Collaborative business reporting in 3 easy steps

Financial reporting is, understandably, often viewed by the rest of the organisation as being the sole responsibility of the finance department. Clearly, finance does play a central role by providing analytics and insights into numbers, but providing truly valuable and comprehensive insight requires collaboration between all departments

Everyone from finance and sales to operations teams and managers need to provide the data for reporting and then use the reports to drive insights and take action.

However, all too often finance and other departments fail to work from the same playbook. Without careful collaboration, operating managers can lack sufficient input or buy-in to the financial planning process, while finance can’t offer the performance insights that drive results.

How spreadsheets make departmental collaboration a challenge.

One of the primary obstacles to better collaboration is outdated technology. Many finance departments still rely on email and spreadsheets to drive their reporting process, which makes collaboration a time-consuming, frustrating task.

Think about this typical scenario: a report identifies a variance which is emailed out to different stakeholders for review. Each stakeholder will reply with change requests and edits that must be implemented. Before long, there are multiple versions of the spreadsheet existing on different devices. The question then becomes, which one is the right one? And who has access to it?

Of course, the other issue is accuracy. There is no guarantee that the numbers in the spreadsheets are actually correct. Manual-driven processes are vulnerable to simple but significant errors:   entering data in the wrong cell, corrupting a formula, or even adding an extra digit by mistake. When multiple stakeholders add information into spreadsheets and email them along, it becomes impossible to easily track who is entering data or verifying where that data originally came from.

The role of non-financial managers in financial reporting.

For some finance departments collaboration means making it easier to collaborate within the department. Although that’s important, true collaboration means making it just as easy for non-financial managers to access and make changes to a report. Finance can make room for higher-value work for both themselves and managers by simplifying internal processes and reducing complexity.

Something else to consider when collaborating with non-financial managers is data visualisation. The amount of detail and numbers in a consolidated spreadsheet can be difficult to interpret and understand. The readers need a clear, easy to understand view of the report to be able to take actions from it; to improve collaboration, you must improve both access and understanding of the data.

The 3 steps to making reporting collaborative.

To help you make your reporting a more collaborative process, we have identified three key steps to keep in mind:

Step 1. Access

Instead of static spreadsheets and email, it’s critical to move your reporting process to the cloud based systems, using the kind of smart financial reporting software Clear Plan specialises in implementing, using the world-leading Adaptive Insights platform. The platform is accessible through the web, which means all your stakeholders can work from the same set of numbers, at the same time, without confusion or delay. It enables you to control and track which user has access and who enters data, allowing you to greatly increase transparency and accountability throughout the reporting process.

Step 2. Ownership & Accuracy

Data silos are often a big hindrance when it comes to cross department collaboration. Collating data from different spreadsheets and managers can be very time consuming. The Adaptive Insights reporting platform can automatically import data from both your financial and nonfinancial systems. This not only saves time and reduces errors; it also allows you to take all your data out of departmental silos and bring it together to give your entire company a single source of truth to work from.

Step 3. Understanding

Automating your data collection process enables you to focus on delivering understanding  - not simply numbers. A Clear Plan implementation on the Adaptive Insights platform lets you slice and dice financial and organisational reports for specific departments, drill down into the details and easily share them with your board members. Because all your data from different systems are collated, you can easily develop real-time, visually appealing dashboards that give non-financial managers immediate insight and overview into their departmental performance.

Learn more about Clear Plan and how Adaptive Insights has helped Specsavers improve collaboration, automate their variance analysis and monthly retailing KPI reporting in our Specsavers case study.