Businesses large and small analyze reports to better understand trends, review past performance and to predict future performance. Reports may be analyzed by management team members or specialized analysts who are highly skilled in business intelligence interpretation. Performance reports many include quantitative data such as sales results or marketing campaign outcomes, or qualitative data such as customer survey comments. Effective performance analysis requires a step-by-step process that starts with goal setting and ends with a summary of findings and an action plan.
Determine the purpose or goals of your analysis. If you recently hired a new reporting analyst and have been asked to check her work, the purpose of your analysis may be to uncover errors or problems. If company sales are trending downward, the purpose of your analysis may be to find the root causes of the poor performance.
Determine the time frame for your analysis. You may want to compare performance this year to performance last year or from a specific date to the current date. Ensure that your performance time frame is long enough to identify trends and meet your analysis goals.
Gather data and reports that align with your goals and time frame. If you are using Microsoft Excel, consider hiding or excluding data elements that do not apply. The sorting, filtering and pivot table functions may also be very helpful.
Review the data and reports, and look for information related to your analysis goals. Attempt to find patterns, elements that stand out, significant changes, numbers that look too high or too low. It may be helpful to use a manual or online highlighter, and/or note taking, so you can remember and refer back to anything that catches your eye.
Interpret the information. Identify and document the trends you uncovered when you reviewed the data and reports. Draw out the findings that are most important and directly align with your analysis goals.
Summarize your findings in a memo, report or email. Start with an executive summary that describes your analysis and highlights the key findings. Include the appropriate level of detail and your recommendations for next steps.
In addition to manual analysis, some companies may also want to consider investing in automated business analysis tools. This software automatically gathers, analyzes and presents data and information, per user specifications.
Ensure that the data used to build your performance reports comes from a trusted source. Data integrity is key to effective report analysis.
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