A Guide to Take Your Data Reporting to Another Level
When data reporting was composed of a jumble of scribbled numbers, we couldn’t imagine modern tools has revolutionized the data reporting：beautiful, convenient, and closely integrated with various systems. Today, data reports have been the basis of data-decision, as well as be closely connected with data analysis and business intelligence to help us discover the insights in our business.
In this article, I will explain what data reporting is, common types of reporting, use the real case to clarify the five steps to take your data reports to another level, and in the end, I will provide the best industry data reports examples for you.
1. What is Data Reporting?
Data reporting, like the car dashboards displaying instrumentation and controls for the vehicle’s operation, can tell you what is going on in your business. Before, data reporting usually conjures up static data manually calculated or displayed in Excel, PDF, and PPTs. Now, with the advent of reporting tools, via dynamically presenting raw data in the form of tables, charts, or dashboards, data reporting can transform the data into meaningful and useful information, as well as shed light on the issue in your business.
2. Types of Data Reporting
According to the report layout, data source structure, printing mode and data analysis mode, the report can be divided into the following types:
2.1 Detail Report:
Detail Report is mainly for listing the data, such as sales list, customer list, expenditure list. To achieve these types of reports, you can use widgets such as tables, lists, text boxes, and so on.
2.2 Chart Report：
By presenting the data in different types of charts, the relationship between the data and the trend of the data can be better analyzed.
2.3 Multi-columns Report:
By using the multi-columns, the drawing area of the report can be made use of. There are two types of multi-columns: horizontal column and vertical column. Multi-columns reports often be used for barcode print, label print, personal information card, and so on.
2.4 Group Report
Group Report is mainly for displaying the data in categories, to facilitate the summary of data such as group summary of orders.
2.5 Interactive Report
The interactive report mainly meets users’ demand for analyzing report data, which usually includes drill-down, drill-through, data filtering, data sorting and other methods.
3. Steps to Do a Better Data Reporting
3.1.Define the target audience of data reporting
Data reporting is to present data to a specific group of people. Therefore, the first step is to clarify objects of the report, to organize content and structure from the perspective of the objects, as well as to highlight the focus of each module in the report.
For instance, if the data reports are for the managers, such as the routine reports of the product line, or the performance of new products. In this case, what should be highlighted in the data reports is whether the key indicators have met the expectations. Based on this, managers can do a more in-depth analysis of why the performance is good or where is the problem to summarize the improvement plan of the team. If the reports are for team members in business, the focus of it is to discover the problem, and to propose improvement plans, to drive the team with data. If the report is for the public, it generally focuses on results and trends rather than processes. This is the paradigm for the reports that consultants publish publicly.
Now, let’s pretend you are the head of the financial department, and you need to make monthly data reports for your monthly company meeting. What is the next step?
3.2.Clarify the core indicators
This step breaks down into two steps: 1) Clarify what the core indicator is. 2) Clarify how to measure the core indicator
- Step1: Clarify what the core indicator is
In this case, the managers of each department would like to have a comprehensive view of the performance of the company’s business. Also, the performance of each department. Perhaps you need to ask yourself what the core indicators to show what is happening to the company and departments are?
For the company, net profit, sales, receivables, and stock are the key index. While for departments, they should pay attention to the monthly completion rate in terms of gross profit and net profit.
- Step2: Clarify how to measure the core indicator
Clarifying how to measure the KPIs you determined is just as crucial for you to make an intuitive report. Let’s decompose the key index from multiple dimensions:
The time dimension: What is your time frame? Annually, Quarterly or Monthly?
The comparison dimension: Compare the gross profit of each year? Or compare the gross profit of each department?
The unit dimension：What is your unit of measure? Thousand or Million? USD or Euro?
The proportion dimension：What the sales of each department? What products are more profitable？
3.3 Pick a proper data reporting tool
There are 6 aspects you need to consider when choosing the right reporting tool:
- What types of data sources does it support?
- How easy is it to use the report designer?
- Does it support the complex report and rich visual effects?
- Does the reporting tool support mobile devices?
- What types of export and printing formats does it support?
- Is the reporting software an open application?
3.4 Prepare data sources
With your target audience defined and your core indicators set, now it’s time to prepare data.
There are multiple sources of data, and it is necessary to select stable and reliable data sources according to the needs of different indicators.
Many of these data come from various sources. Once you have chosen your data sets, integrating data from separate business systems can be done in data reporting tools like FineReport, which can avoid the error caused by manual and save your time. Please keep in mind that for data related to money, such as net profit, receivables in this case, etc., there must be a strict reconciliation system to check and reconcile accounts. If there is an abnormal fluctuation in one data source, you can make a comparative analysis with the help of another data source. If both sides have the same direction and the same amplitude of fluctuation, it should be analyzed from the perspective of the business. If there is a big difference between the two sides, there is likely something wrong with the data source.
Here, I combined 6 tables from databases of ERP inventory management and CRM to reflect the indicators. Luckily, with FineReport, it just took a few seconds.
3.5. Choose the proper charts
Selecting the chart types according to the focus of the report is the principle of making data reports. For example, a bar chart can display the volume change, a line chart can show the trend, and the cluster bar chart can compare of the same index of different business.
In this case, I used the bar chart to compare this year’s annual gross profit with the target gross profit and last year’s.
3.6. Make your reports visually stunning
The excellent chart effects in innovative reporting tools have improved the visual experience of data reporting to a large extent. However, to design perfect data reports, you also need to design the layout and choose the color scheme for your data visualization. I would recommend you use the intelligent color themes in the data reporting tool, which would save your time in keeping the consistency of color and style.
In this project, after I drag the components related to the corresponding KPIs to the interface, I chose the color themes recommended by the FineReport.
The whole process of making the data reports shown below just took five minutes.
4. Data reporting examples in various industries
Finally, I want to emphasize that we are in an era of fragmentation reading, an era of reading pictures. People like sensational and visual impact. Visual content can produce greater impact in a short period of time. Studies have shown that the brain processes visual content up to 60,000 times faster than text content. So, if you want to make your data report stand out and catch people’s eyes all at once, you must add more data visualization elements to your data report.
Next, let’s look at some excellent data reports with visual elements in various industries.
Daily States of Rail Transport
In the end
For your business, data reporting is a good choice for you to transform any raw data into meaningful information and make more accurate and data-driven decisions. And luckily, with the right steps and proper data reporting software, you no longer need to suffer from repetitive work and accidental error.