How to Create Better Excel Reports by Getting to Know your Audience

If you are responsible, in any capacity, for creating and generating reports in your company, any hacks to increase their efficacy and usability can be valuable.  After all, nobody wants to waste time creating reports people don’t use, or that don’t support the company operations and goals. So it may come as a surprise that one of the key factors in building useful reports and dashboards have nothing to do with technical Excel spreadsheet functions or tips. It’s about how to tailor the report for your audience.

Prior to creating any type of report it’s important to ask yourself, Who is my audience?This question, and its answers, need to be narrowed down as much as possible. Make sure you can clearly identify what is important to them and what they need from the data. The finance department may thrive on detailed numerical information, whereas the sales team may be more visual.

Ultimately, your report users want to be able to answer pertinent business questions as quickly as possible, so the aesthetics of how those answers are presented are important. The best way to accomplish building a report that is fitted to your audience is to have a quick conversation with the user about how they plan to use the report to support their daily tasks. You’ll be surprised what you find out because you may not have a complete understanding of what their needs are until the right questions are asked.

If you’re working from an existing report, or a preliminary mock-up (which can be a good way to start the conversation), ask the user what could be improved in order to make the data easier to work with. Watch how they interact with the report and think about how you might change the interface for an easier and simpler workflow.

In Excel, consider limiting the data set in each tab to directly relate to each business question the report user is asking the report to answer. This ensures every component and piece of the report will be valuable, it can provide structure around your conversation, and prevent overwhelming the intended audience with too much information at once. Then, towards the end, you might find it helpful to include a summary sheet or dashboard to confirm quick, simple questions are being answered by the report.

Too many times organizations struggle to capture, interpret, and utilize data in a meaningful way.  To overcome this, companies should seek to structure their report creation process by incorporating best practices that are easy to implement and ensure success.

At Jet Reports, we have helped tens of thousands of companies, across every industry, streamline their reporting and analytics with proven processes and fast, flexible solutions built for their Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV, and GP ERP systems. Download our Top 10 Best Practices Guide to Reporting to get started with practical, simple steps that will get put you on the path to success.

Tara Grant

Tara Grant

Senior Director of Marketing

Over 12 years of experience in the Dynamics reporting and analytics industry, Tara is obsessed with seeing businesses come to life by data-driven actions. But, coffee first.