Reporting has always been a bug bear for finance. In a company, different departments, divisions, and stakeholders all need a feed of information and in different formats. Reporting has often run from an ERP with restrictive processes flexibility.
As data and communication is the glue which ensures everyone in an organisation as well as external parties need to measure performance, results, aims and understand the direction and plan of the business. It is important that you have confidence in your reporting tools.
5 STEPS TO REPORTING CONFIDENCE
Finance have to communicate the results into management packs, revenue and income statements, cash flow and KPI performance measures which can mean accessing data from many different systems and in various formats. At the same time inevitably different people want specific, relevant data, in a format which makes sense to them.
All this puts additional pressure on finance who have become the 'data management hub' for companies today. This time of year after budgeting rounds, and setting strategic plans, the reporting demands can be pretty weighty.
Growth, change, acquisition, funding rounds and more, put pressure on finance to keep everyone in the loop and up to speed with historical and forecast information.
1. COMMUNICATE IT WELL
Expansion across country, company and divisional boundaries, fuels the need to effectively communicate. This in turn requires a more collaborative approach as projects become global.
Gone are the days when a long stream of numbers did the job. People want more visual reports, with information translated into graphs, dials and easily consumed in dashboards.
The growth in private equity funding, also demands another layer of results and reports for external stakeholders, each with their own specialist requirements.
The bigger the business or more dispersed the workforce, the more difficult it can become to ensure everyone understand and knows key information. Communication is the glue which ensures messages and aims are shared and understood. Metrics, analytics and meaningful visual reports is a critical step to ensuring all keep up.
2. GOOD DATA
Consistent, reliable and trustworthy data is what builds confidence in the numbers. Acquisitions inevitably lead to multiple systems working in tandem, with different processes, financial year ends and reporting structures adding to complexity.
Lack of systems integration is often a headache for those trying to access reliable information and output. One source of truth is the desired place to be, but getting there can seem to be a headache.
Outside of the benefits of having one view of your data, the process of making this happen forces the company to agree performance metrics and measures across the business. As part of a larger transformation initiative agreeing these fundamentals can go a long way in getting better collaboration cross departments.
ERP systems have tried to manage the process of reporting functionality, with limited success. They often require tight management of the process, and closely defined reports which are difficult to change.
Inevitably the needs of those consuming reports does change, as projects, companies, clients and services shift. So the need to create reports more flexibly and on demand, in new formats and styles is growing.
Finance have responded to this by using good old Excel, which is a great reporting tool. It does most things very well and offers enormous functionality and flexibility to report in formats and time-frames needed.
Excel fills the gap where more 'formal' systems fall down. However it also creates a huge amount of work for finance. Rather than spending time analysing the numbers and asking questions of the results to build meaningful forecasts, many finance departments spend days creating reports which offer little insight because of time constraints.
4. BUILD TRUST
Ensuring accurate, reliable and consistent numbers can be difficult to compile and suffer with inaccuracy, which leads to lack of trust and confidence in the reports. Bad data has the knock on effect of damaging credibility of finance and the business as as whole.
Without trust in the numbers it's difficult to get business buy-in or backing, which can damage growth and improvement change. Finance pride themselves on getting the reports right, it is the tools which frustrate them. Data volumes and the complexity in analysis needed to gain insight means Excel struggles to deliver. The more data manipulation, versions, manual uploading and hands data passes through, the more likely mistakes will creep in. Automation is the weapon to combat error, and without it finance spend more time defending and reconciling rather than thinking and analysing data.
Don't let reporting stop your finance team doing the thinking job they were hired to do. If you want to:
- Spend less time producing reports and more time analysing results,
- Build trust in the numbers from internal and external stakeholders
- Gain continuity in the numbers
- Allow users to produce their own reports in a format they understand
Then take a look at a new way of reporting which will become your 'secret weapon for change' and give a confidence in the numbers and results which will ensure everyone can rely on the numbers and understands them better. More than that the strategic plan detailing direction, aims and performance is understood better by all.
THE SECRET WEAPON
The new breed of corporate performance planning solutions helps to fill the void between traditional ERP and accounting reports and Excel.
Those like Adaptive Insights which are cloud based, mean, current data will automatically populate reports and update management packs whilst key personnel can produce reports easily in their preferred formats.
Instead of producing massive tombs of information, reports can provide high level information, whilst drill down capability enables those consuming them to see the detail and where the numbers came from.
Dials and dashboards provide visual analytics and finance have the time to add narrative to the numbers giving meaning to departments who value context and translation.
All this, and finance can still hang on to Excel. Some cloud solutions integrate seamlessly with Microsoft, allowing you to push out reports in formats which are recognisable, ensuring continuity in formatting.
You don't need to allow reporting to stunt your growth. Make it your secret weapon to change your business for the better and achieve reporting confidence.