Business reports might be the most common documents that get shuffled around in every corporate setup. It comes with no wonder as they serve a plethora of purpose. Business reports can be used as bases for decision-making, as written transcriptions of business presentations, or as conveyors of urgent directives. In this article, we will discuss the complexities that are involved in writing a business report.
Elements of a Good Business Report
- Title: The title states the specific subject matter of the report. It is made to be simple and direct to the people who receive the business report will know immediately what it is all about. The first page of a business report contains the title, along with the author of the report, date of submission, persons concerned, and name of the company and organization
- Executive Summary: The executive summary is a 250-word primer that contains the purpose and gist of every section of the report. Since it is a summary, it does not need to be detailed, but it does need to provide the information necessary to give a preliminary understanding.
- Table of Contents: This part of a business report lists down all the major content headings of the report with their corresponding page number. It is used to identify the different parts in the order of their appearance. A separate list that is usually placed after the table of contents is also made for the figures, charts, and table. Long business reports are usually the ones that have a table of contents for ease of tracking in the reader’s part.
- Introduction and Definition of Terms: These are the additional information needed to better understand your report. The introduction contains the excess details that are cut from the executive summary while the definition of terms defines the technical terms and jargons found in your report.
- Methodology: The methodology is the main idea of a business report. It identifies the problem or the subject matter in an expanded context. Methodologies primarily enumerate the procedures and strategies in dealing with the problem. This is also the most detailed part of the report, so it contains all the visual presentations, like charts and tables, needed to aid all the idea and claims presented. The methodology is organized into sub-parts and subheadings and does not shy away from being saturated in information.
- Conclusion: This part presents the findings of the author based on the methods and procedures he or she conducted to solve the problem. The conclusion does not necessarily have to be short, as it must contain a detailed discussion of the outcome. If the business report tackles a continuing problem, recommendations are added to suggest future actions that can be possibly taken.
- Appendices: These are supporting bits of information that cannot be included in the main report because they might be too distracting. Nevertheless, the subsections found in the appendices provide helpful information and additional insight to the readers.
- References: Sources of all the data used in the report are listed in the references. This part of the business report provides credibility to the data and means for the readers to cross-reference the information.
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Steps to Make a Great Business Report
- Identify the purpose of your report: Upon starting the report, know why you are writing it in the first place. Identify the purpose and learn about the subject matter at hand. List these goals down and let it guide you in your process flow throughout your writing.
- Gather data: After identifying the scope of your report based on your objectives, devise ways on how you can gather the relevant data. Oftentimes, data is already provided by the company and you only have to filter the pieces of information that are useful in your report. But in instances where you have to look for it yourself, you have the whole expanse of the Internet at your disposal. Remember to fact-check the information you collected. Regardless, data gathering should not be your main concern in this age of information.
- Analyze your data: Once you feel confident with the amount of data you have gathered, start connecting all the dots and implement logical methods to put meaning in all of it. Go over your purpose to determine what kind of steps and methodologies you can employ to extract value from your data. The methods you used in gathering and analyzing your data will make up the methodologies in your report, so make sure to take note of your different processes. For such an integral part, devote as much time you want to ensure the completeness of information.
- Write your findings: The findings in your report are basically summaries of your results from the data processing methods you conducted prior to this step. Use various tools to aid you in explaining your findings clearly and completely.
- Draw your recommendations: For the purpose of continuity in the findings of your report, draft up some recommendations. Fundamentally, recommendations provide future action plans that can be taken to obtain more valuable data based on your findings. You can also put the objectives that you were not able to accomplish in this part. Recommendations also gauge the size and substance of your subject matter. The more wide-scale and complicated your subject is, the more recommendations can be written and more reports can be established.
- Proofread: Nothing ruins a good business report than mistakes that could have been prevented by proofreading. By proofreading, you are fixing erroneous sentences to make the ideas flow seamlessly. Correct all errors in grammar and implement a consistent format. Go over your report at least twice to make sure that it is free from errors.
Tips for a Great Business Report
- Use passive voice: Although it has been known that active voice makes powerful sentences and that in almost anything it is better than the passive voice, business reports actually need less of it. Using the passive voice instead will make your business report formal and neutral. Although most oftentimes hated and underrated, passive voice shifts the focus of your sentence from the doer to the action itself. It is important to put the focus on the action to make your report impersonal, formal, and neutral. Business reports are documents detailing methods and actions after all, not people.
- Use bullet points: Instead of creating long paragraphs to enumerate the points of your idea, you can utilize bullets instead. Bullets don’t necessarily contain sentences as phrases are enough to convey a certain idea. The conciseness of bullets is really helpful in making complex information that you are trying to get across be easily discerned.
- Make use of headings and subheadings: Headings and subheadings compartmentalize the information in your report, making it look more organized and easier for the readers.
Types of Business Reports
- Analytical Reports: From the name itself, analytical reports give an in-depth analysis of a particular problem, event, or situation. They present explanations, comparisons, and trends of past and present data. They are very detailed in nature as companies use these reports in critical decision-making situations. Although analytical reports are arguably the hardest one to come up with, they are credible clutches in coming up with a choice that helps a company move forward.
- Periodic Reports: These are business reports that are made at a regular interval of time. They are made so that a company can closely monitor a situation or asset and impose modifications to their business model based on the recommendations. Some examples of a periodic report are monthly, quarterly, and annual financial statements.
- Informational Reports: Informational reports are purely made of facts and information without all the critical insights of the author. Unlike the other types, informational reports solely fulfill the purpose of informing without implicating anything and without obligating the readers to infer. These reports are usually requested when objective information is needed, such as when knowing about an organizational structure of a company, a company’s expenditure, or an employee information summary. Although not as complex as the other types, they are fairly detailed and often contains charts and illustration for ease of transmitting data.
- Research Reports: Simply put, research reports are a combination of informational reports and analytical reports. They provide comprehensive data and crucial conclusions to help a company reach a decision. Research reports are the longest time to come up with as they require every corner of a subject matter to be explored and extracted with data. Oftentimes, research reports are made when a certain company is planning to expose their business model into an unfamiliar territory.
- Informal Reports: Informal reports are brief company messages that relay urgent information. They contain casual language but with a firm, direct tone. Company directives, memorandums, and other company announcements are some examples of these informal reports.
Business Report Template Sizes
Business reports are printed on documents with the standard US sizes of 8.5 inches by 11 inches (legal) or 8.5 inches by 14 inches (letter).
Business Report FAQs
How long should my business report be?
Business reports don’t have a standard length. The amount of pages of your report actually depends on the complexity of your subject matter. Only informal business reports have a typical length, which can be a page or two. Nevertheless, always make sure that all the required information is in your report.
Are business reports single or double spaced?
Typical business reports are single spaced but with a line skipped between paragraphs. The extra space after each paragraph provide breaks for the reader’s eyes and extra time to momentarily process the information in your business report.
When writing your business report, you can get too carried away by filling it out with data to the brim, but the key to coming up with an effective business report is to actually be specific and not expansive. Preparing a business report can get confusing and it may be hard to start with the first sentence. But, clarity comes as you complete each section and, by remaining focused within your objectives, you’ll find yourself typing the last punctuation sooner than you expected.