How apt for this post. Firstly recognise that any reports we produce are an attempt to distil reality that is doomed to failure and secondly many reports lose their meaning in translation from IT terminology to business speak, or BS as some of us call it. In fact as far as the business is concerned are reports might as well be latine scripta sunt in. And of course what Horace actually wrote was
"Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio"
At this point you might nod sagely and recall Churchill saying
"There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Shame on you though if you think that means statistics are stuff and nonsense. If you knew your Churchill you would know the great value he placed on statistical information. It is no coincidence that operational research grew up as a discipline during WW2.
I spent a lot of my early career producing New Scotland Yard's crime statistics so I could bore you to death for hours but let me keep it very simple :
- Bad reports are worthless
- Good reports are priceless
Now if I want to fill a conference session I'll speak about reporting . Whatever advice I give, l know that what most of the audience actually want is a standard list of the metrics they should produce .
Which means they haven't listened to a word I've said.
There is no golden list. What you need to report on is driven by context. A report that might hav been vital last year might be just so much noise this year.
I hate doing this, but sometimes I have to. Let me give you some guidance that will help you realise you aren't producing useful reports. If it makes you feel better these are all lessons I've learnt the hard way .
- If you don't produce the figures one month, does anyone notice or care ?
- Do managers just pin your graphs up to decorate their offices ?
- Can you tell a story about what the figures are telling you?
You should be able to write at least three sentences:
- what the figures mean
- should we worry about what the figures mean
- what should we do in response to the figures
- Looked at individual figures in the context of what other figured are telling you.
- Identified in advance the thresholds for when action is required, and those thresholds will enable you to avoid failure, not respond to it
- Thought through the actions people need to take.