Sign In Book a demo
Return Back

A Step by Step Guide to Board Reports: What are They and How to Write One

In this article, we’ll cover some board report essentials: their purpose, general structure, and writing tips. We’ll also provide you with a board report template you can customize to fit your needs.

person
Uri Kogan

June 17, 2022 2 min read

A Step by Step Guide to Board Reports: What are They and How to Write One

The secret to a productive board meeting lies in its careful preparation. Board reports are an essential part of that preparation — a quality business report will keep your presentation on track, and bring your board members up to speed in a clear and concise way.

However, putting together a good board report requires time, effort, and skill.

While the purpose of a board meeting is to discuss a company’s performance, remember, it’s your own performance being judged, as well. To make sure you present yourself and your team as best as possible, it’s essential to cover all your bases in your board report, making sure no important information gets left out, while also keeping your committee engaged.

In this article, we’ll cover some board report essentials: their purpose, general structure, and writing tips. We’ll also provide you with a board report template you can customize to fit your needs.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • What is a Board Report?
  • What’s the purpose of a Board Report?
  • Different types of Board Reports
  • How to structure a great Board Report
  • How to write your Board Report
  • How to end a Board Report
  • Summary

What is a Board Report?

A board report is a document distributed to board members prior to a board meeting. This document should contain information that will inform the meeting and will be discussed during it.

The report’s content will usually involve the company’s financials, recent growth projections, variance to plan, business strategy, and summations of the overall performance through overviews of key performance indicators (KPIs).

What’s the purpose of a Board Report?

The most important part of a board report is, of course, the data presented. During the meeting, the board of directors will be raising questions—it is the report’s purpose to provide context and provide the foundation for a discussion. It’s not enough to summarize performance, you also need to provide key takeaways and recommended actions.

To avoid information overload, it’s best to stick to a few key areas that need to be discussed. Going into too much detail will result in confusion and time lost in trying to parse through all the information for the most relevant insights.

Additionally, it is recommended to keep to clean, impactful formatting and design. If the way the information is arranged is too plain, it will be harder for the board to follow and extract important information. Messy visuals, on the other hand, can be overstimulating and might hide crucial insight from view.

Different types of Board Reports

Each board meeting usually comes with a special area of focus. Sometimes that will be discussions of strategy, sometimes financial projections. These different conversation topics should be reflected in the report’s content and structure.

We’ll highlight how to write two fundamental types of report:

  1. CEO Board Report
  2. HR Board Report

How to Write a CEO Board Report

What the typical CEO report represents is a monthly breakdown of the progress on business objectives and the company’s financials.

A great CEO report does not necessarily have to be written or compiled by the CEO themselves; however, it should provide an executive summary of everything they will need to discuss with the board.

For a great CEO board report:

  • focus both on past success and future endeavors
  • outline your goals clearly
  • prioritize data analysis and highlight key takeaways
  • describe outcomes

A CEO report answers to the board in the name of the whole company. Therefore, keeping to objective information sources and providing high-level overviews of company activity is key.

How to Write an HR Board Report

While CEO reports are all about driving progress and achieving set goals, HR reports serve to inform the board of directors of the company’s internal stability.

An informative HR report should focus on:

  • hiring efforts and quality of the talent pool
  • employee engagement
  • diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) policy
  • employee turnover

With an overview of these focus areas, the report should provide your board members with all the insights they need on the current engagement and satisfaction of employees, and can provide hints to addressing retention and turnover.

How to Structure a Great Board Report

Every board report’s structure will vary depending on the company growth stage and mission.

Still, there is a basic structure to follow in order to keep your report clear and concise:

1. Board meeting details

Start by outlining your document, including the date of your meeting, name of the committee, committee chair and members, as well as the meeting objective.

2. Recent projects

The first item on the meeting agenda should be a review recently completed projects, measuring their success and giving credit where credit’s due. Your notes should include the name of the project, a short project summary, prominent drivers within the project and key outcomes.

3. Current projects and upcoming events

After sharing updates on what’s been completed since the last board meeting, it’s time to turn the board’s attention to the progress of current activities. If possible, it is recommended to include stages of progress in your notes, important milestones, as well as expected results and an estimated time of completion.

To keep everyone appraised, include short announcements of upcoming events and planned projects.

4. Financial review

Arguably the most important part of your board report, the section outlining the current financial state of the company should be clearly organized and easily understandable. Your financial report should document things such as revenue and expenditures, cash flow, income, and shareholder equity. Accurate and detailed financial data provides the decision-makers with key indicators and crucial information needed to drive efficient corporate strategies.

5. Conclusions and recommendations

The end of your report should sum up key takeaways from both past activities and ongoing projects, as well as outline a proposed direction for the upcoming period — before your next board meeting.

Given the volume of information expected from a typical board report, you’d be surprised to find out the average length of this document should be no more than a couple of pages: 3 to 4 at most. To achieve this, make sure you present your data in a concise, direct way. Rely on design to help in structuring the content, and use bullet points and numbered lists to your advantage.

Common board report formats are Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. Board decks can come in the form of a PowerPoint presentation — for the report itself, it’s advised to rely on word processing programs.

Avoid the following:

  • Lengthy sentences or an overly complicated report structure. Information overload will make it difficult for board members to follow the meeting’s agenda and separate important insights from the fluff.
  • Busy design. Keep things simple. The point of the board report is to relay important information — not impress the committee with visuals.
  • Mentioning non-green-lit projects. In business, sometimes ideas fall through, and projects don’t get off the ground. Overpromising during a board meeting and then not delivering on the members’ expectations will generate discussion that will detract attention from what is actually being delivered.

board report

How to Write a Great Board Report

The essence of writing a quality board report is quality over quantity.

To ensure that quality, you should make sure you’re tailoring your message to your audience.

Depending on the board’s previous experience in the industry, you might want to simplify your language and content — or you can go into even more technical detail. If, for example, most members of the board aren’t well-versed in financial statements or data analysis, limit that part of the report to just the key takeaways.

Make sure everyone comes out of the meeting feeling like they fully understood every minute — that way, you secure more input from the committee.

On that note, let’s review some of the key metrics to include in your report. Avoid metrics that are quick to change and might lose relevance the moment the meeting is concluded. Instead, look to larger trends that influence your company’s growth, market conditions, and financial health.

Note that the contents of the report should vary according to the company’s growth stage. For early-stage organizations, for example, conversion and engagement rates are key indicators of how well the business is doing. For the enterprise stage, this becomes less important: retention and employee engagement are of the essence here.

To cover all your bases, we recommend including a few of the following metrics in your report, according to the needs of the meeting as well as your business:

  • Marketing: focus on acquisition rates and cost, as well as Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) and return on investment (ROI); lead volume and individual marketing channel performance (especially social media channels) are also very informative marketing performance and brand reputation metrics.
  • Sales: for a high-level overview of your sales performance, review activity from the last quarter and add projections for the next quarter, as well. Year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter trends should also be included.
  • Product: present development roadmaps and timelines. For discussions of performance, look at your Monthly Active Users (MAU), retention rates, engagement and churn.
  • Finance: always include reviews of your profit and loss accounts. Remember to include updates on large expenditures, such as acquisitions. Your CFO should be ready to take over from you here, if this is something that you’re comfortable with. Financial statements should not be presented as sheets and overly detailed graphs; rather, highlight the bottom line.
  • HR: share crucial information on company growth, individual teams’ performances, and employee turnover.

To relay all this data in an engaging way, don’t shy away from including charts and graphs in your report. While it’s more important for your board deck to be well-designed, that doesn’t mean the board report should avoid data visualization.

Double and triple-check that the data in your report aligns with the board deck, to avoid unnecessary confusion.

ending a board report

How to end a Board Report

The end of your report should sum up the major insights of the past quarter.

After presenting this information, be ready for questions. Board members can often be concerned about forward-looking aspects of company operations, such as corporate strategies for growth, product roll-out road maps, or employee turnover numbers.

To prepare for the committee’s questions as best as possible, go over your report in detail before presenting. Identify potential pain points, and reinforce your position with additional hard data.

This data may not need to go into the report itself, but it will be helpful to have it by your side during the meeting.

Sometimes board members won’t immediately have the right questions – for more insightful input, you can always follow-up a day after the meeting through email.

Summary

Constructing an impactful, high-quality board report is the key to an effective, time-efficient board meeting.

Make sure to accurately and precisely represent the performance of the company by covering all of the important aspects of its operations. Board reports should always include all of the relevant meeting details, projects recent and current, a financial overview, as well as recommendations for the immediate future of the company.

Different meeting objectives should influence the structure and content of the report.

While a CEO board report focuses on the more high-level areas, covering corporate successes, future goals, and structural data analysis, an HR board report should cover matters of internal stability, analyzing the talent pool, employee engagement, DE&I policies, and the overall turnover.

Lastly – keep in mind that a good board report is all about keeping it short and to the point. No data overloads, no excessive run-on sentences, and no unnecessary information. You can cover all of your key metrics – marketing, sales, product, finance, and HR – through organized bullet point lists and a few smartly placed graphs. Of course, if there’s need for you to break down your reasoning behind certain insights, be prepared to back up your ideas with hard data to avoid any chance of confusion.

A quality board meeting is a productive board meeting — and a well-prepared board report will get you halfway there.

Create impactful, data-informed Board Reports with OnPlan

Having a hard time extracting the right data and key insights for your board meetings? OnPlan can help. To see the OnPlan engine in action, schedule a demo.

Book a Demo
bg
person

30

Publications
About Author
Uri Kogan

Uri Kogan leads marketing and go to market strategy at OnPlan. Uri brings experience as a B2B SaaS marketing executive at a number of high-growth companies, including Nuxeo, where he created a new category of Product Asset Management, leading to a 12x ARR exit, and AppZen, where he led AppZen’s entry into the AP market and served as interim CMO. Earlier in his career, Uri led software marketing teams, incubated new services products, executed turnarounds, and led award-winning global supply chain initiatives at HP. Uri holds a B.A. in economics and a B. Music in opera performance from Northwestern University, and an MBA from Kellogg.

Show more