8 signs your monthly reports are useless


Every business needs reports.  It’s likely you see many each month and the pile may even be growing over time.

When last did you and your team review your reports to see if they’re hitting the mark?  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a great time saver but as your business evolves and grows, your reporting requirements must grow too.

Getting the right information at the right time can make a huge difference.  Not only to the visibility of issues as they arise, but in providing peace of mind and clarity.

So, if it’s been a year or more since you reviewed your business reports, it may be time to take another critical look.

Here are 8 obvious signs that your reporting framework is in need of a review or overhaul.

  1. It takes ages to prepare the reports

If you are waiting 2 to 3 weeks for monthly reports, then you will need to reconsider how they are being prepared.  Month end reports distributed during the middle of the following month really only tell you what you already knew.  At best they are 2 weeks out of date and at worst they are 6 weeks out of date.  Any senior executive who doesn’t know what happened in their business last week needs to move on.  If reports are presenting data that’s 6 weeks old, they should be retired too.

  1. Adhoc reports are being created by other staff

This is a major warning sign.  It tells me either, the reports that your staff need doesn’t exist or that the ones being prepared are not reliable. Either way, adhoc reports would take time to prepare yet if some people feel it’s worth investing that time, then it’s a sign you need to revisit your reports.

  1. You are not confident the numbers are accurate

This is quite a common problem.  As with most reports, they involve a lot of manual work to pull them together.  Manual work brings with it human error and even the most diligent make mistakes.  If you are not confident your reports can be relied on 100% of the time, then do something about it now, before it’s too late.

  1. They are not online in a secure dashboard

Our modern day working environment brings with it a dynamic workforce and remote working.  If your reports aren’t online, then you are missing a beat when it comes to keeping your team informed.  Providing online and secure dashboards is not a thing of the future but a thing of now and something you must have if you are to survive in this evolving era.

  1. They are all in PDF format

It’s not 2003 people. Yes, PDFs are great.  They are easy to view, and they prevent people from sneakily changing the numbers to suit themselves.  But they lack the ability to interrogate the underlying data or to slice and dice the information.  Give your team the information they need and let them dig deeper.  The more you enable them to find answers the more knowledge they can bring to the table.  So, if 50% or more of your reports are PDF it’s time to revisit.

  1. They are all in Excel format

See item 5.  Excel is fantastic and amazing and versatile and all that.  It truly is an amazing piece of software.  But its downfall is that everyone can use it and once you send out a spreadsheet everyone has their own version.  Even if you are locking it down with passwords, this doesn’t prevent people from getting in (life hack 203 – https://www.openoffice.org/).  So, if Excel is your go to medium for reporting, think again.  It’s time to get serious.

  1. You can’t customise them without a huge effort or spending a fortune on consultants

This one boils my blood.  I agree that some reports should not be messed with, but some need to be.  Each business is different, and they have different reporting needs because of that.  It’s true that P&Ls and Debtors lists are rarely going to be different but when reporting on projects, clients, staff or product lines, you have nuances that you care about and need to report on.  If you can’t customise your existing reports to get the visibility you need then tools down and sleeves up, ‘cos it’s time to get serious.

  1. No one looks at them

It’s a sad reality that many hours are spent creating, distributing and generating reports that are simply there through habit.  Is it time to review your reports to see if each of them is really useful?