If mentioned at all, employees are usually referred to more as troublesome logistical data than corporate brethren. Caterpillar Corporation devoted exactly one sentence to their bitter labor dispute with the uaw that has devastated striking communities in the mid-West. The few employee photographs to be found are embarrassing constructions of fictional racial and gender diversity; diversity that apparently stops at the office door. Executive portraits are uniformly white and male. In the crop of annuals I reviewed plan (chosen by a very unscientific semi-random sample from the fortune 1000) the format was monotonously consistent. Management is highly aware of the expected form, and aside form the occasional oddball stunt — like mcDonalds pseudo-newspaper — few of the reports deviated from the standard.5 x 11, 64-78 page, glossy photographic variety. Designers were rarely allowed to restructure the form or use of the brochures. While almost every report boasted recycled papers (usually recycled coated sheets or in the financial sections only not one reduced the dimensions or page count significantly with more thoughtful planning.
Fifty eight years after Farr had chastened companies for their ambiguous reportage, john Byrne of Business week ven the show-biz nature of some reports, its small wonder that so many people view these corporate missives with skepticism, if not outright suspicion. Aside from the general level of skepticism with which they are often received, recent surveys reported in the wall Street journal have indicated that of all annual reports mailed to stockholders, over half are never even opened and of the half that are less than. Other studies have indicated that the average reader who actually cracks the spine spends only five minutes or less looking it over. Analysts routinely report reading only the financial information at the back, bypassing the rhetorical front section all together. All of which reveals a level of cynicism, boredom, or disinterest that hardly justifies the enormous effort and expense. What is all the more remarkable is the amount of time and money shoveled into an object which lasts only 12 months and is obsolete by the time it is printed — the actual numbers have gone out to the analysts a month before publication. The luxuriously printed brochure becomes merely a monument to the management of the company. As Carol Squires make notes in a critique of annual report photography, its one time when a corporation can tell its own version of reality with no pesky journalists or unfriendly outsiders interpreting the information. Flipping through any of the books gives a pretty good idea of the management-centered view of the world.
Our chairman likes to know his message is going to have the right packaging, but design can no way run the book. The annual report as we know it has been required since the security and Exchange Act of 1934 demanded business be more forthcoming after the debacles of the stock market crash. Since then the report has been transformed from a financial statement into a major public relations project. It is perceived as a forum for management, especially the ceo, to directly address the stockholder and the analyst. From its earliest days, companies have used the annual to put a positive spin on the years numbers. It is no exaggeration to say that it is difficult to find one out of ten annual corporate reports which is complete, clear, and fundamentally honest; and probably there is not one out of five which is not misleading, ambiguous, vague, or evasive, snarled Harpers. As the annual reports role as a promotional tool has grown, the veracity of the content is increasingly called into question. As with the rhetoric of the political campaign, the audience tends to view the message critically,. Read between the lines (or through the designed surface) in attempt to decipher the hidden meaning that is glossed over.
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In preparation for the lab harvest, i dusted off a pile of last years reports to see where the art of annual report design was leading. My collection, a pile of over a hundred, appeared in my mailbox last spring with the numbing regularity of Publishers Clearing house dispatches. Reexamining that tower of expensively printed paper, i am struck with the level of proficient mundanity they demonstrate. American corporations are spending an estimated 4 billion annually on design, photography, production and distribution of annual reports. But despite the huge investment, they are not using designers to rethink the way their publications work; instead they have limited them to producing decorative public relations campaigns. An annual report contract is a prize plum to many print designers. The annual is often the one corporate publication on which management is mentally prepared to expend significant resources — or sufficient resources depending if you are the designer or the manager.
There is a budget allocated each year and a precedent for the expenditure (reports can run from around 2 to as high as 10 per copy). Often the ar is the only regular project for which the corporation will go to an outside consultant. In addition, professional egos may boost the desire for an especially slick presentation, as they are perceived as a point of comparison between companies and a direct representation of the management. Designers are not necessarily hired to rethink the problem or reorganize the information, but rather are seen as a tool for sprucing up the ceos gospel. In a panel discussion on Annual Reports (ca, sept 91) Edward Kanarkowski, a vp of adp noted.
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An accurate report shows the data users want in a clear way. Sap business One knows how important data and reports are and keeps enhancing this at essay each update. Besides providing reports inside sap business One, we also integrate with Excel and offer a report designer, The Interactive analysis Report Designer in Excel uses the sap business One semantic layer (sap hana views) as its data source. Heres how to use. Go to Excel and log into the system. Here users can retrieve the data they need from the company database. They can also use calculation, report parameter and time functions to help analyze and design the report. Please notice that the tool is a new function after sap business One.2 and only can be used after version sap hana pl04.