Efficient reporting plays a critical role in helping organizations shift through data and make major business decisions.
The quality of the reports themselves is as fundamental as the ability of those tasked with communicating what’s in them.
When a company decides to launch a new product, expand into new markets, reduce expenses, improve customer service, or increase its social media presence, the decisions are usually based on information submitted in reports.
What does this mean for you and your team?
Well, we’ve narrowed down seven essential business reports every startup and SME should understand inside and out, and provided a brief explanation of why each is important.
So strap in — let’s get to it!
First things first — what, exactly, are business reports?
Simply put, a business report is a document that collects figures and provides detailed analyses of the business’s situation.
This document type is essential for companies because it allows them to meet two fundamental objectives.
First, the report addresses a specific issue or problem at a time when decisions must be made critically.
Next, an activity report presents the findings of the issue or problem encountered and proposes the appropriate course of action that the organization should take.
Why are business reports important?
Writing out an activity report is sometimes a difficult exercise that can become time-consuming due to the level of detail required; however, business reports are actually very useful for several reasons:
- Forecasts for better budget planning are easier to execute.
- Facilitates inter-departmental collaboration and decision-making by getting everyone on the same page.
- Improves transparency and accountability for the different departments by providing a (digital or actual) paper trail.
For managers, it is essential to have relevant, well-written activity reports to guide the company’s operation and make important decisions.
7 types of business reports to keep you fully informed
Now that you know more about business reports, here is a list of the most common report types, including informational, analytical, research, marketing, annual and progress reports.
Learn more about what they are and how to use them for your business to drive decision-making, performance monitoring, and stakeholder communication.
1. Informational reports
Informational reports provide facts and data only and do not present any analysis or recommendations.
For such reports, writers collect and organize information but do not analyze the facts for readers.
Here are some situations where businesses use informational reports:
- A trip report describing an employee’s visit to a trade show is informational.
- Weekly status reports about an ongoing project are also informational.
- Monthly sales reports, progress updates, and legal compliance reports are also considered informational reports.
2. Analytical report
An analytical report is a corporate report that examines data, provides conclusions, and makes recommendations to enable stakeholders to determine the best course of action.
To help illustrate this more clearly, here are some examples of analytical reports:
- If you are writing a criteria comparison report to evaluate multiple locations for a new automotive manufacturing plant, you will compare the sites factoring in how they stack up with one another using the same parameters and then make a recommendation.
- A report analyzing a new technology’s impact on a business sector’s productivity and profitability is another example.
Other reports that provide recommendations are feasibility studies (e.g., for expansion opportunities) and justification reports (e.g., for equipment purchases or procedural changes).
4. Research report
This is a document that presents the findings and analysis of a research study conducted on a particular topic.
The report must follow a specific methodology to analyze the data.
- For example, marketing teams can send surveys to customers to learn more about their buying behavior before launching a new product.
- Research that seeks to understand competitors in the industry, growth potential, and market prospects would also be considered a research report.
5. Marketing report
The main objective of a marketing report is to evaluate the performance of the marketing campaigns implemented by your team.
By doing so, the report gathers all the KPIs of your marketing channels and summarizes them in order to evaluate their effectiveness.
By analyzing metrics such as SEO, social media, customer engagement, and more, the marketing report gives you a good overview of which strategies are working and which can be replaced or improved.
6. Annual report
This type of report is mainly used by listed companies or nonprofits and presented to show shareholders the activity and financial health of the business or organization during the year.
The initial section of an annual report typically presents an overview of the company’s operations throughout the year, including a detailed analysis of its financial performance and strategic initiatives.
In addition, it may include short and medium-term forecasts, outlining the company’s anticipated goals and objectives for the coming year.
The second part focuses on the financial statement of the business. It is composed of different financial reports and graphs indicating the costs of operations, turnover, profit margin, etc.
If you need to fill out an annual report, you can use the pre-built template available courtesy of PandaDoc.
7. Explanatory report
The main purpose of this type of report is to explain a complex subject in a way that everyone can understand.
This type of report can take many forms, such as instructional manuals, user guides, or informational brochures.
- For example, medical companies need to make explanatory reports to allow the largest number of people to understand how the drugs work step by step and their effect on the body.
- Manufacturers of industrial machines must also create technical and instructional documents that are easy to understand.
8. Progress report
A progress report is exactly what it sounds like — measuring progress (or the lack thereof).
This document explains in detail how far you’ve gone toward the completion of a project.
Such a report is typically written for a supervisor, colleague, or client.
You might write it on behalf of or by working with your teammates to produce a progress report.
For example, you might need to produce a progress report once a week or monthly, or as a completed percentage of project milestones (25% done, 50% complete, etc.)
PandaDoc templates help your team deliver fast, professional business reports with ease
As we’ve covered above, there are many types of business reports, and they all have a specific purpose.
By providing information and data analysis, reports help every business assess their financial health, monitor their operations and make informed decisions.
However, you don’t have to do it alone, which is why PandaDoc helps you write your reports with pre-built templates that will save you time!