Businesses use a variety of reports to present different types of data and information to leadership, employees, and other stakeholders. In almost all cases, these are formal reports prepared over a long period,so they are thorough and packed with information.

While they are an excellent tool for this use case, formal reports are not the best for communicating the latest changes and data to stakeholders quickly. They are a somewhat rigid format, and their biggest issue is that they are not the best for helping with day-to-day decisions.

Realizing this, many businesses have embraced informal reporting. These solve many of the challenges and limitations of formal reporting while providing businesses with additional benefits.

What are Informal Reports?

An informal report is a business document or report that does not adhere to the strict formatting requirements of formal reports. Because of how they are developed, they are great for transferring crucial but timely information that cannot wait for the next big meeting or announcement.

By their very nature, they are usually much shorter than formal reports and have fewer sections. They also remove the barrier of information transmission often associated with formal reports that have to be formatted in a specific way.

For this reason, they are also becoming the favored option for efficient and quick communication, although formal reports remain the better option for transmitting dense and thorough information.

A crucial fact to remember is that businesses and employees should only use informal reports for internal communication. Sending such a report to external parties can make the business look unprofessional.

Informal Report Formats

Employees and business leaders can create informal reports rather quickly. They can gather the information they need to include in a few hours or a day and compile a 1-10 page report.

All they need to include is important messages or internal communication. They do not include personal comments, opinions, or heavily edited data. After all, including these types of information would defeat the purpose of keeping them as short as possible.

An informal report typically only includes the introduction followed by the main findings or information and a conclusion. However, businesses can also create informal analytical reports that include answers to specific questions or solutions to various problems. The main addition to these types of reports is a “recommended” section that provides this information.

When to Use an Informal Report

The main criteria for creating and sending an informal report is when someone needs to send crucial information internally. This can include data or findings but not the detailed data you typically form in other types of reports.This reporting format can help guide day-to-day operations, communications, decision making and strategizing.

Only focusing on formal reports can cause businesses to miss the benefits of the timely and simple communication informal ones provide.

The Importance of Informal Reports

The main advantage of informal reports is that they save time. When things are moving as quickly as they do in most businesses, employees and leaders do not have time to go through a lot of data and dense information. They need something lighter and simpler that informs their operational decision-making, and informal reports are suited well for this use case.

These types of reports are also excellent tools for guiding employee actions. Because they can be developed quickly, they can be used alongside other corrective measures to stop things going in the direction they are. Employees who receive and read them can take the necessary actions, whether that is working on projects that impact the business the most or improving how they interact with customers.

Types of Informal Reports

One of the most common types of informal reports is meeting minutes. Every business should produce minutes after every meeting for official communication and records. These records are crucial for highlighting everything discussed, voted on, agreed upon or proposed during business meetings. In short, they are detailed meeting summaries.

The other type is expense reports. These are very similar to formal reports because they follow a strict format that makes writing and understanding them easier. They include all expenditures categorized according to their type. Because they present facts and figures, informal business reports should not include free or additional writing.

Status update reports tell leaders, employees and managers about what is happening in the business. These reports are informational and can be edited at any time if they are living documents. You can convert them from PDF to Word if you want to edit them or keep them as viewable PDF documents if you would like to create them regularly or use them to track progress over time.

Lastly, there are other informal reports like conference reports, trip reports, feasibility reports, and proposals. Creating them depends on business needs and the type of documentation required at specific times.

Creating Informal Reports

Every type of informal report is slightly different due to its contents, but the process of creating one is largely the same. The first step in doing so is planning it. Start by checking whether the business requires employees to use a specific template when doing so for uniformity reasons.

Then, understand why you are creating the report. Doing so will be a crucial guide when collecting the information to include in one and knowing who will receive it. As you collect data and information, remember to leave out anything that is not relevant or crucial at the time.

Writing the Report

Once you have understood the purpose, gathered the information, and have a clear outline, the next step is writing the report. This should not take too long because the main things to focus on are the words, phrasing and structure.

With the main purpose being to pass information quickly, do not fall into the trap of writing complex sentences or changing your writing style. As long as those who receive it can understand its information, the message should always be the primary focus.

However, this is not to say that you should not keep a professional tone. You never know who will read the report even when it is meant for internal use only.

Formatting and Revising

Even without strict formatting guidelines, your report should still be presentable. Use clear sentences and paragraphs, and include distinct sections, summaries and headings. The people who read the report will appreciate it if they can skim through it and still understand the gist of its information.

Avoid adding new sections because you should or can. Every section should have a clear purpose and headings that align with the content contained in them.

With things changing rapidly in a business, it is understandable to feel you should send the report as soon as possible. However, it is a good idea to take a few hours or a day to revise the information it contains. This will help you present a more polished report and can even help you find areas to include additional information for a well-rounded final report.

Formal and informal reports both play crucial functions in business. While formal ones are the better option for detailed, dense information, informal reports are better for faster, day-to-day communication. They are also helpful in correcting issues, employee communication, and ensuring team leaders and managers understand what is happening within teams, departments and the business.