4 steps to improve your business reporting process

You’re working late, working weekends, and the volume of spreadsheets is slowly making you number-blind.  If you are responsible for Financial or Management Reporting, this might sound familiar to you, and you already know how much work it takes to keep information updated and accurate.

But does it have to be this way?

Most likely, you’re currently working with enormous amounts of data and logging into multiple systems to pull the information you require.  The more systems and data, the more effort it takes to model and analyse for presentation purposes.

However, as the saying goes ‘Data is the new Oil’, and all this data is more valuable than ever.  Accurate, up-to-date and timely financial reports deliver insight and help users in gaining an immediate understanding of the past, present, and (hopefully) future financial picture. They allow leaders throughout the entire company to better manage volatility, navigate organisational complexity, meet compliance requirements and drive the direction of operations.  Accurate, timely financial reports are an integral part of the management infrastructure that is required to run a company successfully: this was never truer than in the current business climate. 

So how can you make reporting more efficient, more effective and less stressful?  In this blog we discuss four steps you can take to achieve reporting excellence.

Step 1. Centralise your data

You may think that a single source, housing all financial data and user input, is a somewhat scary concept; multiple users, company wide access, working dynamically within one contained financial reporting environment.  The truth is that without such a centralised data system you’ll waste countless hours consolidating information from multiple sources.  The demands on finance teams, to report faster and in more detail, are increasing exponentially as the users of information need real time information to make immediate decisions.  The time for finance leaders to act is now, because these demands are only going to continue to increase.

If there is one thing that industry experts agree on, it’s that data will continue to become a bigger part of our lives.  In 2013 there was 4.4 trillion gigabytes of data in the world. This is expected to grow to 50.1 trillion gigabytes in 2020 and 175 trillion gigabytes by 2025. As businesses start adopting Industry 4.0 and generate data by tracking everything in their company, teams are quite simply not going to have the time to manually pull together reports from data silos.

Step 2. Tailor your message

Not everyone understands financial jargon.  Reports are an important part of the entire business and they are going to be read by professionals from other departments.  You need to understand the needs of your audience and create reports appropriately.  By tailoring your message, you enable the readers to have a strategic conversation about the report, rather than just looking at a wall of numbers.  For example, operational leaders might want detailed metrics on their unit, while executives may require a higher-level summary of the entire business.  The more relevant the information you supply, the more value your reports will provide to the organisation.

Step 3. Visual dashboards

A picture paints a thousand words.  Visual images are more engaging and easier to comprehend.  It’s no different in reporting.  Data visualisation, such as charts and graphs, is crucial to a good analysis.  Raw numbers and long lists can be overwhelming and even boring to look at.  When you present the data graphically, your audience can really see the story that the numbers are telling, while easily spotting potential problems or outliers.  Not only is a picture worth a thousand words, but it can help you understand the worth of a thousand numbers.

Step 4. Enable self-service reporting

As mentioned earlier, your reports will be needed from all departments throughout the business.  Finance is often the go-to place for everyone in the organisation that needs to pull a report.  Sure, you’re happy to help, but creating reports for everyone else means less time to work on your own valuable strategic activities.  By enabling self-service reporting and dashboards, the finance department can take time back, while empowering other departments to get the information they need in seconds instead of waiting for weeks.