The manner in which information is presented to an audience often affects how well it is received. If a topic is conveyed in a precise, organized, and detailed way, there is a likely chance it will be taken seriously. Detailed, written accounts that include background information, methodology, findings, and a conclusion can properly inform an audience about a relevant topic.
When employees are tasked with investigating data relevant to a company's overall performance, whether that be for an annual report or on an ongoing basis, business reports can be utilized to make sure discoveries are conveyed and necessary recommendations are provided. To understand how to receive the most benefit from business reports, it's important to know the various ways they are used, how they are structured, and why they should be formatted differently depending on the audience.
What is a Business Report?
A business report is an evaluation of a set of circumstances or financial operations that relate to a company's performance. The primary purpose of a business report is to communicate relevant information to a group of people. They are also utilized to-
- Examine solutions pertaining to a particular problem or set of issues
- Demonstrate critical thinking skills in weighing particular outcomes to a situation
- Reach conclusions based on the research generated in the report
- Provide recommendations on how to improve future business operations in relation to the particular issue addressed
- Demonstrate communication skills by utilizing relevant data to study a particular set of circumstances within the company
Business reports typically don't provide one exact answer to a problem within a company. Instead, it offers a cost and benefit analysis
of several different available solutions to choose from. The purpose of the report is to weigh the benefits and costs of each possible resolution.
When creating a business report, it's important to maintain a certain level of formality, objectivity, and sensitivity. Remember who the recipient of the business report is and what their expectations are.
How to Write and Structure a Business Report
The business report structure usually depends on what the content of the report is. Regardless of the content of the report, there is a general consensus on the guidelines of report writing, which include-
1. Title Page
The title page should include a brief statement on the content of the business report. An effective title is informative but reasonably short. For example, a revenue report might be titled Factors that Influence Annual Revenues in West Coast Franchises.
The writer's name and the date the report was written should also be included on the title page.
2. Summary Page
A summary page contains the key elements of the business report. Shorter reports can be 2-3 paragraphs, but complex reports may have longer executive summaries. Both short or a longer annual report should include-
3. Table of Contents
- A brief description of the report
- The data collection methodology
- Key findings from the research
- Key evaluations and recommendations
Shorter business reports may not require a table of contents if a summary is already included.
However, longer reports should put the title of each section with the proper page number across from this title of the section. The table of contents can be split into categories with subsections and their page numbers. For example, a category might be Financial Analysis, and subsections under that category might include Business Profile, Cash Flow, or Income Statement. 4. Introduction
The introduction is the first portion of the actual business report itself. The introduction supports the body of the report by telling what topics will be referenced, any background information available on the topic (how long it's been going on or why the issue is important), and what the report's purpose or intent is. Other details to incorporate are-
5. Methods and Findings
- Background information on the utilized data or historical information relating to the report
- What is to be gained from writing the report
- What the report will encompass and what it will not
This next section includes the methods that were used when researching the topic of the business report. It might explain why certain sources of data were chosen and how they were analyzed in order to draw conclusions.
Results from the research and any discoveries that were made should also be included in this section. It can be helpful to break down findings by subsections, utilizing headings that serve as categories.
If including charts and visualizations
, ensure each is labeled clearly so the reader can clearly understand the information that is being presented. 6. Conclusion Section
The final section of the business report will summarize what was learned and how to address any issues of concern. 7. Bibliography
If there are any external sources utilized in the report, list each on this page. This might include business documents, academic articles, news reports, online sources, or books. The bibliography's purpose is to reference the research materials that were utilized in the business report. 8. Appendices (if necessary)
If there were a lot of sources utilized in the business report, it might be helpful to have an appendix section, so the main report isn't difficult to follow. Readers can be pointed to the appendix section within the business report to reference detailed information that was too long to include on the respected page.
Review- Writing the Report
In summary, remember to structure the business report as follows-
1. Title Page - Use an Informative title with name and date
2. Summary - Brief summary of what the report covers and what data collection methods were utilized. Also include the findings and recommendations in this section
3. Table of Contents - Longer reports require a table of contents to organize the information
4. Introduction - Briefly explain the purpose of the report, what it's about, and what it encompasses
5. Methods - A description of the various methods utilized in order to make key discoveries about the topic
6. Conclusion - A set of recommendations or conclusions pertaining to the topic
7. References - The sources used in the report
8. Appendix - If applicable, use an appendix to show the supporting materials utilized. This prevents the report from being too lengthy and unfocused
The simplest way to format a business report is to look for a template or an example online and then customize it. Though most reports follow the same format, as previously listed, each should be tailored according to an audience. Additional formatting examples include-
1. Informal Reports
Some audiences don't require a structured and formally formatted report. For example, small businesses usually don't have the time and resources to write a formal, lengthy report. They also don't have the large amount of data from various franchises and departments within the company that larger corporations do. In this case, a 1-2-page letter or even an e-mail could suffice as a business report.
2. Specialized Business Reports
Certain types of business reports are uniquely formatted. For example, balance sheets are a form of business reports. Most accounting programs or business reporting software have templates that generate a balance sheet from inputted data. It's important to know if there's a specialized business report format for different departments within the company before creating the report and accidently using an incorrect template.
3. Business Plan
Business plans are also a specialized form of reports. Though the specific format of the plan is not usually as important as how clearly the information is conveyed, it can be helpful for entrepreneurs to know how to organize their information. These templates can help unformed startups convey their mission to stakeholders and potential investors. Most of these business plan reports include the following-
- Cover Page
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Company Overview
- Industry Analysis
- Customer Analysis
- Competitive Analysis
- Marketing Plan
- Operations Plan
- Management Team
- Financial Plan
- Appendix (if applicable)