creating a report template

Reports are developed to address a business need, to provide information and guidance to its users, to support decision making and so on. The business creates new requirements, new data sets become available, the overall demand for information grows and so do the number of reports. Very often I see tens, if not hundreds of reports that employees run and as often, there’s a prevalent theme among them: inconsistency. You can find them in different sizes, some printable, some interactive, some custom made, some out of a box of the CRM, CMS, ERP, etc. solution and so on. Over the years, the number of reports tends to grow and even those developed in-house are do not offer a consistent look and feel.

Developing a new report from scratch every time your clients or colleagues need one, is usually not a simple project. There are a lot of factors which contribute to creating a successful set of reports and the design consistency is one of them. As per the example below, regardless of the main content of the report, offering a consistent template with common elements across all your reports creates the following benefits:

report design template example

1. Reduces the time and cost…and stress

Having an approved report template with a common look and feel is less time-consuming than creating the entire report from the ground up. The cost of creating a reusable template will save you time and money as soon as you develop your second report. Reusing template components and not having to worry about the overall look and feel, not only reduce the workload, but also inefficiencies and stress levels.

2. Simplifies report development

How many times are you stuck in a report development cycle because the stakeholder is particular on the number of pixels should be between the report title and the logo? Or what colors and fonts to use and so on? Sure, some of that back and forth might still occur, but with a template you don’t need to worry about the overall look and feel or the fixed report components found in the header or the footer. Now all you need to focus your development efforts is on the main content of the report. Everything else is considered a template component and therefore pre-approved.

Use this free report design template to empower your developers.

3. Improves training and end-user satisfaction

Having something new can be good or bad. When you develop reports with a different look and feel than the one before and the one after, you are creating a strain on the end user. Every time an user encounters something new, needs to spend a bit of extra time to learn it. Sure, you can argue that a good report design minimizes that time, but it is still a matter of familiarizing to it. Having your reports follow a consistent template reduces the adoption and training time of new reports since the end-user is already accustomed to the general look and feel and placement of important report components.

Another caveat for adopting a template, is that it provides a clear distinction between your new reports vs older reports – if that distinction needs to be made. Also, if you are part of a decentralized or federated business intelligence operational model, it provides a quick way for the end user to identify the reports your team built.

Does your organization have a report template which is consistently used?

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About the author 

George Firican

George Firican is the Director of Data Governance and Business Intelligence at the University of British Columbia, which is ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. His passion for data led him towards award-winning program implementations in the data governance, data quality, and business intelligence fields. Due to his desire for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing, he founded LightsOnData, a website which offers free templates, definitions, best practices, articles and other useful resources to help with data governance and data management questions and challenges. He also has over twelve years of project management and business/technical analysis experience in the higher education, fundraising, software and web development, and e-commerce industries.

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