All managers want reports at varying frequency or even ad hoc. The question is why do they need these reports? I feel it is for anyone of the below reasons
- They need them for decision making. This is mostly analysis of the past data or a report predicting the future based on various options.
- To give them an understanding on the working of a process. Are the key metrics being tracked, maintained within agreeable limits?
- Understanding the overall status of the project, how is it progressing against a timeline are there any risks or bumps ahead that can derail the project.
Most of these reports are expected to be done by subordinates and most subordinates find it hard to build these reports and end up spending hours if not days doing these reports, taking them away from crucial operational issues that might require their attention.
When managers request for reports they need to carefully consider the following
- Are the current systems and processes tracking the information necessary to produce the report?
- If the information is tracked, is it credible and cannot be tampered with?
- How long does it take to extract the information and produce the report?
- Does it give you enough information to satisfy your needs?
Having good reporting systems and business intelligence systems is good, but these systems will not work if the information being tracked is not proper or is not accurate. The old adage "Garbage In. Garbage Out." holds true when it comes to reporting. If the data being entered is garbage, the reports you get are going to be garbage. If a subordinate is going to prepare the report, they are going to prepare it in a manner that is going to make them look good.
Hence, one needs to start right at the root, digitize processes and ensure the processes capture the necessary metrics (the more you collect the better) and those metrics are used to prepare the necessary reports to give the necessary answers or raise the necessary red flags. If this is not in place, no amount of reporting manually prepared is ever going to tell a manager the true health of their processes or help them make the right decisions.