Learn / Guides / Performance reporting guide

Back to guides

Performance reporting: how to create an effective reporting process and increase conversions

The success of any business, product, or project revolves around an overall picture of its performance—that is, understanding how customers behave and respond to it and what you can do to improve their experience (and increase your conversions). 

That’s where performance reporting comes in, putting measurement, quality assurance, and accountability data into context.

Best practices: marketers and product or website owners

Last updated

13 Feb 2023

Without reliable data, there’s no way to know what’s resonating with your customers. You can take a run at what they’ll like or whether they’ll return, but you can’t ever know for sure. 

Performance reporting gives you access to a wealth of data about how people use what you’re offering—whether that’s a website, app, service, or product—and how that impacts your business. This lets you focus on the measures that are most useful to your customers and most relevant to the company’s goals and values. 

This guide explains what performance reporting is, how to create efficient and accurate performance reports, and how to use them to make the right decisions for your customers.

Uncover opportunities for optimization with Hotjar

Hotjar provides teams with user insights that traditional performance reporting doesn’t cover—to make changes, prioritize, and build products customers really need and love.

What is performance reporting?

Performance reporting is the process of collecting, analyzing, and reporting on website and user data to compare initial projections against results. 

It's a way for teams to collect and share project information, communicate the status and progress of a project or initiative, and forecast future projections to stakeholders and leaders. The goal is to understand user behavior and optimize your project’s performance. 

In customer-centric businesses, performance reporting allows teams to understand how people experience their website, app, service, or product, figure out the changes they need most, and make the right decisions to improve the user experience.

How does performance reporting work?

A good product planning strategy outlines an organization's priorities, objectives, and actions, along with available resources. While implementing the plan, teams monitor progress via website and product analytics—including user behavior-related metrics—and make adjustments as necessary.

Then, teams use performance reports to communicate new or revised priorities, objectives, and actions for specific projects and initiatives. This can happen monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on the discipline you own and the team structure you operate in. In turn, the performance report will influence future planning and resource allocation. 

Performance reporting focuses on different objectives depending on the project, team, and business. As a result, reports are produced in a variety of ways, but most of them tend to explore these common elements:

The company or project’s goals and objectives  

Whether you're meeting your business or product targets and milestones

Key performance indicator (KPI) measurement and analysis

How well the project, product, or company is performing in terms of website and product analytics or metrics

The vision for the next stages of the project

What teams can do to optimize strategy and implementation

There are different targets for performance reporting. A report can focus on

  • A single project, like marketing performance reporting, to determine how well the project is performing and whether it’s meeting its goals and objectives

  • A team member, to analyze performance and help them complete tasks more effectively

  • The company as a whole, showing the performance of each of its various departments

That is, a performance report can focus on one project or team member, but it can also go as broad as the whole company. It can narrow down and concentrate on the performance of a specific project—like marketing performance reporting—or focus on the entire business itself.

Even though performance reports vary from company to company, they all involve the same elements of data, also known as key performance indicators (KPIs), which provide a way to quantitatively measure the metrics that matter most to your organization.

In performance reporting, KPIs act as a GPS as you try to find your way to an unfamiliar destination: the project’s success. 

Of course, a KPI isn’t just a preferred metric; it’s also associated with a goal. These include:

  • Past performance analysis: data that helps measure whether the project’s performance is above or below expectations

  • Work performance: details about the project's progress and the costs it has incurred so far, and how performance is aligned with what was initially estimated 

  • Approved changes: a summary of changes made to the project and the reason for each one

  • Project forecasts: outlining the next steps that teams plan to take in a project

  • Risk mapping: valuable insights that help teams identify roadblocks and determine the necessary measures to avoid them

  • Project estimation and completion: updated project estimations, including financial predictions and production outcomes

Combine both qualitative and quantitative metrics to capture a big-picture view of what customers want

Numbers and graphs alone can’t reveal the complete picture of how your website, app, or product is performing—and you can't use them to explain how customers are experiencing it, either.

To get a 360-degree view of how a particular strategy is performing, it’s helpful to gather qualitative data to complement quantitative metrics like those provided by web analytics tools.

Qualitative and quantitative data should be used together to better understand what’s happening with a project and identify opportunities for improvement.

For example, quantitative data may reveal that your adoption has dropped: the same number of prospects are being driven to your homepage or download the app, yet a smaller percentage become regular users. Clearly, there is some work to do; but how do you make sense of this information?

Combining qualitative and quantitative data can help, which is where Hotjar comes in. We help you understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’, and give you empathetic insights into the user experience:

  • Are people leaving because something on the page is broken? Heatmaps visually represent where users click, move, and scroll on your site. With this context, you'll learn how users really behave.

  • Are they leaving because they are looking for something different altogether? Recordings show you playbacks of real users interacting with your product, identify issues on the fly, and spot solutions in seconds.

  • Or is it because a crucial bit of information is missing? Surveys let you ask what your visitors like and don’t like (and why).

#An example of a Hotjar Session Recording
An example of a Hotjar Session Recording

Why is performance reporting important?

Performance reports clarify the direction of a project and the expected future results compared to initial predictions. Project information is organized, summarized, and presented to stakeholders in a way that encourages improvement for both the business and its customers.

In fact, reporting on performance is not an end in itself, but an essential part of an effective customer-centric business strategy:

  • For the company, performance reporting helps teams better understand the status of a project and identify areas of improvement while keeping stakeholders involved in the project plan. Making decisions, mitigating losses, and reallocating resources require quality data, analysis, and reporting on performance.

  • For customers, performance reporting gives the company evidence about which aspects of the product or experience resonate with customers and which don’t. Reports provide a more accurate image of how customers respond to the company’s strategy—what they like or dislike—and how that can be optimized. 

Here are a few more reasons to keep tabs on performance:

Performance reporting encourages communication between team members

Reports help managers and team leads map the strengths and weaknesses in team performance and provide important feedback. 

As communication flows more easily and transparently, managers can confidently define the next steps. This keeps the team’s expectations aligned and focused on collective solutions for the project’s success.

Performance reporting highlights opportunities for growth and improvement

Performance reports do more than just track KPIs. They can also help you identify project risks and point out where there’s room for growth. This allows teams to spot and avoid roadblocks and identify improvement opportunities.

A well-executed performance report focuses on issues that are below expectations, bringing these items to the attention of both managers and employees—people who can tell if these items warrant immediate attention.

Pro tip: use Hotjar to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and why.

What your customers do (or don’t do) with your website, app, or product can tell you a lot about your performance. Butincluding the ‘why’ in performance reports makes it much more likely that the right items will be prioritized.

Sure, quantitative performance metrics help you spot trends—but you'll still struggle to identify the causes of those trends. Hotjar’s product experience (PX) tools help you drill down into the motivations behind customer actions:

  • Feedback lets users express frustration or delight about individual parts of your product, right down to the page, form, or image they're looking at

  • Surveys bring the voice of the customer to your decision-making, allowing you to validate your ideas and better understand your users

  • Engage provides face-to-face feedback through user interviews, building a deep sense of empathy for their goals, pains, and priorities

Product, marketing, and sales teams can use this data-backed information to better understand what motivates their customer personas. This data helps your company continually improve its products.

Hotjar Engage lets you automate the entire user research process

Performance reporting leads to better decisions

Determining the right performance metrics leads to more intelligent decision-making. It provides a pathway to product improvements and clear guidance on business or product prioritization. Without these metrics, managers must rely on guesswork when deciding which products or features to prioritize.

A well-written performance report will not only measure the performance of your project but will help in the overall decision-making process by:

  • Communicating the organization’s priorities and supporting budgeting and resource allocation decisions

  • Creating less room for error, which can lead to quicker problem resolution for your customers

  • Benchmarking your performance compared to others in your industry, helping you identify your own team’s market position, identify gaps, and stay competitive

Performance reporting sets the stage for success

Regularly producing performance reports encourages you to polish your end delivery—leading to better performance results overall. Meaningful metrics fuel data-driven decisions, which go hand in hand with successful business outcomes and enable teams to build better products for their customers.

Sean Potter, a Senior Content and SEO Strategist at Hotjar, says that by focusing only on implementation, “you’ll waste time and budget on tactics without knowing if they delivered growth or not. You should constantly be evaluating performance data, both qualitative and quantitative, to inform your efforts.”

By packaging this data in monthly, quarterly, or annual performance insights, you can use the reports to increase your organizational impact and deliver a better product for your users.

Performance reporting makes it easier to earn executive approval

If your job involves winning over stakeholders, performance reporting helps you get buy-in faster. For example, performance reports help product managers by providing objective support to the plans they propose when they present the product roadmap.

To green-light what you’re proposing, executives will want to see the evidence suggesting that the company will enjoy a positive return on investment. Performance reporting helps you by:

  • Clarifying organizational goals and directions to improve the product, bring it to market, or expand its reach, and aligning them with the overall company strategy and desired outcomes

  • Offering transparency to stakeholders who invested in the project and keeping them aware of the progress

  • Tracking productivity and showing the production rate, which gives insight into when teams might finish the project

Based on the data presented in performance reports, management and stakeholders have an accurate high-level overview of the project’s progress, which translates into better decisions and business performance.

6 types of performance reports and how to use them

There are many different ways to report on performance: charts, spreadsheets, written reports, data visualization platforms, or complex management dashboards that provide teams with the information they need whenever they need it.

Which performance reports are relevant and worth creating for your goals will depend on having a clear understanding of your ownership areas and the metrics you can influence within your discipline.

Let’s break down in more detail the types of performance reports and how to use them.

1. Status reports

A status performance report details the current state of a project at any given time. Some of these reports include milestones reached, any incidents that occurred, and the remaining available resources.

Managers use status performance reports to measure performance, indicating how well the project is progressing and whether teams are on track to meet deadlines, and highlighting areas of improvement or imminent risks.

2. Earned Value reports

Earned Value reports integrate scope, schedule, and cost performance using earned value management techniques—a mathematical method where the project can be measured by progress achieved rather than just a basic review of cost and schedule.

This report is often part of the status report and includes insights into the rate of project production. The project manager can then forecast a project’s total cost and date of completion based on trend analysis or application of the project’s ‘burn’ rate. 

3. Progress reports

A progress report describes what’s been accomplished since the last reporting instance.

Using schedule, cost, and work performance analysis, the progress report helps managers compare the progress made so far with the expected progress during project planning. This gives them a more proactive measure of what’s working in team productivity and what needs to be re-evaluated.

4. Trend reports

Trend reports examine project performance over time to see if it is improving or degrading. 

Trend reports are especially important in long-term projects, where metrics must be evaluated across months, quarters, or even years. Managers use these reports to assess whether a project is staying on track and meeting expectations and if a project's overall production rate is increasing or decreasing.

Pro tip: use Hotjar Highlights to extract and share the most meaningful parts of your insights.

Highlights enable you to cut out snippets of your recordings and heatmaps and save them into special collections that you can easily share and analyze with your team and stakeholders. With all of your highlights and collections saved in one place, it's easier to spot trends, analyze user behavior, and discover opportunities.

Grouping highlights into a collection helps you paint a clear picture of performance in terms of user behavior, and use it to support your case for product improvements—making stakeholder buy-in a breeze.

Hotjar Highlights let you snip, sort, and share key user insights with stakeholders

5. Forecasting reports

Forecasting reports show what managers can expect to happen during a project, predict future performance outcomes, and provide expectations for project guidelines. 

This report analyzes team performance and establishes goals and objectives stakeholders hope to achieve throughout the project’s lifecycle. If forecasts turn out to be inaccurate, this helps managers identify inconsistencies and allocate resources to keep the project on track.

6. Variance reports

A variance report makes a direct comparison between the planned progress and what progress was actually made. It compares the timeline of each stage in the plan, with the time frame in which they were completed.

By comparing the real with the estimated, managers can identify important variations that require a reallocation of resources—or a realignment of expectations.

How to get started with performance reporting

A performance report has served its purpose if it helps a team improve performance, stay within budget, and deliver tasks on time.

While there are several ways of reporting on performance, following these basic steps will help you get started and deliver accurate and effective performance reports:

Know your audience

The first step toward creating a performance report is to keep your target audience in mind—who is the report intended for? This can mean executives and senior management, but it can also mean other employees or external stakeholders. 

Depending on who the target audience is, you can better define what type of performance report will be most useful to them and what type of data it should include.

Define your objectives

With your target audience in mind, it’s time to lay down what you aim to achieve within the project. 

Doing this will help you evaluate and measure your company’s performance against your goals and objectives, and see how well you are achieving or meeting them.

Organize your data

Collaborate with teams to collect the relevant data you need for your report. This may include information about completed work, forecasted projections, customer acquisition rates, or budget, and can vary from company to company, project to project, or report to report.

Write an executive summary

An executive summary gives an overview of your business or project’s performance in all aspects of its operations. 

This synopsis is important because it offers a clear and concise summary of the facts—and the possibly overwhelming amount of data your entire report includes.

Share a performance assessment

This is where you detail the parts of the business or project that you’re evaluating

It’s not enough to collect data—you need to read, interpret, and translate it into valuable information by evaluating all the major KPIs and metrics involved in measuring your results. Then, summarize the findings and develop an action plan to help you improve your performance.

For example, in customer-centric companies and projects, assessing performance comes down to understanding the funnel from initial engagement to conversion:

Painting a clear and accurate picture of the connections within this funnel and linking the work you or your team have done to specific impact points is ultimately the key to great performance reporting.

Sean Potter
Senior Content and SEO Strategist at Hotjar

Make it visual

Visual elements—like tables, charts, or graphs—are a crucial part of performance reports. They make your reports more engaging and easy to understand, providing easily digestible data that can be understood at a glance.

Keep monitoring and updating

Set up a consistent timeframe to update and share performance reports based on your business, a specific project, or a goal—like daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. 

The goal part is to monitor the company's performance continuously to stay up to date with metrics and resolve any potential issues.

Next steps to performance reporting

With a performance report, you’ll always be able to assess your business and make the best decisions for your customers. 

So many factors contribute to the overall performance of your company. Check out these performance reporting examples and how they can help you improve:

  • Website performance reporting: what you need to track and how to report on the performance of your website

  • Marketing performance reporting: how to create marketing performance reports to advance your campaigns

  • Performance reporting software: a list of performance reporting software tools to collect insights and create effective reports

Uncover opportunities for optimization with Hotjar

Hotjar provides teams with user insights that traditional performance reporting doesn’t cover—to make changes, prioritize, and build products customers really need and love.

FAQs about performance reporting