Taylor Jackson Shares His Tips for Beautiful Monthly Reporting Packages
Halloween is a great time for a good scare. Some people like to pull pranks. Others prefer haunted houses or scary movies. But one thing nobody likes is staring down at a monthly reporting package that looks like it was sewn together by Dr. Frankenstein.
If you struggle with building aesthetically pleasing reporting packages in Excel, you’re not alone. Excel doesn’t exactly have a “Make It Pretty” button. But with a few simple tricks, you can easily turn them into a visual treat.
Pairing our Catalyst software and its powerful real-time Data Cubes with Excel makes it even easier. Catalyst removes a lot of the legwork in building the reporting package and gives you back days you might have spent simply tying-out the data. When you can do work that used to take several days with a simple click of the “Refresh” button you actually have time to spend making sure things are clear and understandable, which makes you look like a rock star in front of key stakeholders when you present your report.
Here are a few tips I’ve found that can quickly and painlessly help you deliver reports that will impress every time.
- Clean Up and Beautify the Look
Let’s start with a few tips to clean up the basic aesthetics of the report. The most common mistake people make is adding too many elements to their report or not leaving enough space to make it easily readable. Fortunately, this is usually an easy fix.
Here are a few things you can do to make the report cleaner, more spacious and readable:
- Freeze panes to keep a view for the row labels and column headers
- Turn off gridlines in the view tab
- Insert a blank first row and first column on each tab
- Use Grand Totals and Sub-Totals when desired, remove when unnecessary
- Group rows or columns to easily hide/unhide
- Update the color and feel of your cube from the PivotTable Style option in the Design tab
- Make the Report Easy to Drilldown and Update Monthly
My second tip is to set up your monthly reporting packages to be efficient and easy to use. Doing a little bit of extra setup at the beginning can help ensure you’re not wasting time each month with pesky little tweaks to your report.
Here are a few smart tricks to do up front:
- Simplify your header information, like date or company, from a single reference in the workbook
- Minimize the number of cubes throughout the file that require an update each month
- Use additional amounts for in-pivot difference from and % of calculations
- Pre-configure these Pivot Table Options for your report by right-clicking on a cube:
- Autofit column widths on update
- For error values show
- For empty cells show
- Show items with no data on rows/columns
- Take the Presentation from Good to Great
Once you have the basics covered, you’ll want to add one extra layer of polish that will really impress. Best of all, it only takes a few minutes to go from good to great with your presentation and updating it every month is quick and straightforward.
Add these touches, and your reports are guaranteed to impress:
- Create a cover page with the company logo, report date and report title
- Formulaically create a Table of Contents (ToC) based on Excel sheet name
- Link sheet headers from each tab to the ToC
- Add link back to the ToC to each tab
- Color-code the tabs
- Check print preview for each tab
- Perform a Final Quality Control Check
Finally, you’ll want to add a little quality control check before your reports go out the door. You’ve put together a beautiful and impressive report, that last thing you want now is to end up with egg on your face because the sheets are mislabeled!
Here are 3 areas that people often forget to check. Always proof them before you’re done:
- Are fonts and font sizes consistent throughout the workbook?
- Are the titles accurate for each sheet?
- Are the sheets throughout the file named correctly?
With help from Catalyst, and a little bit of setup work in Excel, you can make even the most complex reports easy to compile and easy to read. Stop dreading your monthly reporting cycle. Talk our team and let us show you how much we can simplify for you!
Learn more about Catalyst Data Cubes here: http://bit.ly/EBMcube
About Taylor Jackson: Taylor is an Associate supporting our clients with next generation BI tools to enhance their financial reporting, planning and analysis. With these tools, he can also help accelerate growth by revealing critical insights into customer and product margins, key financial metrics and category trends.
Prior to joining our team, Taylor worked in Advisory at KPMG, specializing in IPO-readiness and risk consulting for clients in the financial services, manufacturing, and retail industries. Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting & Finance from Montana State University. He is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in Minnesota.