The future of Annual Reports

Brigitta Norton BN

Annual Reports can be engaging and widely read… no, seriously, they can. There are a number of ways an Annual Report can be implemented to engage your audiences. It can be a very powerful, interactive tool to communicate key organisational messages and celebrate successes. If done right, it also gives your organisation a way to manage future planning and work on key outcomes and goals.  

Adelphi Digital’s recent event in Canberra focused on Annual Reports and our speakers came from different angles to discuss why annual reports are getting a new lease of life in their online digital formats and how changes to the Public Management Reform Agenda and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) apply to how agencies measure their activities and outcomes, not just report on them.

Sarah Christie from the Department of Communications and the Arts (DoCA) talked about how to create an award-winning interactive Annual Report, and the work carried out to ensure each year’s report is user focused and centred on meaningful content that stakeholders could engage with.  Sarah discussed the challenges and opportunities that come with moving to a interactive digital experience, including ensuring the report still met compliance, was mobile responsive as well as accessible and still be innovative, tell a story and interest the wide-variety of users accessing the report.  The past three years has involved a process of review, innovation and improvement and this year’s report will also apply this methodology to build on not just the digital experience but also the process in managing the content behind the scenes.

Stephen Torkington from the Department of Finance discussed the enhanced Commonwealth Performance Framework and the impact of the Annual Performance Statements being added to the structure of Annual Reports.  This change is an important first step to improve the quality ofq performance measurement. Stephen recommended agencies read the new recently released Annual Report Guidance for mandatory and non-mandatory annual report requirements and touched on the opportunity for further reform (as outlined in the Belcher Review ‘Reducing Red Tape’) in further discussions with the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA), who are the governing body for Annual Reports.  This includes opportunities for moving to digital formats and electronic tabling.

Ian Laslett from Adelphi Digital took a different tack and talked about the problems and solutions in creating and publishing Annual Reports and the advantages for not just publishing digital reports but also managing the authoring and development of content digitally as well. 

“The world of report production is rooted in concepts from years ago”

Adelphi Digital is working with a variety of agencies to improve their Annual Report process and this includes producing online accessible versions quickly and easily, working to ensure content created is shareable and reusable and improving and enhancing the online user experience.

So much time and effort is invested into producing an Annual Report, and often they go unread and the achievements of another year again go unrecognised as an opportunity to engage with both external and internal stakeholders is missed.  Here were our key takeaways to help improve Annual Reports:

  • Link performance measures to the goals and outcomes outlined in the strategic plan
  • Drive efficiencies though the use of a content repository
  • Be more transparent by publishing performance outcomes more often
  • There is no need for super flashy expensive stuff as long as the user experience and journey is understood
  • Keep up to date with the Department of Finance news as the future is looking towards digital

Don’t miss your opportunity to revive your Annual Report, contact one of our Adelphi Digital specialists to find out more.

Guests playing table tennis Guests playing table tennis at the Canberra office

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