If your job entails periodic briefings to managers or senior leadership on your department functions, chances are you might divide this task into quarters, or three-month segments. Many organizations use quarterly time periods for accounting and finance operations, so they'll need a briefing that matches this time frame. A quarterly report should include an executive summary and information about business progress, highlights, challenges and goals achieved during that period. You might even include anecdotal references that can bring your report to life through actual events that occurred during the quarter.
Study Previous Quarterly Reports
If this is the first quarterly report that you're writing, review previous reports – quarterly or annual ones. There may be year-end information that you want to carry over to this quarterly report. Also, there could be a preferred format for your quarterly report. It's probably fine if you're going to include additional, relevant information; however, stick to the same format unless instructed otherwise. If you don't already have a template from previous reports, create one, so you don't recreate this step next quarter.
Determine Your Information Sources
Unless the quarterly report is solely within your purview, it's likely that you will need information from other sources or departments. For example, if your report requires financial data, reach out to the accounting or finance section and ask for the data you need for that quarter. If there is data available for the previous quarter, ask for that as well in case you want to draw comparisons between two quarters.
Review Business Topics for Reporting
Gather information about the business topics that you're reviewing in your quarterly report. For example, if you're a consulting firm project manager and the purpose of the report is to update the leadership team on progress for several different engagements, consider listing the name of each client, followed by the type of engagement as subtopics like this:
- [Client Name], [type of engagement; e.g., Executive Coaching]
- [Client Name], [type of engagement; e.g., Team Development Workshop]
- [Client Name], [type of engagement; e.g., Organizational Assessment]
For each subtopic, provide a brief description of the engagement, including the personnel assigned to each one. If you're the project manager, include your name and the name of the client with whom you communicated during this period, as well as a description of your activities as the project manager. Describe other activities on the engagement, such as the number of hours each assigned consultant worked and the goals, objectives and accomplishments for each engagement. For example, you could write,
"ABC Consultant John Doe created team development activities for a February 1, 2019 workshop. The goal of the workshop is to review results from the organizational assessment conducted on December 1, 2018, and facilitate activities to recommit the team members to the organizational mission."
You be the judge on how much detail you should provide, based on the length and format of your quarterly report. This section forms the narrative component of your report.
Spreadsheets are Useful
In addition to being useful in presenting a financial picture for your quarterly report, spreadsheets are appreciated by readers concerned about the bottom line. You don't need to include multiple pages with your narrative report, but a quantitative depiction of quarterly activities gives your readers a snapshot of business progress in your area. Using the same example, if you're reporting on several engagements, your spreadsheet could reflect the starting budget, burn analysis, costs to date and the estimated budget for completion in both dollars and percentages.
Write the Introduction and the Conclusion
Once you have assembled all the information for your report and prepared a draft, write your introduction and conclusion. The introduction should include the period for your report, information sources, the department or projects and the audience. If your report is lengthy or complex, write an executive summary that contains the most relevant information in a one-page summary. The conclusion should restate highlights during the quarter, as well as briefly explain any notable issues encountered during the quarter and projections for the next quarter.
- Writing your first quarterly report may prove the most difficult to compose, but it can become easier over time. Keep in mind that the first report helps establish the focus of the project and its progress. Ask for help on format or questions on the content.
- Do not write about results that you cannot prove or discuss items not accomplished.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition, she is a certified facilitator for the Center for Creative Leadership Benchmarks 360 Assessment Suite, and is a Logical Operations Modern Classroom Certified Trainer . Ruth resides in North Carolina and works from her office in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.