Most people find reading an annual report boring. I mean, the reports are very staid and not easy to read and understand. Most annual reports -- and, by the way, I get dozens of them -- hardly get a glance and end up in the waste bin. Maybe that's why we have books like "How to Read an Annual Report" and "The Mercifully Short Guide to Annual Reports". I made up that last title, but it gives you an idea of how uphill the task is.
So, this year, we decided to take the bull by the horns and started fixing the problem. We decided to create a digital annual report that was exciting, readable, told a story and could be used by just about anyone. Take a quick peek at our report for 2011-12 here. Be warned. It's different. It's on the web with a fresh and interactive look, accessible on multiple devices and is a departure from your traditional stodgy, musty report that only bean counters revel in.
Today, investors are not the only people reading annual reports. Youngsters, searching for information about companies they want to work with are looking up annual reports. But, one study showed that online reports were "failing to hold the interest of web users, particularly younger users between the ages of 18 and 34 who have grown up with the web." Another US study in 2008 showed that a dismal 3% of investors relied upon annual reports as the main source of investment information. Our annual report for 2011-12 tries to move the needle on those numbers.
We also realized that the annual report was a powerful way to represent the brand itself -- a fact that has not been leveraged enough by corporate brand managers. How could we present the report to be a better reflection of the company and its accomplishments, aside from meeting the mandatory requirements of financial reporting?
So we broke up our annual report into various sections with a management discussion and analysis, leadership speak, a report on our corporate governance practices, risk management and a report on responsible business practices. This, aside from the mandatory financial numbers and other filings.
The interesting part is, we have an interactive chart generator that lets you slice and dice our financial performance the way you want it (table, bar, line graph); the report has gone social so you can now share it via Twitter or Facebook; you can download the sections that you want; there are great case studies to illustrate our philosophy of doing business better; and, of course, don't forget to feast your eyes on gorgeous pictures rather than the mandatory staid mug shots of people in annual reports that invariably make us go "yawn!". The idea here was to ensure that instead of reading the report, it was the kind that talked to you -- over just about any device, from a desktop to a tablet to a mobile.
Did we succeed? You tell us. We do want to do a whole bunch of things that we missed this time: add videos of our leadership speaking, make the language less technical, and in general, make it vibrant, alive and contemporary.
We hope you enjoy "flipping" though our special digital annual report. We hope you enjoy interacting with it. And we hope that it will drive you to come back next year -- when we promise a whole new experience in "reading" and "using" annual reports.