Eighty-nine percent of financial professionals across multiple geographies and industries are dissatisfied with their operational reporting tools. Why is that number so high? What are the challenges they’re facing? More importantly, what would it take to turn that dissatisfaction into satisfaction?
What Is Operational Reporting?
Operational reporting, sometimes referred to as business reporting, involves pulling data from enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions and other internal business systems to illuminate the day-to-day operations of an organization.
The focus for operational reports is strictly short-term, but the reports themselves provide valuable intelligence that helps decision-makers throughout the organization make well-informed choices.
Most operational reports are created for the finance and accounting departments, but other departments also require operational reports on a recurring basis, including sales, customer service, human resources, and marketing, to name a few.
insightsoftware recently partnered with Hanover Research to discover how finance teams handle operational reporting, discover the areas where they struggle, and determine what is needed to reduce the friction in the process.
We queried 500 finance decision-makers across multiple regions and industries to understand the operational reporting landscape. Here are some key takeaways from the resulting report.
Finance Teams Create Recurring Operational Reports Frequently
Organizational decision-makers are prioritizing agility and resilience in an uncertain economic climate. In an effort to remain agile, they require an increasing volume and velocity of operational reports.
Unlike month-end reports and many financial reports, operational reports are required with much greater frequency. Half of respondents generate certain operational reports on a weekly basis, and, for the dozen most common reports, over 12% of organizations require finance teams to provide the reports daily.
Tools for Operational Reporting Leave Finance Teams Unhappy
The top three tools that finance teams use for operational reporting are:
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Power BI
- Native ERP reporting tools
All of these tools are excellent for the tasks they were built to do. However, each leaves something to be desired for operational reporting. For example, although 76% of finance professionals use Microsoft Excel for the job, operational reporting with spreadsheets involves manually copying and pasting information from the source systems into the spreadsheet, manipulating that data, and repeating that process every time the data changes in the source system.
Forty-five percent of respondents use Microsoft Power BI for operational reporting, but there are challenges with this tool as well. Creating operational reports using Microsoft Power BI requires significant technical skills and investment in a data warehouse to transform data into an optimal format for operational reporting, which loses the immediacy of the data and makes it more difficult to drill into transactional data to answer follow-up questions.
For the 30% of respondents that use native ERP tools, the limitations of the tools often force finance professionals to resort to manual copying and pasting into a spreadsheet for analysis and presentation, which takes significant time and effort and increases the possibility of human error.
For these and other reasons, 89% of finance professionals report being dissatisfied with their current reporting tools. When asked to specify their top challenges with these tools, three clear challenges rose to the surface.
Challenge One: Tools Require Technical Skills
Almost 90% of respondents struggle to create at least one crucial report, and more than 70% of respondents rely on IT for help with operational reporting. For many organizations, reliance on IT may be problematic due to a shortage of IT professionals. For others, the sheer volume of reports needed puts pressure on both IT and finance teams. An optimal solution would help finance teams automate operational reporting, eliminating IT dependence.
Challenge Two: Reports Take Too Much Time to Create or Modify
For half of finance teams, it takes four hours or more to create certain recurring reports. Because the tools most finance teams use require a significant amount of manual work, almost one-third of respondents produce all their recurring reports either completely manually or mostly manually.
Considering that recurring reports are often done daily or weekly, the time manual processes take can really add up in short order. For the 34% who automate their reporting, however, over three-quarters report satisfaction with the process.
Challenge Three: Tools Lack Drill-Down Capability
The third most significant challenge finance teams face with current reporting tools is that they lack drill-down capabilities. This is a perennial problem for both operational and financial reporting, as ERPs and other out-of-the-box tools are simply not designed with the needs of finance in mind.
What Is the Solution for Operational Reporting?
How can finance teams overcome these and other challenges? The solution lies in finding tools purpose-built for operational reporting. insightsoftware helps teams around the globe by providing tools that connect with their existing systems to streamline operational reporting and unearth the real-time insights that drive business forward.
To learn more about the challenges and opportunities for operational reporting, download our Operational Reporting Trends report today.