Timely and accurate board reporting is a critical need in any organization. However, many Finance departments struggle in pulling together the variety of data required – reports, charts, graphs, and textual commentary.
The process consumes too much time and effort and can be error-prone if you’re using the wrong tools. Leading Finance organizations are adopting cloud-based software platforms that can shave hours or days off the board reporting process. This enables them to shift time from collecting and formatting information to performing analysis that moves the business forward.
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Financial Close and Reporting – A Critical Process
The financial close and reporting process crosses multiple systems, departments, and locations. It can also consume a lot of time and resources every month, quarter, and year-end. According to a recent benchmark survey by APQC, the bottom performers take 12 days or more to close the books and report their results to management. Then there is additional time spent on external financial reporting and creating regulatory filings.
The best performers are able to get this done in 5 days or less. The advantage for companies with a fast close process is that they can spend more time on value-added analysis and decision making – and deliver information faster to both internal and external stakeholders.
Financial and management reporting itself can be complex. Different users have varying needs. For example, power users in Finance need the ability to create formatted financial statements, as well as ad hoc reports and analysis. Finance executives need access to financial statements, but may also want to review key financial metrics and KPIs via interactive dashboards. Casual users, such as line of business (LOB) executives, may also want to review financial metrics via dashboards or standard books of reports.
Challenges in Board Reporting
One especially unique audience is external stakeholders, for whom the preferred reporting approach is board books and presentations that combine multiple data types into a single document – such as reports, graphs, charts, tables, and supporting textual commentary. This segment also includes the creation of regulatory filings, such as SEC 10-Qs that include a large amount of textual information, along with supporting financial statements, charts, and tables.
The process of creating board books and presentations can be challenging as it typically involves multiple contributors, multiple data types, and multiple formats for the output. In terms of contributors, this can include staff from Accounting, FP&A, Legal, Tax, and Audit, as well as the CFO, reviewing results and creating and editing the textual commentary. The reporting team in Finance must collect all the reports, charts, tables, and commentary from multiple contributors, then package the information in multiple formats. These formats can include books of reports for management or board meetings, accompanying board presentations, or regulatory filings.
Managing this type of reporting using email and desktop productivity software (e.g., MS Office) can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Then when a last-minute change is made to a number or comment, it must be manually updated in multiple places. As a result, these types of complex reporting documents can take days or weeks to create and distribute.
Board Reporting in the Cloud
Forward-thinking organizations are leveraging the power of cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) platforms to reduce the pain and streamline board reporting. There are a couple of key capabilities within cloud-based EPM platforms that enable this.
Consolidation – cloud-based financial consolidation applications, such as Planful Consolidation, help customers accelerate financial close cycles by doing the following:
- Integrating data from disparate sources
- Consolidating their results following multiple accounting guidelines
- Automating key processes, such as adjusting journals, intercompany eliminations, and accounting for minority ownership
Cloud-based consolidation applications help reduce costs of compliance by generating a broad range of financial statements, with all the right controls and audit trails to document each step in the process. They also help improve control and confidence in the financial results, with a single version of the truth for financial and operating results, as well as workflow and process controls to ensure all required tasks are completed.
Reporting – cloud-based reporting tools, such as Planful Reporting, support the production of presentation-quality financial and management reports, as well as ad hoc reporting. Planful Reporting is a true end-user reporting tool that allows Finance users to easily create reports and templates, without programming. It also gives end users the ability to automatically generate reports and burst them out to managers via email.
Our Reporting module also automates the creation of regulatory filings, board books, and presentations that combine text, reports, and charts into a single automated document. This eliminates most of the usual cutting and pasting of information from different sources, and it accelerates the production of these documents.
Accelerating Board Reporting
During a recent webinar on how to improve board reporting, we cited several customers who have seen significant improvements in their board reporting processes using our cloud-based EPM platform.
iCIMS is a fast-growing provider of cloud-based talent management solutions. They had been managing financial reporting using spreadsheets and manual processes, and board reporting itself took 4 days to complete. By moving to Planful cloud-based reporting solution, iCIMS was able to reduce board reporting from 4 days to 4 hours. This time-savings allowed them to accelerate the delivery of board reports and shift Finance staff time to more value-added analysis.
Evraz is a manufacturer of specialty and commodity steel products, with over 2,000 employees and $3B in revenue. Their Excel-based reporting approach was error-prone and time-consuming, taking them up to 2 weeks per month. By moving to Planful cloud-based solution, Evraz was able to automate the collection of data from multiple sources and accelerate report-assembly from 2 weeks to 1 minute.
Signs That You Need to Rethink Board Reporting
So what are the signs that your organization may need to rethink its approach to board reporting? Here are some of the “red flags” we’ve seen in working with clients to address this need:
- Board/stakeholder reporting takes too long
- Manual, time-intensive steps creating board books, presentations, and regulatory filings
- Challenges getting multiple users to collaborate in document creation
- Multiple versions of the truth
- Inability to easily incorporate last-minute changes
- Erroneous reports, books, and presentations
- Lack of confidence in the results
To learn more about how to reduce the pain of board reporting and see a live demonstration of board reporting in the cloud, watch the replay of the webinar titled “Don’t Let Board Reporting Drag You Down Again.”
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