“To keep up with digital business initiatives, finance must deliver value at a faster pace and in a different way.”
That insight comes from Tim Raiswell, a principal research leader at Gartner. He’s describing explicitly something that many in finance have experienced implicitly: the acceleration of everything. To keep up with rapid changes in markets, industries, technologies, and geopolitical realities, finance must make the right decisions as quickly as possible.
That requires financial reports that are full of depth and detail, yet available in an instant. Unfortunately, the traditional reporting process doesn’t lend itself to speed. Accountants have to invest hours of time collecting, integrating, and analyzing data, much of which is from last week, month, or quarter. As a result, reports arrive slowly and reflect yesterday’s reality. As tools for quick and confident decision-making, they’re underwhelming at best.
That doesn’t mean, however, that finance leaders can’t pick up the pace. At insightsoftware, we’re pioneering new approaches to financial reporting, and our team has developed reliable strategies to save time throughout the process. If you want to keep up, now’s the time to put these tips in action.
Integrate Data Sources
Even in the age of ERPs and expansive Excel documents, financial data remains scattered among silos, forcing accountants to meticulously hunt it down for the purposes of reporting. It’s a major reason routine reports can take 10+ hours to produce. When more data (both financial and operational) exists under one umbrella, reporting on it takes a fraction of the time. Decision makers also feel more confident acting on those reports, knowing they’re based on all the information available.
Automate as Much as Possible
Though human accountants remain essential, it makes more sense to automate many routine accounting workloads. With automation handling the heavy lifting of report creation, it’s both quick and easy to produce the final document. Realistically, tech-driven automation is the only way to achieve real-time speeds. Fortunately, those tools have never been more accessible, affordable, or effective than they are now.
The reports themselves are an obstacle to real-time reporting. That’s because when decision makers need to create or request a document, they inevitably have to wait for it. Hours count in today’s fast-paced economy, which is why it makes sense to put key performance indicators into dashboards rather than reports. Much like automotive dashboards, the financial equivalent collects the most important information in one place and updates it in real time. That way, drivers and CFOs alike can make informed decisions at a glance. There’s virtually no time between question, answer, and action.
Enable Self-Service Reporting
Reports need to be fast and relevant. That’s only possible when reporting is easy enough for end users to create their own reports customized with whatever data, analysis, or visualizations they need. True self-service reporting means cutting dependency on the IT department out of the process. Anyone should be able to build the exact report they need from the ground up, regardless of technical expertise, and have the final copy in short order.
The single best way to speed up financial reporting is with a purpose-built tool. At first, it kicks the reporting process into high gear and gives the company new strengths in terms of financial foresight and flexibility. Soon, however, that translates to a bump on the bottom line and, hopefully, some relief for the CFO. If that sounds overdue, download our white paper “A Finance Leader’s Guide to Taking a Vacation.”