In almost every team sport, a single player has the power to dominate a play, a quarter, or even an entire game. Players like LeBron James, Neymar, or Clayton Kershaw can all single-handedly beat opponents at will. However, football is different. There you need 11 players collaborating on each and every play. Sure, the sport has star quarterbacks like Tom Brady. But as his wife, Gisele Bündchen, once noted, the quarterback cannot both throw and catch the ball. (The second part of that statement came true on a trick play in the Super Bowl earlier this month.)
Well, reporting is like football. The finance department acts as the quarterback of the reporting process, orchestrating the plays and controlling the action. But it takes every department working together—from finance and sales to operations teams and managers—to provide the data for reporting and then use the reports to drive insights and take action.
However, all too often finance and the departments beyond it fail to work from the same playbook. Without careful collaboration, operating managers can lack sufficient input or buy-in to the financial planning process, while finance can’t offer the performance insights that drive results.
How spreadsheets make collaboration a challenge
One of the primary obstacles to better collaboration is outdated technology. With many finance departments still relying on email and spreadsheets to drive their reporting process, collaboration is a time-consuming, frustrating task.
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Think about this common scenario: A report identifies a variance and is emailed out to multiple stakeholders for review. This triggers a massive email chain of variance queries, change requests, and edits. Soon you have multiple versions of the spreadsheet existing on different computers. Which one is the right one? And if it’s not saved on the server, who can access it?
Of course, the other issue is accuracy. How does anyone know whether the numbers in the spreadsheet are correct in the first place? Manual-driven processes are susceptible to errors like entering data in the wrong cell, messing up a formula, or adding an extra digit by mistake. As stakeholders copy and paste information into spreadsheets and email them along, you lose the ability to easily track who is entering data or verify where that data originally came from.
The role of nonfinance managers in financial reporting
When some finance departments talk about collaboration, they think about ways of making it easier to collaborate within the department. While that’s important, true collaboration means making it just as easy for nonfinance managers to be able to access and make changes to a report.
Going back to spreadsheets, often the finance department works to get the report perfect before sending it off to an operational manager for review. If the operational manager adds a last-minute update, it can require a massive amount of work to incorporate, review, and verify.
While accurate data is obviously the top priority, something else to consider when collaborating with nonfinance managers is data visualization. Even after you have all the numbers together in a report, a spreadsheet can be difficult to interpret and understand. A report is only as good as the action your team can take from it; to improve collaboration, you must improve both access and understanding of the data.
The 3 steps to making reporting collaborative
If you wish to make your reporting a more collaborative process, here are three keys to keep in mind:
Step 1. Access
Instead of static spreadsheets and email, it’s critical to move your reporting process to the cloud using smart financial reporting software like Adaptive Insights. Because it’s accessible through the web, all your stakeholders can work from the same set of numbers at the same time without confusion or delay. And since you can control and track at the user level who has access and who enters data, you can greatly increase transparency and accountability throughout the reporting process.
Step 2. Ownership
In addition, Adaptive Insights can automatically import data from both your financial and nonfinancial systems. This not only saves time and reduces errors, it also takes all your data out of departmental silos and brings it together to give your entire company a single source of truth to work from.
Step 3. Understanding
Once you’ve automated data collection, you can focus on delivering insights. Adaptive Insights lets you easily distribute board reports, slice and dice management and financial reports for specific departments, and drill down into the details. Because it’s connected to all your systems, you can also easily create real-time, visually appealing dashboards that give nonfinancial managers instant insight into their department’s performance.