data reports and dashboards

Why You Need Data Reports and How to Create Them

Managers know that gathering and interpreting data is essential for making the best business decisions. However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the excess of data that’s available. Data reporting picks out the most important pieces of a data set and presents them clearly, using visual tools like charts and graphs. Putting together good data reports can help sales, marketing, and finance teams make better, quicker decisions and respond to changes as they happen.

What Is a Data Report?

Data reporting is the process of compiling and organizing data, identifying the most important parts of that data, and putting that information together into an easy-to-understand report. A data report is the result of this work. Data reports often include graphs and charts to help readers make sense of the information they’re presenting. The specifics will depend on the organization and the type of information it is working with. For example, the census is a type of data reporting process. In business, data reports can deal with the company’s general financial health, its quarterly sales numbers, its marketing statistics, or the results of a specific project.

Business team looking at a data report using laptops during meeting
Data Reporting

A good data report should answer your questions with factual information. Managers rely on data to make essential decisions, but spending hours pouring over spreadsheets or data collection tools to gather that information is a poor use of their time in most cases. Data reporting puts the relevant information together in one place. While these documents are traditionally snapshots of a single point in time, modern data reporting tools allow reports to include real-time and projected future data as well. Presenting data in charts and using other visual tools makes quickly reading and understanding it much easier.

Data Reporting Best Practices

While data reports can vary significantly based on the company, goals, and department they’re representing, there are some general best practices you should follow for effective data reporting.

Have a clear goal

A data report should answer a specific question or set of questions, so you need to define those questions before you begin compiling your report. You probably have at least a general idea of the subject or company department you’ll be looking at. Consider whether you want to simply present the information or add analysis. A relatively straightforward data report might summarize key performance indicators. A more analytical report might look at whether an idea, like adding a new product to your lineup, is feasible or beneficial. A data report could also aim to persuade its audience to take a certain action, such as showing how updating a certain process could save your department time.

You’ll also need to define your audience. You’ll have different considerations for a data report that aims to summarize research for your own department than you would for a compliance report you’re required to submit to a government agency.

Find the right data

Once you’ve identified the questions you’re asking, you can narrow down where to look for the answers. Determine what metrics you need to consider and where you can get that information. In many companies, this will require looking at lots of different data sets and software programs across multiple departments.

Good presentation

Having the right data isn’t enough. For a successful data report in the age of information overload, you’ll need to consider design and user experience as well. This goes beyond charts and graphs to incorporate virtual dashboards, data visualization tools, and centralized databases. If you aren’t a designer, all of this can easily become overwhelming.

Fortunately, data visualization tools are designed for managers who don’t necessarily have a design background, and there are some general rules you can follow. For longer reports, like those looking back on and analyzing the results of a major project, search capability, smart filters, and highlighting the most viewed sections of the document can all improve user experience. For data you’d like to review in real-time, using a newer data analysis tool rather than spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations offers a simpler and more useful experience.

Data Report Benefits

Using data reports can help your company in several important ways.

Communicate complex information with accuracy

When putting together a data report, you’ll both pick out the most important information and present that information in a clear, visually appealing way. Since you can pick out and highlight the most important data points, you can leave out the ones that aren’t relevant to the story you’re telling with your report. This results in a useful summary of exactly the information your team needs to make good decisions. You’ll be able to focus on understanding this important information without being distracted by irrelevant points.

Regular data reporting ensures that decision-makers have access to the information they need to make the right choices for the business. Data reports that focus on a team’s performance can also be incredibly useful when shared with employees. Seeing KPIs clearly laid out helps employees understand why they need to do something a certain way, which gives them a better sense of buy-in than simply having a manager tell them to do so.

Measure business performance

Getting a clear picture of how your business is performing requires looking at data from multiple departments and sources at once. A dynamic data reporting system lets executives keep an eye on how the company is doing, while department heads can monitor more specific metrics relevant to their teams’ work.

Marketing team monitoring business growth using data report
Measuring business performance

Improve productivity

Data reports help managers understand KPIs and other data quickly, so they can make important decisions faster. Market conditions can change quickly, so businesses need to be able to respond in real-time to stay competitive. Real-time data reporting gives managers information like the latest insights about targeted customer segments, so they can make quick decisions about tailored marketing campaigns. Having the necessary information in an easy-to-understand format makes this much more efficient.

Easy to understand data can also save your company money. Continually updated information lets you spot problems before they become more serious and lead to greater costs. A monthly data report might reveal that a pay-per-click campaign is providing a terrible return on investment or that your churn rate has increased significantly with a particular customer demographic. Monitoring this data lets you make adjustments before these problems get worse. Data reports can also help employees identify cost-saving opportunities.

What Does a Data Report Look Like?

Each data report will look different depending on the department that produces it as well as the goals it is trying to achieve. Data reports that analyze past numbers might include more written analysis, which affects the format. These reports will be fixed pages or documents. Real-time data reporting tools usually have a dashboard setup that highlights charts and graphs showing the most important metrics, which update automatically. A marketing dashboard might include maps of where customers are located, or a sales page could show a pie chart breaking down sales by product or region.

While types of data reports can look different, it’s important to make sure that reports you produce regularly stay consistent. For example, if you put together a monthly sales data report that includes a pie chart, each month’s report should have that chart in the same spot on the page, with the colors representing the same data points. This makes it easier to quickly compare the data from month to month. Changing this around increases the risk of someone misreading or misinterpreting data.

Data Report Examples

ClicData’s data analytics platform allows you to create attractive and convenient dashboards that let you focus on the specific information you need to make decisions.

Marketing Report

Marketers need to track data like pay-per-click KPIs, email campaign performance, and SEO results. With ClicData, you can choose from several dashboards depending on where you’re focusing your marketing efforts. Dashboards can help you compare variations of your email campaigns, break down e-commerce sales by customer demographic or dig deep into your Facebook page’s performance.

Sales Report

Real-time sales data lets you see how your team is performing and where precisely your product or service is selling well. Sales dashboards let you see detailed forecasts, focus on customer retention data like churn rates or track customer calls and their results.

Financial Report

Financial data reports let you consolidate all of your accounts payable information onto one page, perform detailed analysis and track your real-time income and expenses.

Create Dashboards With ClicData

Data reports that are created with clear goals in mind and present thoughtfully selected information in a user-friendly way are incredibly valuable for any type of business decision-making. They can help you and your team communicate better, continually monitor performance and improve productivity. Dynamic data reporting tools let you stay up to date with the latest information on your company’s financial, marketing, and sales data.

The best way to see how modern data reporting tools can benefit your business is to create a data report yourself. Sign up for ClicData’s free trial to start putting together convenient and visually appealing dashboards that display your essential business data in real-time.   

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