Every day, hundreds of reports/dashboards/scorecards are being circulated within an organization. Reports have become an integral part of business as they aid in decision making.
Today if you have a fresh look (or relook) all reports in your workplace, you will notice that a few of these reports are perfectly designed to suit the users’ needs, but many reports need improvement. Few are not comprehensive. Few are not easy to use. Few are not clear. Few provide too much information.
This is mainly because of two reasons:
- A) Existing report list is not being reviewed periodically for changes
- B) No systematic step-by-step procedure was followed while initiating the report
This article is about reason B. The reason B happens because:
There was no sufficient time or information available while initiating the report
The organization did not have a standard procedure around how to initiate a new report/dashboard
In this article, I am providing a systematic step-by-step approach to develop a new report/dashboard. Your MIS team might find it useful.
1) Purpose: List down the objectives of the new report you are trying to build. Also, finalize the audience/targeted users. It is important to get this one right; else, all your subsequent steps might go wrong.
2) What to show: Arrive at the right set up metrics/KPIs in line with the report objectives and users. Your ability to see from targeted customers’ viewpoint is key here.
3) Prototype: Make an indicative report (with dummy data) and share it with the intended users. Do not just send it to them, but also present it to them as if you are reading the report for them. At this stage, the focus should be on the report features and not on the data/numbers presented. When you use dummy numbers and announce it, the discussion automatically moves towards report’s features and usability.
4) Feedback: Once presented, collect feedback from stakeholders. Document the feedback for your reference. (meeting recording will help)
5) Real product: Now build the report/dashboard based on the feedback received. Do not limit to the feedback received. Go beyond and create more value for the report users. Make the report clear and visually pleasant. (Due to data limitations, you might not be able to solve all your internal customer needs. Look for alternate indicators)
6) Added feature: User must be able to get supporting data and drill down features easily.
7) Continuous improvement: Start publishing the reports but be open to feedback. Some ideas come up only when the report is seen with real data.
8) Be smart: Simplify or automate the reporting efforts. Online reports are of great help here. With online reports, you will able to play with a large amount of data and reduce manual efforts by more than 90%. Click on the link at the end of this page to see the demo of our online reports.
9) Documentation: Finally, create procedure manual and user manual around the new report.
This systematic step-by-step approach will not only ensure that the report is in line with user’s needs, but it also avoids unnecessary rework.
It is a good idea to create a procedure document around this step-by-step approach and make it a standard operating procedure in your organization.
In addition, there will be a need to create a procedure to review all existing reports periodically and make necessary changes. With this, you can eliminate non-value-adding reports as well.
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