Finance function value lost in reams of reporting

Published on the 01/06/2017 | Written by Michael Schmitt

Finance excessive reporting

Finance should be about modelling and predicting performance, writes Michael Schmitt…

If your finance team is drowning in reporting requirements, you’re not alone. A survey of 400 global CFOs found that two-thirds are seeing a continued rise in report requests. The same survey also reported that teams spent just 17 percent of their time focused on strategic activities.

The findings suggest that many finance teams are methodically generating report after report, and serving up the numbers stakeholders demand. This leaves very little time for the value-added analysis and active guidance that finance leaders can and should be providing. In fact, organisations today increasingly rely on finance to understand and simplify complex business issues with data and objectivity. They need to understand all the different levers the business has to pull and be able to model and predict their performance.

To do all this, finance needs to drive collaboration across functions, align the organisation around an integrated business model, and then adapt rapidly as conditions change. They also need to tell a story with the numbers, not just report them.

So how can busy finance teams do all of this while maintaining their reporting duties? It’s certainly a balancing act but there are steps all finance teams can take to provide more strategic value to the business.

Breaking down silos
Finance leaders need to look at how their team is collaborating with other departments. How can they take an active role in strategy if they’re not communicating with the business or know how current resources are being deployed? Finance should be meeting consistently with every department, from HR and IT to customer service and sales.

Budgeting and planning should be a collaborative process with both finance and operational managers working together to understand and improve performance. Finance can lead the way toward improved collaboration and buy-in by reducing the time spent producing counterproductive reports or overwhelming the business with too many measurements.

In addition to embracing a collaborative planning process, finance can employ new technologies that encourage collaboration by providing cloud-based solutions easily accessed across departments and geographies.  As important, the move to “self-service” reporting enabled by the cloud is gaining traction, as cost centre owners and managers can access reports directly, without requiring time from the finance team.

Identifying the metrics that matter most
Strategic finance teams are not only eyeing profit and loss and revenue, they have an eye on operational metrics as well – from supply chain data to customer satisfaction. Incorporating this non-financial data into an organisation’s planning, forecasting, and reporting, can provide a more accurate and long-term view of the future.

One of the challenges is getting the metrics in the first place. With financial and operational data typically being housed in disparate, unconnected systems, planning can become a manual and time-consuming process. A first step in combatting this is to integrate systems—ERP, CRM, and HR system —into a single source of trusted data that is always fresh and always live. Once this holistic view of the business is available, identifying and tracking KPIs is much easier for the finance team.

It is then the CFO and finance team’s job to blend, balance, and evaluate all the KPIs coming in from across the organization to cultivate what really matters and drive consensus.

Reducing the pain of reporting
Gathering and verifying data for reports can be a time sink and rob finance teams of the time to think strategically. In the CFO survey, nearly one-third of CFOs data gathering as the step in the reporting process that required the most improvement, followed by verifying data accuracy (21 percent).

Finance teams should automate as much as possible and consider giving budget managers more access to financial data via a dashboard tool. These tools can provide managers with real-time data for faster decision making while at the same time free up time for those already drowning in requests for information.

With report volumes expected to increase, reporting remains a challenge for many finance teams. By centralising data and automating non-value-added tasks, the office of finance can elevate the reporting function, providing top management with the analysis needed to enable better decision-making.

writer_Michael SchmittABOUT MICHAEL SCHMITT//

Michael Schmitt is Chief Marketing Officer at Adaptive Insights.

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