What Is Executive Reporting? (Definition and Best Practices)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many organizational executives use data in their decision-making process. By gathering and organizing data, they're able to better understand where their organization currently succeeds and its potential areas for improvement. One process that's beneficial in assisting with this is executive reporting. In this article, we define what executive reporting is, explain why good executive reporting is important, list characteristics of successful meetings about these reports, discuss what to include in these reports and offer tips and best practices for this reporting method.

Related: Data Analysis: Purpose and Techniques

What is executive reporting?

Executive reporting is a reporting and analytics tool that provides organizational executives with essential data. It helps them regularly access the information they need to make good strategic and tactical decisions, such as a holistic view of the business and a high-level view of the business's performance. By using data in decision-making, they may be able to make better decisions, implement transformative initiatives, manage risk and streamline operations.

Executive dashboards are an essential tool for executive reporting. These dashboards gather data from various sources to display real-time data and organizational key performance indicators (KPIs). They summarize the most important data and translate them into visual representations. This allows executives to understand large amounts of data quickly, enabling them to better answer questions or gain actionable insights.

Related: A Complete Guide to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Why is good executive reporting important?

Good executive reporting is essential for gaining an accurate understanding of an organization's current performance. By providing executives with a view of all relevant business aspects, they're able to better understand where the business succeeds and where it may need to improve. This enables them to develop and implement more effective strategies. Similarly, it ensures all the information provided is accurate and accessible, simplifying their ability to examine trends, locate risks and identify opportunities.

Related: Managerial Reporting: Definition, Purpose and Best Practices

Characteristics of successful executive reporting meetings

Here are some characteristics of successful executive reporting meetings:

Focus on strategy

Successful executive reporting meetings focus on long-term strategies rather than day-to-day operations. It's important to center conversations around the organization's overall strategies and how the current performance and goals affect these strategies. This often includes listening to the perspectives of different people within the organization and recognizing the contributions of everyone involved. By the end of the meetings, it's important to determine actionable steps and measures for supporting the strategy.

Discuss KPIs

It's important to discuss the KPIs that affect the organization's strategies and progress the most. Avoid discussing KPIs that may only help the organization look successful but don't provide insight into its actual performance and areas for improvement. Instead, evaluate KPIs as they are and discuss why they may be underperforming or performing well.

Schedule time fairly

While some may believe it's essential to provide every executive with the same amount of time to speak, this may be an inefficient use of your time. Instead, consider what's most important for you to discuss during your limited time. Schedule who might speak and how long they have based on what's most important for that specific meeting and the organization's goals and who's involved with these concerns.

Prepare your participants

Help executives prepare before the meeting. Distribute information and reports prior to the meetings, and ensure they have enough time to review and interpret the information. This can lead to more productive meetings, as executives can focus on discussing initiatives and next steps rather than the data itself.

Assign responsibilities

Ensure the executives understand the action items agreed upon during the meeting and what their responsibilities are for the current period. Allocate responsibilities accordingly and be sure to create a written record of the assignments. This helps establish expectations and create goals for providing feedback.

Collect feedback

Ask meeting participants how they feel about the meetings. For example, find out if they feel the team focuses on the right times, discusses strategies appropriately and allows the right people to speak. Based on their feedback, look for opportunities to update your meeting structure and best practices.

What to include in an executive report summary

An executive summary report should include insights into your organization's most important KPIs. While exact KPIs may vary for each organization and its current goals, it's important to represent this data visually through charts, graphs and similar tools. This allows executives to review, interpret and understand the data quickly. Consider looking for opportunities to highlight what the data represents as it relates to current goals or overall progress.

Related: 6 Types of Performance Reports for Projects

Tips for executive reporting

Consider these tips and best practices to ensure your executive reporting is successful:

Understand your audience

It's essential to know your audience and determine what's most important to them. Think about their goals, needs and concerns, and ensure your reports provide them with the information they need. This creates a solid foundation for them to reference crucial data to identify potential areas for improvement.

Establish the right KPIs

Select the KPIs that best align with your organization's goals. Focus on what's most important, and avoid including vanity metrics that may simply help improve your organization's reputation providing no important information. This helps ensure your reports are productive and relevant to your organization's needs.

Related: 16 Examples of KPIs for the Workplace

Leverage your existing systems

When building your executive dashboard, look for opportunities to connect your existing tools and CMS resources. This creates a comprehensive representation of your organization's performance. It's also more convenient, providing a centralized location for the most important data and metrics.

Update your executive dashboard

Review and update your executive dashboard often. Customize it based on your preferences, and ensure it's easy for all users to access, navigate and understand. Consider updating your metrics when needed if organizational goals change or metrics become less insightful than expected.

Explore software options

There are a variety of software programs and tools available to assist you with executive reporting. Research options that integrate successfully with your existing tools and look for those that update automatically. This helps ensure you consistently have access to real-time data without having to use too many organizational resources on gathering and updating data.

Inform your team

Ensure all employees understand the executive dashboards and the executive reporting process. Training employees on what metrics matter to them and what they mean may help empower them to succeed more within your organization. Consider providing in-depth training to specific departments so each employee has both a general and specialized understanding of what data affects them.

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