Report Writingby Clare Forrest
Why do we need reports?
Managers can’t be expected to manage simply by watching what’s going on in their part of the business. They need reports to give them information on what’s happening and advice on what to do to move things forward. Reports are written because
- Someone wants some research data before they make a decision – for example, the best place to open a new branch of the business
- You want to persuade someone to do something – for example, invest in some new resource or buy your idea
- Something has happened that needs recording – for example, an appraisal report or a customer complaint
- The business needs to be continually updated – for example, a progress report about how a new process is affecting performance
- Something has happened that needs investigating – for example, an accident.
More and more reports
And it’s not just that there’s a need for reports, it’s that the numbers of reports written – though not necessarily asked for – has increased over the last decade. There are for four key reasons for this:
- The increased distances over which business is transacted and the resulting time differences, language differences and so on means that we speak less and rely more on the written word for communicating big ideas
- The growth in size and complexity of businesses means the practicality of communicating face to face is diminished as more and more people must be kept in the loop
- The growth in specialisation means managers need specialist reports; as we can no longer be Jacks and Jills of all trades, we rely on others to provide the expertise to help us make sound business decisions
- Thanks to word processors, emails, twitter and blogs, we’re all writers now and, in business, that means we all write reports (though it doesn’t mean we’re any good at it).
Where to start?
Whatever your role in your organisation, the chances are that at some stage someone will ask you to write a report. The question is where do you start? And the answer might be surprising – it’s not with the writing; it’s by following the report writing process.