Automated reports are the best way to get important information about projects, teams, and even the whole organization to the right place with a minimum of manual work. They can be created with purpose-built tools, spreadsheets powered by the right automation solution, and even project management tools you’re already using. But what goes into an automated report? And what are some essential examples of these reports?
Let’s dive in.
What is an automated report?
A report is a document that’s created to transfer information about a project, a team, or even a whole organization from one party to the other. The entity — a single person, a team, or a business — creating the report has information that the received doesn’t, and the report’s goal is to send that information as efficiently and accurately as possible.
Reports can be created for all sorts of reasons, from sharing the progress of an important project to communicating a team’s workload. Some reports are multi-page documents created in word processors while others are more dynamic, built using dedicated tools that keep data updated in real-time.
Most reports can be turned into an automated report, meaning that their creation happens automatically, data is pulled from multiple sources without any manual work, and anyone who needs to know what’s in the report can check it at their convenience.
How can you build an automated report?
While it can take a bit more work to set up an automated report than write it manually, it pays off massively in the long run. That’s because you usually only need to set up an automated report once, then refer to it again as needed. That means a single automated report can potentially replace dozens of manual ones.
There’s more than one way to build an automated report. Here are just a few:
- Pairing your tools with the right integration. One of the biggest challenges of reporting is pulling data from multiple sources. Done manually, this can take hours. But with a platform like Unito, you can automatically sync data in both directions between tools, meaning that your reports are updated in real-time as work happens.
- Features built into tools you’re already using. Project management tools like Asana have a ton of great features for building automated reports, but they’re not the only ones. SEO tools, CRM platforms, and a ton of the other tools you’re using already have some really useful ways to automate your reports.
- Using automation: Like an integration solution, automations can push data from the tools you need to report on to the tool you’re using to build your report. The main difference is that automations can’t sync data. That means can’t really build dynamic dashboards with automation, but you can at least get your data from tool to tool.
Automated reports for all teams
No matter what team you’re a part of, these are some reports you’re likely to run into during your day-to-day work.
Teams and organizations alike have to deal with risk, those events that can negatively impact individual projects or the trajectory of an entire company. With risk reporting, project managers, executives, and consultants catalog these risks, evaluate how likely they are to impact important outcomes, and how much of an impact they can have.
Time-tracking is essential for all sorts of work, from consultants who get paid hourly to project managers who want to ensure their team is spending their time on the right tasks. Time-tracking reports can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to a dynamic dashboard, or even a feature built right into your project management tool of choice.
You can use a timeline report to represent any kind of data where time is a factor, from the status of a project to employee turnover and even the growth of a company. Using a Gantt chart is one of the most popular ways of displaying this kind of information, since it naturally shows overlap between dates and how different bits of data interact with each other.
Automated reports for project management
One of the main responsibilities of any project manager is reporting on a project’s progress, as well as any potential problems, resource spend, and more. That usually involves multiple reports, making the project manager the information hub for their project.
Resource management report
Managing resources appropriately is an important part of a project manager’s job. For some projects, that can mean tracking how thousands of dollars get spent. But most projects will involve tracking the hours that go into each task, especially when project managers work with teams that are spread out over multiple projects.
The term “variance” refers to deviation from expectations, and a variance report is how a project manager reports on projects that do just that. Whether the project has missed a few deadlines, gone overbudget, or lost some team members, a regular report can help get things back on track.
Project health report
A project health report is usually a quick update on a project’s overall “health,” meaning whether it’s still progressing as it should be, or if it’s at risk. This isn’t a full progress report, just a snapshot of what’s been accomplished, what still needs to get done, and anything that’s blocked.
Want a template for automating this report? Check out this template for Airtable.
Project status report
If a project health report is a quick snapshot of where your project is at, a project status report is a more in-depth look at how things are going. This kind of report will often involve input from multiple team members, quickly communicate resourcing, and even share some early deliverables.
Automated reports for marketing
Marketing teams use reports to evaluate the success of different channels, ensure they’re always bringing in more valuable leads, and keep track of high-value projects.
SEO reports are important for digital marketers trying to bring in organic traffic through their website and other online content. These reports often track that traffic, keyword performance, and backlinks. Many of the SEO tools marketers use have automated reports built right in.
Marketing campaign report
When your team is running a marketing campaign, you need to know how effective it is. That’s why marketers will usually report on this periodically throughout the campaign’s lifetime. This can help highlight problems as they come up and ensure you’re using your marketing resources effectively.
Marketing overview report
While a marketing campaign report focuses on the results of that specific campaign, a marketing overview report will cover multiple — if not all — marketing channels. The challenge is in sharing enough information to get a useful overview of your marketing efforts without creating massive reports that take hours to make. This sort of report can be automated through the marketing tools you’re already using or with the right integration solution.
Automated reports for SaaS companies
SaaS (software as a service) companies need to report on a ton of metrics to keep growing in the right direction. Automation is essential here, especially since SaaS companies start as scrappy startups that need to make the most of their resources.
Cash burn report
Cash burn tracks how quickly a company is using up its cash reserves over time, compared with the amount of money it’s bringing in. This metric is especially important for SaaS companies that are still early in their growth since that’s when big bets need to happen — and big bets often cost big bucks.
ARR and MRR report
ARR and MRR stand for annual recurring revenue and monthly recurring revenue, respectively. Reports tracking this kind of revenue are common among all industries, but they’re especially important for SaaS companies because many use a subscription model that creates this sort of recurring revenue. You can automate this report pretty easily, especially if you use a dedicated tool. The screenshot above, for example, comes from Baremetrics, a dedicated subscription analytics tool.
Customer acquisition cost (or CAC) is an important metric for measuring the effectiveness of marketing and sales efforts for SaaS companies. It contrasts the cost of acquiring a customer with how much money that customer generates for the business. These reports are often used by marketing and sales leaders to justify spending resources on some initiatives and descoping others.
Make it automated
An automated report will help your teams get information where it needs to go without putting in a ton of manual work. Whether you’re sharing the results of your latest marketing campaign, the risks of a new project, or even your website’s SEO performance, automation should be an essential part of your reporting workflows.