Before you start
Before you even begin to research the report, be certain you and whoever has commissioned the report are clear and in agreement on the topic, scope, and objectives of the report. If this is a large project, perhaps for a client, consider a written summary or statement of objectives to ensure the target is clear.
What are the report commissioners expecting as an outcome –do they want some background information on a problem or issue that their business faces, or are they looking for an in-depth analysis with conclusions and recommendations fully costed out?
Consider what your key objectives are? What do you need to achieve? Who will be reading the report -What will their background and knowledge be, and how much will they know about the topic? What background information will they need to appreciate the contents in their full context?
Importance of structure
A Business Report needs to fulfil a number of functions. It needs to be easy to understand, and in particular easy for the reader to access just the information they need.
Some readers will read the whole report, others will want to just skim it, and still others will want to access just the summary, or just the information they need.
For these reasons a report needs a structure.
We have already discussed a structured report in our module on Developing a Business Plan, which you may want to revisit and review.
This covers a proposed structure for a Business Plan.
The exact sections to be included will vary depending on the type of report – It may be financial, technical, or commercial, each of which may require different sections.
The objective is to allow the report reader to quickly access the information they need without having to read the whole report. They may decide from the sections they read whether to read (or in some cases, buy) the whole report.
Allow time for report production
If you are new to writing reports, and to some extent if you are experienced too, the production of a well thought out report will probably take longer than you think. The content is important, but you, and your report, will be judged as much by the presentation as the content. So allow plenty of time for the report production, and pay attention to the details
Report sections and subsections
If a report is more than a few pages long it benefits from a cover page stating the title of the report, the author’s name and the date of the report.
Then there should be;-
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary or Overview
- Body of the report , divided into sections
We will review each of these sections in turn in the next module