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A Guide to Effortless Annual Report Creation

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Aayush Jain
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A Guide to Effortless Annual Report Creation

Preface

Annual reports are prepared every year, and this year is not gonna be any different for the brands. If you are the one joining that pool of brands going public with their last year’s achievements then this guide will help you not to make most of the mistakes brands do; even if you are into reporting for some time then also there is a lot to learn and explore. This ebook is prepared for helping businesses that are new to reporting and want a complete manual about making a report from scratch. We have covered every part of the report making while explaining the crucial aspects that make or break the document. Along with the in-house preparation, we have also highlighted outsourcing in detail and also, the steps for efficient vendor management. If you go through the whole ebook, you will be able to perfect your first annual report with ease.

Overview

People sitting at a table with a chart on the wall. Annual report guide for brands, covering every aspect of report making, from scratch to vendor management. Perfect your first annual report with ease.

An annual report is a yearly document mandated by respective governments for companies of size. This report contains your financials for the past year including the income, profits, losses, cash balance, investments and much more. There are some reporting standards mandated by the government or international associations, which are to be followed to  comply with the guidelines issued by the regulating bodies.

Components of  an Annual Report

An annual report could follow any developmental process and reporting standards but still, there are certain sections and information pillars which form the part of every report. Some of these sections are described below with a brief explanation of what it covers. 

General corporate information

One must add the information about the company in the report as an introductory part so that readers get to know more about your operations, products, and services.

Operating and financial highlights

A brief highlight of the operational activities, concerning the last year along with the activities involving the finances of the company must be shared with the readers through statistics and stories.

Letter to the shareholders from the CEO

A message, thanking shareholders for being with the company and believing in it must be shared, coming directly from the CEO. This message should also put some light on the activities to be completed in future along with the priorities, expectations from the investors, shareholders and the government. The letter from the CEO is something, which is the most read part of an annual report as it comes directly from the man in charge.

Narrative text, graphics, and photos

While highlighting the stories of the last year, the company should share the photographs and infographics related to the same so that the investors remain connected to the brand.

Components of  an Annual Report

Management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A)

People love to listen to the decision-makers as they have an outlook on the future. The top management should share their analysis along with the discussion for an inside view of the organisation.

Financial statements

Sharing the financial status of the company is the foremost thing and should be done with integrity while sharing insights about the last year’s performance.

Notes to the financial statements

This part will help the investors to comprehend your stats and also provide the reasons for any decline or exponential growth.

Auditor’s report

Sharing the auditor’s report builds your credibility while assuring that the data presented is free of any flaws. The auditor’s report also highlights that every guideline has been followed.

Summary of financial data

Every reader won’t be able to comprehend your data to the fullest so you need to summarise the same and present it in a way that the crucial takeaways are visible.

Accounting policies

Accounting principles like IFRS, IAS are followed to keep the report at par with the global standards, the same should be depicted in this section of the report.

CSR initiatives

You must be doing your bit for the community and environment, the practices must be showcased and the same must be reflected in your reporting. A section should be dedicated to CSR activities and the stories of change to connect more with the readers.

Highlight your community and environmental efforts in concise, engaging alt text. Include CSR activities and impactful stories for reader connection.

Planning

A man and woman standing in front of a large screen, possibly engaged in a presentation or event.

Once you have some insights into the reporting mechanisms along with the types and requirements, you should move to the planning part. Planning of the report must be done with the utmost care and responsibility as this part helps a lot in the smooth execution of the report. In the planning part, you get to do everything on paper and conceptualise the road map for the future.

Planning must be done with the team responsible for making the project successful along with the third parties offering their subject matter expertise.

Here, you get to decide the chain of events along with the intensity and resource allocation to each activity. A well-planned project is always successful because every possibility is being mapped with the likely response that helps in the completion of a task. We will take you through some crucial aspects of planning that will make the report preparation and execution easier.

Core team

People sitting at a table with a laptop, working together. Core team collaborating on a project.

This is going to be the most crucial part of the planning process because more than anything else, it’s the human resource that makes everything possible; you need to decide who is going to do what, along with the person-in-charge of the whole activity.

These people must be recognized at the earliest:

Project Manager  (Person-in-charge)

The project manager will look after the coordination and overall execution of the whole project. He/she will be responsible for sharing feedback and getting the tasks done from the respective team members.

Finance Officer

This person must have expertise in making financial decisions and should be able to compile the financial statements of the company.

Accountants

Accountants are responsible for making the balance sheets, cash flow statements, income statements and performing other accounting tasks.

Core team

Auditors/CA

A team of auditors should continuously check the validity of data and the findings. They are also responsible for making sure the government guidelines are being followed.

Data Analysts

When there is a large amount of data available, analysts are responsible for breaking it down and coming out with some comprehensible and relevant statements related to the same.

Photographers

For sharing the internal stories of the company, photos and videos are to be shot so that the audience connects with the real world of the organization.

Operations/Procurement Manager

The procurement team will be responsible for arranging the stationary, signing contracts with the agencies and the publishing houses for taking the project live.

PR Manager/Communications Manager/Marketing Manager

The procurement team will be responsible for arranging the stationary, signing contracts with the agencies and the publishing houses for taking the project live.

The specified personnel must have a proven experience of working in the designated working environment, if not, the skill set should be matching in one way or another.

A Guide to Effortless Annual Report Creation | © 2024 INK PPT

Some activities could be overlapping; a person could be responsible for handling more than one vertical if your team is small, but defining that particular task must be done before any other activity.

A group of professionals working together on a project. They are the main contributors and decision-makers.

Stakeholders

There could be many stakeholders driving value and mileage out of your reporting, we are listing down some, which could change as per the industry. For stakeholders to be interested in your report it must contain the information, which is valuable for them.

Industry and Competitors

Your operating industry is looking for information to assess your future campaigns and also the present situation for getting hold of the competition and making plans according to the same.

Government

The government will look at your sustainability goals and also the accounting policies if every guideline is being followed or not. Good reporting practices are often awarded by governments.

Investors

Your shareholders or investors are most interested in understanding your financial position to make an informed decision about future investment plans. There must be continuous addressing to the investors in your report.

Stakeholders

Probable Investors

Investors who are not part of your shareholding, will look to invest in your company and seek information about your financial status. You should address them to make full use of the annual report.

Aspirants 

Professionals who are looking to join your company also look for information and read the annual reports for the same. The report highlights the values of the company along with the plans, knowing the same increases the chance of getting selected.

Vendors, Partners and Distributors

There must be numerous partners looking to associate with you and offer their expertise. They look for information and the annual report is the most primitive source for them.

Customers

A tremendous amount of people are fond of your products, services and expect to know more about the company. The annual report offers an exclusive inside look at the organisation, which is fascinating for many.

Community

You must be working for the community and for the same reason, they must be interested in your last year’s performance. The CSR activity impacts many positively, and people start feeling a connection with the company due to those initiatives. A section must be talking about those people at some point in time.

Diverse group of stakeholders discussing project plans at a round table meeting.

Budgeting

At the initial stage, it is important to have a minimum and maximum budget along with the guidelines of expenditure. It should involve the activities you will be undergoing and the estimated budget associated with the same.

Human Resource

While deciding the HR costs, you must take care of the subject matter experts, internal team’s cost, freelancers’ cost and other people involved in the reporting purpose.

Data Curation

Several tools are required for curating and analyzing data that attract some costs along with the data security mechanism and storage space.

Auditing

There are auditing agencies involved in getting the things done and helping you with the compliances, this team will require funds and the same must be calculated well in advance.

Budgeting

Report Writing Expert

Investors who are not part of your shareholding, will look to invest in your company and seek information about your financial status. You should address them to make full use of the annual report.

Report Designing Agency

While estimating the cost of a designing agency, you must have an overview of the cost prevailing in the industry and then allocate a chunk of the budget for the same.

PR Agency

PR agency attracts some monthly retainer cost and it will be responsible for promoting your brand continuously. The assessment of that cost will also go into your budget planning.

Translation Agency

Translation services will be required as many regulators ask for reports to be translated into regional languages. This will attract the cost to be calculated and kept aside.

Printing Partner

You need to assess the type of paper, its quality, what you want for your cover, binding cost and many other such aspects to calculate the printing cost of the report.

Marketing & Distribution Partner

You need to assess the type of paper, its quality, what you want for your cover, binding cost and many other such aspects to calculate the printing cost of the report.

Report Theme

A report without a theme or direction will not yield results as your attention and power would be distributed in too many areas. A theme offers that vision and path, which is necessary for the fruitful execution of the assignment.

While deciding the theme, these aspects must be incorporated:

A sleek and modern report theme with a blue colour scheme and clean design elements.

Your theme must correspond to most of these aspects directly or indirectly so that you maintain the originality and authenticity in your approach.

Publishing options for annual report: print, digital, and online.

Publication

You need to decide on the publication, what type of report you want for this year, there are many options available, we will list down some for your reference.

Web-Based Report

A web-based report is an HTML document that is clickable and could be of several distinct pages. This document is accessible with the help of a web browser.

Mobile Report

A mobile responsive report works flawlessly on mobile phones and there is no need to zoom in and out as it will fit the screen perfectly. The navigation is also made possible according to mobile dimensions only. The same could also be launched as a mobile application for making it extremely user-friendly.

Publication

Digital Report

This report is technologically advanced and caters to the audience looking for smart information, efficiently. A digital report is made specifically for mobile phones, desktops and tablets.

Video Report

A visual representation of your financials using animations and real footage along with the infographics is done. It’s for the people who are not that fond of reading.

Traditional Paperback Report

This is the most primitive way of publishing the report in the form of a physical booklet, the companies have been sharing the reports through this medium for ages.

A PDF Document

Usually, most of the companies go for the pdf document and upload the same on the websites. Making and sharing PDFs is easier than any other format.

Once you choose 1 or more than that for your report, the path ahead will be directed in a particular direction and get optimized for the chosen platforms.

There are some crucial aspects requiring attention before you choose the right medium for your report publication.

Accessibility of information to stakeholders

You must look at your stakeholders and decide, where they would love to read the report, if you have a stakeholding of more millennials with a young outlook of the industry then go for digital reports otherwise, go for printable formats.

Cost of publication 

You must look at your stakeholders and decide, where they would love to read the report, if you have a stakeholding of more millennials with a young outlook of the industry then go for digital reports, otherwise, go for printable formats.

Reader persona and comfort

Identify the reader and get to know the type of report they desire. You may also conduct a small survey and get to know their opinion.

Alignment with the organization mindset

Every organization thinks differently and has a distinct mindset about the medium of the report. This should also be taken into consideration while deciding on the reporting medium.

Reflection of Vision and Belief

The medium should come out as a version of your identity, it should match your values and portray the true meaning of your organization.

Time Constraints

An application could take 2 to 3 months when it goes to development and then testing, on the other hand, printing will take comparatively lesser time. You must assess how much time you have in hand and then make the decision.

Information Security

Security of your data and internal audits must be maintained in every aspect, before going with the publication medium, assess the security constraints with every report and then make an informed decision.

A person organising and managing data curation process on a computer.

Data Curation & Management

This part is going to be the most crucial one for any organisation looking to get out there in public with its financial position because the authenticity and validity of data makes a real difference in the minds of investors.

Start with an Objective

Collection and analysis of data without an objective are not going to yield the desired results for the company. You need to decide, which data is useful and which one doesn’t require any analysis. The same notion will help you design the statistic mechanism and analysis tools useful for operating.

Data Security and Protection

This is not applicable just for the annual report data but for any kind of data available on your servers. With numerous data breaches and failures, you must be cautious with the security and make use of the technology for keeping the intruders out of the system. Otherwise, you will be left with nothing to analyze and report for the future. Unfavourable conditions like humidity, extreme warmth could also lead to system failures, you must keep that in mind and help the servers remain in shape.

Data Curation & Management

Your Data Must be Audit-Ready

It won’t always happen that you will be audited by the government agencies, but you must be prepared for the same. Always follow the guidelines issued by the respective governments related to data storage, analysis and sharing with the third party so that your credibility is never in question.

Use Connected Systems

Today, an abundance of data is available and that too on multiple platforms in multiple formats. This creates a hindrance in analyzing the data. You need to have a system that is connected and understands the language of your multiple platforms. For analyzing data, there is a need for the same base and ranges, which becomes a problem due to multiple sources of data.

Make use of the Shared Data Libraries

There are numerous data libraries like SharePoint, Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox that let us work concurrently without following up with the team. These cloud-based resources help in maintaining a secure repository and also track the work according to the set timelines.

Vendor mapping process flowchart with arrows connecting vendors to specific categories and products.

Vendor  Management

Once you have something on the paper including the plan and the roadmap, you should reach out and look for partners carrying subject matter expertise like design agencies, auditing agencies, financial analysts, publications, PR agencies.

Shortlisting the vendor will involve many third-party agencies and service providers, working under your guidance along with their expertise. Follow these steps for an efficient vendor selection:

Work with an Objective

The constituted core team should start working on the objectives and the requirements of the project. They should start by listing the tasks to be completed in-house and then list the requirements for any external agency. Once the requirements are penned down then the task at hand will become easier.

Search for a Vendor

Initially, start with references and previously associated vendors to come up with the list that matches your requirements. The team should start reaching out through the internet and other mediums for shortlisting the favourable agency.

Vendor  Management

Proposal and Quotation

The proposal should contain the background of the business along with the requirements, constraints, guidelines and other important aspects related to the annual report. Then you should wait for the quotation from several agencies along with the services coming your way. This will help you recognize the agency, offering more value to the company.

When you have released the tender bids or shared the request for proposals and received the quotations, these checks must be made before making any decision.

  • Case studies of the related previous work
  • Understanding of the role
  • Understanding of the team members
  • Google reviews
  • Trust pilot reviews
  • Client references
  • Cost break-up
  • Payment terms being clear
  • No work stoppage clause
  • Fitment for vendor registration

Share the Final Contract

You should start by defining the clear expectations along with the quality benchmarks. You should work on the mechanism of milestones to get the sense of the report at every step and keep away the possibility of a complete re-work. Brands should evaluate their risks and liabilities while stating the state the level of confidentiality required. Understanding the difference between what you want and what you need, from the outsourcing contract, can help you create a better strategy.

Vendor  Coordination

Brief for the Agency

An efficient brief for the agency must be prepared and communicated so that they are aware of the tasks to be completed. The brief must contain all the expectations, with the timelines and also, the dos and don’t along with the reference material for better understanding.

Establishment of Point of Contact’

There must be numerous people deciding on your end but only a single person should interact with the agency to clear the possibility of any ambiguity. This POC must accommodate every feedback from the team members and communicate the same in a single go.

Efficient Review and Feedback Mechanism

The feedback mechanism must be robust and flexible enough to accommodate every type of change and modifications of business requirements so that the work for you and the agency becomes smooth for execution.

Creation

A woman and man standing next to a phone screen displaying a graph.
Components of Writing a Report: Title, Introduction, Methodology, Findings, Conclusion, Recommendations, References.

Report Writing

Once you are done with planning the report then you must move ahead with getting it ready. We will list the steps for the perfect execution of the annual report.

Prepare to write

To know about what to report and what not to in the specified period, you must go with the following documents of your company

  • Corporate charter
  • Bylaws
  • Articles of incorporation

These documents will offer you the required outlook of the expectations and the corporate governance prevailing in your company.

Prepare the Balance Sheet

To prepare the balance sheet, create the balance sheet page to show:

  • The assets of the company (what the company owns)
  • Its liabilities (what it owes)
  • Its equity accounts, such as supplementary paid-in capital for particular dates and common stock.

Report writing

Prepare the Income Statement

The income statement should show, how much the business made and spent over a range of time. Income statements are typically drafted from January 1 to December 31 of any given year.

Prepare the Cash Flow Statement 

You should start the cash flow statement with a section for operating activities. This section should correspond to the already prepared income statement. 

Prepare the Summary

Once the financial statements are made, you need to come up with a summary that will help the readers to comprehend the whole document and make an informed decision related to future investments.

Review

Once the partners and your team have completed the annual report, there comes a time for a final review to look at any missed chances and also at the final improvements, if any.

There should be a mechanism for sharing feedback using the centralized space of cloud storage through:

  • Google drive
  • One drive
  • Dropbox
  • Zi Flow
  • Filestage
  • Jumpshare
A person holding a magnifying glass, examining a document with a critical expression.

Review

While reviewing, you must list down the aspects under these pointers:

Previously Agreed on Parameters

At the initial stage, we discussed the components of an annual report, now is the time to see if those components are incorporated according to the agreed-upon terms or not. If yes, you may move forward with the next step.

What did you like in the Report?

List down every part of the report you liked so that those parts will get a go-ahead and no modifications will be made in that part. It could be a particular page, a design, a table, or any other aspect of the annual report.

What you did not like in the Report?

The core team must sit down and come up with the parts that require improvement and ask the designated personnel to incorporate that change.

Compliance

This must be done with precision to understand if all the guidelines are being followed along with the reporting standards. The auditors need to check for every guideline and match it with the report to stay away from the possibility of any compliance-related issue.

Whenever you are reviewing the report, you must go for numerous checks in multiple dimensions so that you get the best out of your report. We are listing down those checks so that you don’t miss out on any crucial aspect.

Branding Check

It must be well assessed and mapped if there are no brand guideline violations and also the uniformity of identity must get a precise look. Size, positioning of the logo, brand colours etc. must be in place according to the brand identity.

Spell Check

A thorough spell and grammar check must be made both manually and using AI multiple times so that there is no scope of typing errors or any other mistake related to the text.

Fact Check

There are several facts, including the figures of your achievements, the same must be checked for authenticity so that only the true image gets portrayed.

Images Check 

You must check the images for correct resolution, pixel density along with the objectionable content to get the desired output. You must also take care of the fact that the right image is being placed in the right section.

Resolution Check

As discussed for the images, the same must be done for the whole document so that there is no undesired modification related to aspect ratios and other parameters.

Intellectual Property Check

Along with the authenticity, you must see if all the used assets belong to you or have a valid license of distribution. At times, IPR hinders the process and derails the execution of the project.

Experience Check

Create a replicated experience before the final launch like print dummies, staging sites to get the feel of the actual report.

Security Check

Checking for security will require you to close all the backchannels along with the loopholes so that your information remains secure and protected.

Readability Check

Every text must be readable from the naked eye and there must not be any issue of font recognition.

Sources & Reference Check

Before moving ahead, you must check if the sources you have listed are accurate, and there is no source left to be mentioned for references.

Final Output

Once this is done, you should have a checklist of passed and under review parts and at the end every page must be ticked to move forward. No matter how many changes you make, there must not be any compromise in the quality following the previously agreed parameters. You can only move to publication when there is nothing left in the tab with the parts “you don’t like”.

Publication

Two individuals working at a desk with laptops and a monitor. They are engaged in a publication-related task.

Once your report is prepared and it’s a go-ahead for reaching the public, you need to go with the decided medium(s). The decided medium should be in line with the objectives and the desired positioning of the company. A digital report will offer you a place in a technologically advanced company and the video report will stand out to the users who are not that fond of reading. Furthermore, a printable report will cater to the audience who is fond of physical books, other reading stuff and are not that good with advanced technologies.

Translation and Multilingualism

If you have a presence in numerous regions and countries, you need to cater to them in their native language for keeping the connection intact. You need to shortlist the languages and go on with the translation for the same. If you are catering to a larger audience in numerous regions then it will require translation in multiple languages as mandated by the government agencies. Do check for the government guidelines and never miss the mandatory requirements on reporting, including the translation.

Translation Partner

To get the most out of the translation services, one must make an informed decision about the vendor providing the same.

Translation Partner

Here are aspects of consideration:

Company v/s freelancer

You have to decide if you want to go with the company or the freelancer. A freelancer will be cost-effective but will come without much of the trust factor. On the other hand, the company will charge more but there will be fewer chances that it will leave in between the project.

Automated translation tools v/s manual translation

There are numerous AI-powered tools available for performing the translations, which come with affordable licencing, but there are always some reservations as these are not perfect. Manual translation could come with human errors, will be costly but will provide the type of flexibility you desire.

Experience

You must go through their profile and assess if their previous work is relevant to yours. The client’s feedback must also be taken into consideration before making any decision.

Distribution

A step-by-step guide on using Google Maps to navigate your way around. Find directions, explore places, and reach your destination easily.

Once you have shortlisted the regions, it becomes crucial to partner with the distributors of that region if you are going for the print version. Any advanced reporting medium would require you to spread the word over the internet through digital marketing practices and publish the same on your official websites/social media handles.

Post-Release Analysis

Post-Release Analysis: A graph showing user engagement over time, with peaks indicating successful feature launches.

Once you are done with the distribution of the report, you need to start reviewing the whole process and come out with an analysis depicting the good and bad of your experience. You could go with the same strategy we discussed before for reviewing that involved the following:

  • Previously agreed on parameters
  • What you liked in the report
  • What you did not like in the report
  • Compliance review
  • Output analysis

This post-analysis will help you provide constructive feedback to the parties involved in the making of an annual report and will also make the way for a better annual report in the coming years.

References

We took help from some resources while preparing this ebook. We thank them for putting up the crucial information, the references are being listed here:

  1. Annual Report Explained: How to Read and Write Them
  2. 7 Helpful Tips for Managing Big Data For Business
  3. How to Prepare Annual Report of a Company
  4. 5 Steps to a Successful Vendor Selection Process in India

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About the Author

Aayush Jain - Crafting Stories from the Heart

As a passionate explorer, I see crafting the perfect story as embarking on a refreshing Himalayan journey. Every narrative is an adventure, a voyage of imagination, meticulously molded into captivating presentations. I'm here to guide you, ensuring your story becomes an unforgettable odyssey, with each creation as a vibrant landscape ready to captivate eager audiences.

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