Most businesses today know that their financial reporting is not as good as it should be. Yet many are slow to take action to correct it. The reasons are many, chief among them: other priorities.
If you’ve put improving reporting on your “back‐ burner” wish list, don’t worry. I’ve identified four easy steps that can set you on the path to better reporting.
1. Move your financial data to the cloud
While spreadsheets are low-cost and easy to use, the time your staff spends building reports comes at a cost to your business and leaves money on the table. Why? The pain of gathering data from multiple sources is the main reason. Then there’s the endless wait as your staff manually integrates and reconciles data, creates and checks formulas, updates charts, and formats reports. Finally, you email the report or report book and brace yourself for the inevitable questions and change requests.
Tip #1 for improvement:
Make all the latest financial data your team needs available in the cloud, not buried in separate reports and spreadsheets. That way, Excel reports and web reports are always up–to-date with the latest information, and your team can focus on making decisions, not spinning cycles hunting for the data to make them.
2. Empower users with self service
More systems, more people, more data: It can all slow you down. Reporting that once took a few days suddenly takes a few weeks, and instead of two business analysts, it’s now four. Two factors contribute to this problem: multiple systems that aren’t integrated and redundancy caused by different users in the organization repeating the same data-gathering tasks.
Tip #2 for improvement:
Set your business users free with self-service, so they can get the reports they need themselves, and not rely on others—no matter how big your company gets.
3. Provide a single source of truth
Even small reporting errors can cause big problems, and the more your business depends on manual spreadsheet-based reporting, the more your company exposes itself to risk. According to an Accenture report, 84% of organizations find it difficult to control the quality of financial data and other supporting information.
Tip #3 for improvement:
Move all of your hierarches, calculations, data, and security to one place where everyone can access it. It means if there’s an error, there’s only one place to change it. Everyone has the same view, and everyone is checking the same data for quality.
4. Work in concert with other departments
Stop looking backward. Acting strategically means combining effective reporting and analysis with planning and forecasting—to see the past, present, and future clearly and accurately.
Tip #4 for improvement:
Financial leaders must connect the dots between lines of business and informing operating executives on how to manage. Instead of constantly producing data, get everyone to agree on the same KPIs, metrics, calculations, reports, and data. Move to a cloud-based system that enables collaboration. Finally, embrace dashboards and self-service reporting that deliver visibility into the data business leaders want and need.
Our CFO Indicator Q3 2017 survey explores CFOs’ confidence relative to data and technology, as well as their progress in moving toward a “single source of truth” (single source of financial and operational data). Results reveal that Finance has successfully cleared what we believe to be one of the most significant hurdles—their hesitancy to store data in the cloud. Read our other CFO Indicator reports here.