Unfortunately, there isn’t one right answer or a single magic report that meets the needs of every business owner, leader, investor, or lender.
The right report depends on your type of business, the systems you rely on and the consumer of the information you are looking to deliver. While the needs of different users may vary, sometimes standard reporting tools offer limited options and don’t meet the needs of all users. In that case, you may need to look at external reporting tools like Power BI for more advanced reporting options.
Here are some considerations for creating reports that meet the needs of different audiences.
- Good reports depend on the underlying structure of the data in your system. If your system has limited fields, segments, or tags you may not be able to report on the information in sufficient detail. Always consider the reporting needs of your users before deciding on the structure of account numbers, item, vendor, or customer ids.
- Don’t try to capture everything in the general ledger or on the financial statements. Adding too many details to your chart of accounts can make it unwieldy and can actually reduce the accuracy of data entry. Keep inventory details, for example, in the inventory module and only report summary information on the balance sheet. Most inventory systems provide extensive management reporting that need not be repeated on the face of your financial statements.
- Use departmental reporting when possible. Many systems, including QuickBooks Online and Desktop, use class codes to provide for departmental financial statements. As long as revenues and costs are coded to classes, these reports can be useful in reviewing individual department results.
- Don’t forget the statement of cash flows. This often-neglected financial statement offers useful insights into the sources and uses of funds over the period being reviewed. It connects the net income to the cash balance and answers the critical question “if I made a profit, where’s my cash?”.
- Run customer and vendor lists. Review additions and subtractions to the master files. Unauthorized additions to either list as well modifications to names, addresses or other critical data can be a sign of potential fraud in a company.
- Review the options for standard financial statement reporting. Many standard reports have customization options that make it easy to design a custom report. Make use of filters, date parameters, row and column selections, and display options to make your report better meet your needs. Don’t forget to add your budget to your system where possible so you can get budget versus actual comparisons.
- Look at your operational tools for additional reporting. If you are using external point of sale or e-commerce solutions, review the available reports for unit and price data, inventory analysis and other insights into sales and customer demographics. Many point-of-sale solutions offer benchmarks and other overall analytics to help you stay on top of your sales activity.
- Consider dashboard tools for visual insights into financial and operational data. Visual tools and graphical displays can help make key business insights more accessible to everyone on your team. These tools can also be used to aggregate data across systems for real-time insights and faster decision making.
Consider your current investment in gathering information. What reports do you rely on each day? Who has access to timely information in your business? How much time do you spend manipulating data in external spreadsheets? Today’s automated solutions can help you eliminate the effort involved in getting timely insights. They can help you aggregate information across systems, display the information in a visual way, and in many cases, evaluate the impact of various scenarios.
Contact Lauren Clawson at firstname.lastname@example.org for help finding the right solution for your unique business needs.