When it comes to sharing facts about your business, there are few better ways to communicate than through a formal business report. Business reports are often required to analyze past performance and make informed decisions about the future.
Knowing how to write a business report is an important skill, no matter what industry you're in. Today, we'll help you learn more about how to create a professional business report so you can more confidently share your business ideas with others.
What is a business report?
A business report is an official document to convey factual data about your business. Business reports can contain data, statistics, or any other information related to your company or industry.
A business report may simply be designed to convey information about your organization or your past financial performance. But business reports are often created to propose a new business idea or make decisions regarding your corporate strategy. This is why it's essential to hone your report-writing skills — so you can make a good impression and help guide the management of your company.
Types of business reports
Business reports come in different varieties, and each serves a slightly different purpose. Here are some of the most common forms:
Informational reports are some of the most direct and simplest to write. They're designed to convey objective facts. Informational reports are often used to compile background information about the company or the industry, presenting statistical data on market performance, the number of employees, and other relevant data.
A progress report is usually created to provide an update on a specific project or set of goals. For example, a progress report might include data on how sales are improving over the quarter, or it may highlight specific benchmarks associated with the completion of a particular project.
As with informational reports, a progress report doesn't seek to interpret data — it only sets out to present objective facts.
An analytical report is used when a financial decision is on the horizon. An analytical report will present data just like an informational report, but this type of report goes one step further by providing a detailed analysis of the data.
This type of analysis can be helpful when you want to examine efficiency for a particular process or if your company is looking to perform a SWOT analysis to explore your organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
You can generate a compliance report when your organization needs to confirm accountability to industry or legal regulations.
For example, you can use a compliance report to demonstrate that your organization is spending money according to federal regulations or that you're adhering to specific environmental protocols in the way you conduct business.
Investigative or feasibility report
An investigative report analyzes the risks associated with a particular project and presents key findings so that you can decide whether to move forward with an investment or idea.
A feasibility report is very similar, but rather than analyzing risks associated with a proposed idea, a feasibility study determines whether a particular business venture is possible. For example, you could use a feasibility report to decide whether an organization can afford to offer a specific product or service.
A periodic report simply refers to a report generated on a recurring basis. This can be scheduled or unscheduled. It presents data relating to the past quarter, fiscal year, or other specified period of time.
As the name suggests, a situational report is specific to a particular event. Information gained from a web seminar, for example, could be compiled into a situational report.
A yardstick report is a slang term given to business reports that propose several solutions to a single problem. This helps companies brainstorm new approaches to historical challenges and refine their strategies for the future.
Research studies report
A research studies report (also called a "research report") presents research and statistics on a particular problem or issue. A research report is usually created when you face a major decision and need as much factual information as you can get to make the right call.
Even though the research you'll be sifting through may be advanced, you'll still want to be clear and concise and avoid any technical terms or insider jargon. Remember, the easier it is to understand, the simpler it will be to make an informed decision.
How to write a business report for your company
Now that you know more about the purpose and nature of business reports, you can start writing your own documents. Here's a step-by-step guide that you can use for writing business reports for your company.
How to write a business report
- Plan ahead
Before you start researching and writing, you'll want to determine your exact plan. What is the purpose of your report? Who is your target audience? How do you intend to accomplish your goals?
Your report's purpose might actually be given to you, especially if your report is made upon the request of upper management. If so, make sure to refine your goal carefully and ask any questions that can help you zero in on the exact aims of the finished document.
- Check for in-house format requirements
If you're working at an established company, you may be expected to adhere to company standards for writing a business report. Check to see whether there is a specific format you're expected to follow. You can also ask for copies of past business reports so you can match your organization's guidelines.
- Do your research
Here's where the fun begins! You'll want to gather as much data and information as possible about your report's topic. For reports about your own organization, you might rely on your company's internal reporting processes to provide up-to-the-minute sales data, employee records, or other important findings.
Data about your industry might be found through online resources and popular journals. However, make sure to use reputable sources and note the references you use for inclusion in your bibliography.
- Write your introduction
Once you've organized your research data, you're ready to start writing. To start, you'll want to present the reader with a clear introduction.
A good introduction will:
- Help the reader understand the purpose of the report
- Provide a summary of the main argument
- Present any background on the subject matter of the report
- Define any key or unfamiliar terms
This sounds like a lot, but you'll want to be as concise as you can in your introduction. You'll present a more detailed explanation in later sections.
- Summarize your methods
Next, you'll want to briefly explain how you acquired the information contained in your business report. You can simply give a brief overview of how you located your data, as well as how you analyzed your findings.
- Present your data
The main body of your business report will contain all the information necessary to accomplish the report's purpose. This will likely be your longest section, so you'll likely want to split your findings into multiple sub-sections to make it easier for your reader to follow along.
The structure of this section should be clear and simple to follow. Make sure to use titles for each sub-section you include to help your reader understand the data that they're reading in your reports.
Remember: you're not trying to draw conclusions just yet. Instead, you're presenting your findings in a clear, objective manner.
- Write a conclusion
When writing a business report, you'll always want to end well. Your conclusion should summarize your main points and draw out the implications of your research findings.
For example, your research could lead to the conclusion that your organization is not spending money properly. You can use this specific opportunity to make a recommendation in this section.
Typically, you'll want to write a report that contains specific recommendations and measurable actions for the future. These conclusions can help with your organization's decision-making processes, so it's important to be clear and direct.
- Include a bibliography
After your conclusion, you'll likely want to include a quick bibliography that lists any references and sources used to obtain your findings. This helps the reader know where to look to double-check any facts or data you've included in your report.
- Create an executive summary and cover letter
The executive summary and cover page appear first in your report, but you'll actually write these sections last. The executive summary should be a brief summary of your most important points, providing the reader with a one-page synopsis of the focus and conclusions of your business report.
Instead of writing out long paragraphs, you can write quick bullet points to summarize the main contents of your report. Your executive summary should still follow the basic structure of the report itself, but provide a digestible version of your report for easy reading.
You can also add a cover letter to your report. A cover letter can serve as an introduction to the report for any readers who might be unfamiliar with your organization or industry.
- Add a title and table of contents
Longer reports can benefit from a title page and table of contents page. These can appear on the same page, but you might also consider using a separate table of contents page.
Your table of contents should match the structure of the report itself (introduction, contents, conclusion, etc.) so that it's easy for readers to find the sections they need.
Remember, your title page will not be numbered, so you'll actually start numbering your pages with your executive summary.
Tips for writing a business report
Writing business reports will get easier with time. But you'll always want to follow a few basic tips to help you write a report that's professional and helpful for your business.
Determine your purpose
First, always make sure you understand the purpose of the report. Are you simply presenting facts or are you performing a detailed analysis? Keeping your purpose in mind will also help you when attempting to draw conclusions after writing the report.
Avoid personal pronouns
Casual business writing can include personal pronouns ("I," "we," etc.). However, you'll want to avoid these on a formal report, as it simply makes your writing look informal and unprofessional. Likewise, avoid gendered pronouns like "he" or "she" and instead refer simply to "the client" or "customers."
Proofread, proofread, proofread
Don't just rely on spell check to distinguish between "there," "their," and "they're." Proofread carefully, looking for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.
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Frequently asked questions
Need some help writing your report? Here are answers to some of today's most-asked questions.
Your organization may set the format of your report, but generally, every report should contain:
- An executive summary
- An introduction
- A conclusion/recommendation section
- A bibliography
Longer reports might also include a title page or table of contents and other supporting documents to provide additional data.
Typically, business reports are used by:
- Upper management
- Business partners
The report helps all interested parties understand what's happening in your organization and make decisions about future investments and other key decisions.
You may be asked to write the entire report on your own, but you might also collaborate with other members of your organization. Your accounting department, for instance, might have valuable data about the associated costs of particular projects that can help you write a more accurate, detailed report.