An introduction and high-level overview of the value of management reports

October 06, 2020

An introduction and high-level overview of the value of management reports

The purpose of a management report is typically to gather data from the various parts of a business in order to report back to management on certain key performance indicators (KPIs). Business owners and stakeholders often rely on timely and relevant reports for strategic decision-making and goal setting. 

In a time when businesses and stakeholders are increasingly adapting to the automation and digitisation of processes, management reporting has begun to take on a new meaning. Because of automation and digitisation, management reporting can now seamlessly form part of a business’s everyday operations rather than being a time-consuming side project. This means that time and energy is not spent on laboriously putting together a management report that could still be riddled with errors. Automation has made this process almost instantaneous and far more accurate.


HIGH-QUALITY MANAGEMENT REPORTING

Management reports are only a useful tool if they are done properly; a poorly prepared or presented management report can be frustrating and misleading. The following attributes are fundamental for high-quality management reporting:

  • Accuracy 
Accuracy is driven by the quality of the input data and processes used to generate the management reports. Efficient automation relies on robust checks and balances built into the system. 
  • Timeliness 

Management reports are only as valuable as they are relevant and timely. It is imperative that the framework used for drawing up management reports should be adaptable, so that a change in the inputs or format can be adopted swiftly without compromising deadlines in the reporting process. 

  • Relevance 

Typically, daily processing, operations and risk assessment functions are carried out at various levels of the business. Depending on the size of the business, directors and owners may be far removed from the day-to-day functions, focussing instead on higher level strategy and goal setting. This separation of duties makes it all the more necessary to ensure that dashboards, ratios and analyses presented in the management reports are useful for the decision maker who may be far removed from the granular detail on the ground.


THE EFFECT OF AUTOMATION ON THE MANAGEMENT REPORT

For a small business operating in a high-pressure environment with limited segregation of duties, the requirements for a good management report can seem daunting. Luckily, automation helps with all three aspects. 

Business owners may view operational processes and management reporting as conflicting priorities, and they may choose to focus on the former. Again, automation eliminates this dilemma. In this way, automation can be viewed as an enabler of good practice.

Below are some examples of business process automation. The resulting efficiencies materialise in timely, relevant and accurate management reporting:

  • Automated, real time bank feeds to replace manually captured of bank statements, 
  • Digital sign off of invoicing and expenditure,
  • Electronic logbooks, 
  • Automated prompts to signal  required action for individual and team tasks.


MANAGEMENT REPORT FORMAT 

So what does the perfect management report look like? Whilst there is no prescriptive management report format, there are guidelines for representing effective management reports that add real value.

Management reports will typically comprise the following:

  • Executive summary 
  • Statement of financial position*
  • Profit and loss statement* 
  • Cash flow statement*

*These will be covered in future articles in this blog series.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 

The executive summary provides the reader with the key highlights for the reporting period. A well-presented executive summary should paint an accurate and concise picture about the following:

  • Key focus areas and the action required
  • Financial position
  • Key performance areas and metrics
  • Operations
  • Overall strategy 
  • Product and/service 
  • Team

The executive summary is therefore a snapshot of the entire management report and sets the tone for  key discussion areas in the management meeting.


MANAGEMENT MEETINGS

Management meetings present the opportunity for active engagement between management and the financial advisor. This in turn directs the strategy that will be applied at various levels of the business.

As with any piece of literature, certain aspects of the management report may be open to varying interpretations, hence the need for alignment and discussion in a management meeting.

Management reports play a crucial role in weaving together the results of daily process, performance and reporting across all pillars of business. They present the big picture and provide the clarity that business owners need in an increasingly dynamic world.

Speak to our helpful consultants , they are available for your reporting and business processing needs.

👉 READ: Part 2 - A business owner's guide to understanding and working with the profit and loss statement


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