A robot, representing ways to automate reporting.
How Teams Can Automate Reporting To Save Time and Effort
A robot, representing ways to automate reporting.

How Teams Can Automate Reporting To Save Time and Effort

Reporting is as important as it is problematic. It takes too long, it’s a complex process, and having to crunch data from multiple platforms eats up a ton of time that could be spent on more crucial tasks. But what about the host of tools out there that can automate your reporting workflows? Do they really work? And why should you bother?

Here’s why automated reports can save you a ton of time, and how you should introduce them into your work.

Why you should automate reporting in your organization

While spreadsheet tools and the like are great for creating reports, they usually involve a ton of manual work. When you automate your reports, you can get the same valuable data and the same crucial insights at the click of a button. You can automate every step of the reporting process, from gathering and organizing data to analyzing trends.

With automation, you’ll also eliminate human error. No matter how attentive people are, there’s always a mistake or two that slips into your reports. But when you automate your reporting workflows, you get reports that are error-free.

One other big advantage of automated reports? They save a ton of time. Compiling data and filling out spreadsheets is hardly the best use of anyone’s time. Automate your reporting workflows and you’ll free up your teams to work on high-value tasks that need that human touch.

What are some examples of reports that can be automated?

With the right tools, you can automate just about any report. Here are just a few examples of reports you can automate without much work.

  • Progress reports: While the status quo involves manually typing out takeaways from a project’s progress, it doesn’t have to be that way. Using a spreadsheet — and the right integration — you can automate your progress reports so stakeholders always have access to the latest data. Here’s a template Unito built for doing that.
  • Resource management reports: A resource management report tells managers, stakeholders, and teams what resources they have available for a specific project or task. These resources usually reflect work hours or budget. Here’s an example of an automated resource management report built in Airtable.
  • Budget reports: Where a resource management report is about tracking the ongoing depletion of resources for a specific project, a budget report is a bit broader. This report will track the budget of an entire team or department, and is used by stakeholders to decide which budgets need cutting and which ones need to grow. Here’s an example of an automated marketing budget report built into Airtable.
  • Time-tracking reports: A time-tracking report tracks the number of work hours that were put into specific tasks or a specific project. Automating these reports can be as simple as using built-in features from your project management tool of choice or as complex as leveraging multiple integrations ot funnel data into a single report.

These are just a few examples of how automating your reporting can free up time for your teams. What kind of reports do you need to automate?

3 tools you can use to automate reporting

It’s one thing to *want* to automate your reporting processes, it’s another to actually do it. You need the will, the right tools, and a bit of knowledge. Luckily, there are a ton of tools out there that can make this happen for your teams. Here are just a few examples of the tools you might use for this:

  • Project management tools: You might not have realized that the tool you use to manage your projects even has reporting features. Many of these automatically pull data from the tasks your teams are working on, from time-tracking fields to status and priority. Have a look around your project management tool, and you might already have everything you need to start automating your reports.
  • Integrations: One of the most complicated parts of reporting is getting data from multiple sources. It’s time-consuming, especially when you need to double-check everything across all platforms. But with the right integration, you can automatically sync data from multiple tools to a single place, whether that’s your project management tool or your go-to spreadsheet software. Here’s how a platform like Unito can make this happen.
  • Spreadsheets: Yes, the ancient spreadsheet can still pull its weight here. Between features that automate data visualization — like pivot tables and charts — and plugins that streamline and automate your data, even a spreadsheet can help you automate your reports.

Having the right tools is essential. Otherwise, you’ll just be creating additional work for your team instead of saving them time.

4 tips for teams that want to get it right

Automating reports can save teams time, energy and money. However, it’s important to treat this like any other new process or tool: with great care. Here are some tips for automating your reports the right way.

  • Start small: If you’ve only ever been manually updating spreadsheets up to this point, don’t expect that you’ll be able to completely change the game after buying the most expensive tool on the market. Start by picking a single report and see how automation can streamline it. Then, use the lessons you’ve learned to automate other reports.
  • Invest in the right tools: Again, don’t just go out there and buy the most expensive tool you can find. Take some time to find the tool that fits your team’s needs rather than whatever’s most popular. Use free trials and free plans as much as you can until you find the right tool for the job. 
  • Iterate on your process: Don’t think of this as a “one-and-done” solution. When you first set out to automate your reporting workflows, take time to document what you’re doing. Then, if you find that the way you’ve been doing things so far isn’t working right, change it up a bit. Always push yourself to find the best way to get things done.
  • Document everything: There’s a tendency, especially in smaller, fast-moving companies, to just do everything ad-hoc and hope it works out in the end. Make sure you leave a paper trail that shows what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, and how you hope to improve. Just make sure you don’t use actual paper. A word processor or a knowledge base platform will do fine.

Don’t be intimidated by this process. Anyone can automate their reporting workflows with a bit of know-how and the right tools. Just take your time, go about it the right way, and you’ll save a ton of work for yourself in the end.

Time to innovate

When you automate your reporting workflows, you’re saying goodbye to the status quo. You’re giving everyone their focus time back, and delivering killer insights without forcing anyone to type them out line by line. As long as you’re using the right tools, start small, and iterate on your process, you can’t go wrong with automated reports.