Many businesses are aware that their current financial reporting processes do not meet shareholder needs as effectively as they could. Current financial practices in many companies can include manual gathering and verification of data, and re-keying and rolling up that data using Excel spreadsheets. Dealing with a large number of spreadsheets means finance teams sink huge periods of time in preparing & verifying data, with little left over for strategic activities.
By streamlining financial reporting processes enterprise-wide, finance teams can free up time for the value-added analysis needed for strategic decision making.
Here are four steps to streamline financial reporting, as shared with the Global Banking & Finance review:
On-premise solutions bring a number of implications, such as the need for employees to gather their data from a multitude of sources. Not only can this lead to inconsistencies, but staff must wait as the data is manually integrated and formatted as a report.
The first step towards effective financial reporting is to make all the relevant financial data available in the cloud. By freeing data from separate reports and spreadsheets that need to be continuously hunted down, real-time information becomes available enterprise-wide, allowing finance teams to spend more time making well-informed business decisions.
With larger numbers of systems, staff and data come greater reporting complexities. Indeed, larger-scale companies can experience reporting cycles of a few weeks. This can be attributed to two factors; having several systems that are not integrated and redundancy caused by users throughout the organisation that unknowingly duplicate data-gathering tasks.
Self-service solutions can provide end users with some autonomy in their data analysis. By allowing users to instantly access the report they need themselves, instead of relying on others, they can instantly retrieve business-critical data, giving way to a positive spike in productivity.
As finance teams explore ways to provide better visual representations of their data, they also should look for reporting solutions that enable them to ensure one central source of truth for information. The source should be linked to financial reports, dynamic, at-a-glance dashboards to management, and presentations—enabling readers to digest key messages rapidly, without accounting for errors and inconsistencies.
To make strategic business decisions based on the data available, finance teams can’t only look backwards. Looking at the past won’t let us see the future. In a fast-changing world, there are a lot of things that can impact upon planning: currency fluctuations, the supply of goods, location of companies. These varying circumstances create a need for a sophisticated forecasting process.
The finance world needs to become more ingrained in the business picture as a whole. That won’t happen by just pulling together reports. Finance needs to become a business partner that’s involved in every segment of an organisation. A proper finance function ought to be able to calculate the resources needed for the production department based on the variances in monthly output. That involves linking in with HR, for example, or the sales team: do they need resources to move up or down to match what’s happening in production?
Ultimately, finance teams play a strategic role in driving business performance, but manual financial reporting procedures are stepping on the brakes. Tomorrow’s financial leaders need to assess their processes and technology so that they can focus on what really matters—taking the business into the future.