alert you of problems so that you can take action promptly and effectively. Being able to identify and address problems early is key to running a successful business. Likewise being able to identify what makes your business successful is just as important, if you can identify and focus on your strengths you are more likely to succeed and less likely to have problems.

Without an effective reporting strategy in place you are essentially flying blind as a business and this is never a comfortable position to be in nor is it conducive to building a successful business.

 

Where do I start?

Data Capture

The first thing you need to do is collect sensible data that will support the analysis you wish to do over your business.

For example you may be a business that specialises in selling time, maybe you’re an engineering business selling the time of your engineers. The first thing you need to identify is the key driver of your business. In this case it will be time and more specifically chargeable hours.

 

Implement a strategy which gives you the management information you need

To understand the effectiveness of the hours charged a good start point would be to do the following :

  1. Implement some basic job costing so that you can allocate time to different clients / jobs / deliverables within a day.
  2. Implement some basic budgeting against jobs.
  3. Capture Timesheets for all staff. The timesheet should show hours booked to different jobs and indicate whether that time is chargeable or not.
  4. Identify some basic rates e.g. Cost and Sell and associate this with the timesheet hours.

 

Identify - Key Performance Indicators

This is an area that I find is often misunderstood by a lot of people.

In the many years I have been consulting time and time again when reviewing reporting requirements with Clients the response is often the same “Give me a report that shows me the profits by Job”. Unfortunately for a lot of businesses that is the start and the end of their analysis, sure you may be able to see Profits by Job but it is a very one dimensional view of your business.

A more rounded approach would be to implement some key reports around the primary elements of your business in this case lets identify them as :

  • Clients
  • Jobs
  • Employees

Now with these 3 elements identified we can identify some Key Performance Indicators for each area.

 

Client Analysis :

  • % of total Revenue and Profits
  • Hours charged vs Hours billed

From the above 2 reports we can identify the importance of each client by reporting their % contribution to Total Revenue and Profit. We can also understand if we have to spend extra time servicing particular clients that we cannot charge for. This will allow us to make decisions when targeting work or identifying problem clients.

 

Jobs :

  • Job Summary – Hours, Budget, Costs, Invoiced, Profit etc

A good Job Summary report will summarise the current position of the job in an easy to understand format. It will allow you to review all of the current business activity quickly and highlight any problem jobs for further investigation.

 

Employees :

  • Productivity by person – Hours worked vs hours charged.

Productivity reporting helps us understand our work force. Who is charging the most time, Who is charging the least time? Then we can ask questions to understand the problem and implement improvements. E.g. a lack of training means people are not able to work effectively resulting in a high proportion of uncharged hours.

 

Develop a Reporting Plan

“Reports on their own have no value”…… Interesting statement but if you think about it very true. Understanding and acting on the information is where you get value out of a report. A report that no one understands or that is never looked at does not contribute anything to your business therefore it has no value.

 

Timeframes :

Depending on the size and scale of your business you should implement some formal guidelines for reporting so that people know what information to look at and when. This may incorporate a management sign off as part of this process.

If we used the reports we identified above as an example a reporting plan may look like this :

Weekly

Fortnightly

Monthly

Quarterly

Annually

Job Summary

Productivity

Job Report

Client Reports

Client Reports

 

 

Productivity Report

 

Job Report

 

 

 

 

Productivity Report

 

Report Definitions :

You should have a definition of what is presented in your reports and this should be accessible to all people who use the reports. It is important that everyone understands the date being presented to them so that the results are interpreted correctly.

 

Action Plan :

Once you have reviewed your reports you should have an action plan in place for dealing with any identified issues.

 

Where to from here?

If you have implemented all of the above well done you have now got an effective mechanism in place to help you monitor the performance of your business. In future blogs we will talk about how you can take your reporting to another level through implementing :

  • Exception style reports
  • Proactive Reporting Strategies using condition based alerts
  • Management Dashboards.

If you are interested in our reporting solutions then please review the demo below. 

Click here for demo

 

Topics: Cost Management, Reporting, Business Intelligence, Sharperlight

Justin Gardner

Written by Justin Gardner

Senior Workbench Consultant based in Melbourne Australia.