The financial reporting process is known as the bane of an FP&A professional’s existence. But this dreadful process can be a walk in the park if you just know how to tackle that bad boy. The common practice of sharing sheets with multiple rows, columns, tabs, and versions becomes a mess for everyone involved. It’s confusing, frustrating and rarely provides you with the information colleagues need to make those tough decisions and get their jobs done.
Here are 5 tips to easily enhance your financial reporting process now to make an impact that has lasting results.
#1 Consolidate Data from all Departments
The first step in improving your reporting process is to have all your data from across the company in one consolidated interface. Having to go and grab data from the various sources of the company they are found in is a tedious, lengthy process in itself. When this is occurring manually - you are creating tons of room for errors that manual processes leave.
First, you are reaching out to the relevant departments, asking for the variance explanations you require. After receiving them they need to be updated in the relevant spreadsheets and once this is over a week or more has gone by. Now, the aforementioned data sets are a week old and this entire process needs to be repeated. This process in itself is outdated, leaves room for error, and slows down the entire reporting process.
By automatically consolidating data sets you leave all these hurdles where they belong, in the past. Numbers are updated in real-time, data can be instantly accessed by all relevant stakeholders and the FP&A department can spend their time doing what they were hired to do - analyze data.
#2 Represent Data Visually
Yes, we as FP&A professionals love our spreadsheets but for many facets of a company these sheets which many consider complicated and messy cause more confusion than clarity. Visuals are everything! Creating charts and graphs describe concepts and data in an almost universal language that many more people can understand. Graphs can be tailored to the individual needs of all departments and display insights in an obvious way.
Showing expenses in an excel sheet doesn’t clearly reveal their real impact, you get lost scrolling to the bottom or trying to find how that number was acquired. When a pie chart for example is created to show the same facts and one piece is predominantly larger than the others - in mere seconds that fact is displayed. Which leads us to our next tip.
#3 Provide Relevant Stakeholders with Only the Data they Need
The financial reporting process commonly consists of management being handed a lengthy excel workbook containing a cornucopia of information. It can be difficult and frustrating attempting to find the data points relevant to specific stakeholders as well as time-consuming to decipher. Being able to generate department-specific reports that are directly related to the role of the recipient saves huge amounts of time. By providing relevant data sets in an easy to understand manner - insights are shown and explained quickly and easily.
One of the main issues today with data is that there is just too much information. Many employees are overwhelmed with the amount of information being thrown at them. The marketing department requires different reports than the product department, so why should they be getting similar reports? The majority of which is irrelevant or just not conveyed properly to those who need it. Providing relevant stakeholders with only the information they require, gives them the insights they need to quickly make a decision. This method not only enhances but speeds up the reporting process in its entirety.
#4 Accurate, Timely Data
Organizations are understanding the importance of reliable data for real-time decision making. Small inaccuracies can lead to huge consequences that affect every department and the company as a whole. It is difficult to ensure the constant delivery of accurate information if everything is based on manual inputs and actions.
One way to ensure that this data delivery process is never compromised is to automate the data feeds, guaranteeing uninterrupted inputs. Automation is quick and easy to implement when you find a software that works with your existing interface. DataRails is a financial analytics platform that integrates with your existing software types and allows you to upload Excel spreadsheets directly into their interface. For a more simplistic offering, the adoption of Tableau, a financial reporting tool can ensure your accurate data is displayed in the dashboards you desire. By employing software the probability of error becomes infinitely smaller in comparison to manual inputs ridding your financial reporting process of easily avoidable mistakes.
#5 Effective Drill-Downs That Provide Answers
With data skewed across an organization the concept of drill-downs becomes a nightmare. In many cases, stakeholders don’t even bother to determine the root cause of issues due to the difficulties involved. Without specifics of how a sum came to be, troubleshooting an issue is impossible.
Using software that allows you to drill-down into an issue makes for an efficient financial reporting process. When a drill-down is created using software that supports your current internal systems, it provides the ability to get down to the lowest level of detail and determine the root cause. Provide major stakeholders with summary-level data for easy interpretation while offering the ability to keep the high-level of analysis that many reports require.
Your Ideal Financial Reporting Process
Creating a more efficient financial reporting process doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. These 5 methods allow you to generate more relevant reports faster and with more accurate information. The adoption of software provides the ability to change how company-wide data is collected, how information is gathered from individuals, how reports are generated, organized, and who they are disclosed to all with a click of your mouse. Once a tedious, lengthy consideration, today that is simply not the case. Follow these simple steps, all of which can be implemented in this quarter and truly change your financial reporting process for the better.