In one of my previous positions (we’re talking in decades…) I had a manager who really liked reports. He was all over us with requests for reports, most of them statistics about performance vs. goals but there were others as well.

We had to create nice, fancy reports (charts and graphs), with many colors and lots of numbers on them to satisfy him and found ourselves not doing what we should have been doing – working.

Of course all of these reports were at best glanced at and then thrown to the place all papers end their life.

The fact was that there were always too many reports created, too many different views of the same data, by too many people. In reality only a few reports were used and benefited the company.
Since then many things have changed, but managers didn’t. They still want reports. Only now creating reports out of the data stored in the various applications we all have in our work environment is easy. In fact it’s usually so easy that even our managers can do it! A click of a mouse.

A good reporting system gives the option to create the reports needed, with current data and a nice simple presentation. I’m referring here to ‘reports’ mostly in their ‘chart’ form, and it is essential to remember that a chart is simply a representation of data in a visual way.

The main thing about reports is to be able to get those that have a contribution to the organization, by having the specific data, in that certain way and for that period of time. The report/chart should give such information that we’ll be able to use it to learn and improve (a process, an employee, a method, goals – something).

Its important not to create reports that no one can understand, and are overload with data and information which misses the best part of a good report (being visually simple and quick to understand).

As Groucho Marx once said: “Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can’t make head nor tail out of it”…

There’s no need, in my opinion, to have a “monster” reporting system. 97% of it will be never used. Let’s concentrate on the 3%, make it easy to use, nice to look at and flexible enough to keep all users happy.

What should a good report include and be:

  • Easy & Quick to create
  • Current updated data
  • ‘Active’ (show figures on mouse move etc.)
  • Type (i.e. line, bar, radar) relevant to the data
  • Efficient display of the data
  • Meaningful, descriptive title
  • Axes labels
  • Axes scaled proportionally
  • Legend, if needed
  • Gridline, where required

We are now designing and building the first reports on Testuff. As always it is based on requests and recommendations we have gathered from many users for some time now, and hopefully by that will be what they really need and want.
Following our own way of doing things, we plan to ‘start at the start’ and grow from there.
We’ll keep you posted with the progress we make.