People often business report writing style at the thought of writing a “business report”. Granted, these are somewhat more complicated than business letters, but if approached in the right way, writing a business report can be a straightforward and reasonably painless process. There are a number of different generic types of business reports including: general business report, business plan, business proposal, marketing plan, strategic plan, business analysis, project report, project analysis, project proposal, project review, financial plan, financial analysis, and others. Although the technical content and terminology will vary from report to report, depending on the subject and industry context, the actual “report writing process” will be essentially the same.
Whether it’s a short 10-pager, or a major 100-plus pager, that “process” will involve the same fundamental steps. The following seven points are what I consider to be the essential steps for writing any business report. Follow these steps carefully and you won’t go wrong. This is a very important initial step. Whether the client is you, or someone else, be sure that everyone is talking about the same thing in terms of final outcome and expectations. What bottom line are they looking for? This is another very important initial matter to clarify.
There are a number of different types of business reports. Although there is usually overlap between the different types, there are also important differences. For example, do they want: a business plan, a business proposal, a strategic plan, a corporate information management plan, a strategic business plan, a marketing plan, a financial plan, or what? Know exactly what type of final report is expected from the outset. This stage may be as simple as collecting and reading a few background documents supplied by the client, or it could involve developing questionnaires and conducting detailed interviews with the appropriate people.
It will vary with each situation. This document can normally be done before, or in parallel with, the first phase of project information gathering. This should be more than just a rough draft TOC. It should be a carefully thought out breakdown of exactly what you imagine the TOC will look like in the final report. If you’re writing the report for an external client, it’s a good idea to present the draft Table of Contents to them at this point in the process and get their approval.
This will force them to think it through and confirm what they really want at this point. Once they have agreed to a TOC you will have their “buy-in” for the rest of the process, therefore significantly reducing chances of any major changes or reversals at the final report phase. After thinking through the TOC in detail, you will know if any additional research is required. If yes, do this extra information gathering before you sit down and start to actually write the report.