It’s probably safe to say that most finance people didn’t get into the industry so they could focus on reporting. Sure, it’s a critical part of the finance function. But exciting, engaging, inspirational? Sorry, that’s just never going to be how reporting is described.
Too bad for many CFOs, then, that reporting has not only become a full-time job, but could become even more so: According to our CFO Indicator report Q4 2016, nearly 70% of CFOs expect a rise in report volumes, with an average expectation of a 16% increase by 2020. Meanwhile, in another survey, 58% of CFOs told us that the amount of data they expect to process will increase by up to 50% over the next five years.
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More reports and more data mean there’s going to be more opportunity. For some finance departments, it will be more opportunity to uncover remarkable business insights and become a strategic asset to the company. For others, it will be more opportunity to get overwhelmed, make mistakes, and lose the trust of leadership.
Which opportunity you choose will depend largely on how well you manage these four common reporting struggles.
Fail #1: Problems with accuracy
With companies now using multiple data systems throughout their business, finance teams must spend valuable time verifying and validating data. In addition, emailing spreadsheets back and forth can create version-control issues that compromise efficiency, security, and transparency.
Fail #2: Working with multiple systems
Finance is increasingly being asked to combine financial and nonfinancial metrics in the same report. But with all that info trapped in operational silos outside of finance, it can create a significant burden to hunt down data, confirm its accuracy and consistency, and then format reports.
Fail #3. Lack of collaboration
Reporting should be a collaborative process among finance, operations, and leadership. However, too often the process becomes adversarial as finance struggles to get the data it needs while operations personnel feel like they lack sufficient input into the process. The result is an inefficient, ineffective reporting process that benefits no one.
Fail #4: Ineffective data interpretation
Collecting data is no longer enough for an effective reporting process. Finance teams need to understand the story behind the numbers and be able to help leadership make data-driven decisions. This means moving beyond reporting with spreadsheets and investing in tools like data visualization and online dashboards.
The common element to these four fails is technology. Finance teams that still rely on a static spreadsheet– and email-driven process are simply not going to be able to keep up with the reporting demands of a modern business. Instead, these demands will require dynamic, cloud-based software that automates data collection for increased accuracy, links multiple systems to create a single source of truth, enables real-time collaboration, and provides a visual narrative for nonfinancial partners.