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Recipe for Successful Report Writing – Cooking with Carol

swedish chef

My world revolves around food. I love food. As soon as I finish one meal, I start planning the next. So how aggravating is it when I ask someone what they want for dinner and they answer ‘Whatever!’? Seriously, does anyone actually have a recipe for ‘whatever’? If so, please share!

As a report writer, it’s just as frustrating when I get the ‘whatever’ response from someone requesting a new report. Create ‘whatever’ and the final outcome is usually ‘This isn’t what I really wanted’. So how do you keep your report writer happy? How do you save your reporting chef from cooking up something you don’t want?  Give them a detailed reporting recipe (spec) up front instead of ‘whatever’!

#1 Meat and Potatoes of the Report

Clearly specify your expectations of the report. What’s the purpose/goal of the report? If you’re asking for a utilization report, are you focused on time utilization, financial utilization, both? How do you define utilization, profitability? List the data, columns, calculations you need to be included in the report. How do you visualize the final output? Remember the only one who can read your mind is you. Too many details at this point are good!

#2 Extra Sides

Those nice to-haves, personal touches that kick a report up a notch. Perhaps the initial output of the report is summarized, then you drill in for specific details. How about adding charts or dashboard views? Keep in mind, you’re not asking for more meat and potatoes – that would be a completely different report.

#3 Seasonings

Think about the filters/parameters you need when running the report. Too many and you won’t get all the data you need to make correct business decisions.  Too few and you’re hit with data overload. If you’re manipulating data in a spreadsheet to get the final outcome needed, then adjust the filters/parameters and let the report do all that automatically.

Finally, keep in mind some reports will just take longer than others to create, test and perfect. Be realistic about time restraints, but the more detailed your report recipe is for your reporting chef, the faster the turnaround time will be.

Have fun creating your own reporting specs – I’m off to create me some ‘whatever’!

Written by Carol Rivers, Wynne’s reporting expert channeling her inner Swedish Chef.

Photo by iGypsyWoman – Creative Commons license
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