It would be fair to say that pretty much every Finance department has had to adopt new ways of working over the last few months.
Moving from a predominantly office-based function, with simple collaboration and sharing of data and spreadsheets, the entire business model has been reinvented with remote and collaborative working. This is very much a digital transformation project, executed within weeks.,
What seemed like a decade old, fixed, and proven way of working, has changed virtually overnight. Rewind 6 months and think of proposing such a radical change, the response would have been treated with high skepticism and met with the answer that systems were not capable of facilitating such a change.
Interesting then, that often change, facilitated by technology, is easily achievable, but inherently resisted due to lack of insight or knowledge that easy solutions actually do exist.
The capability to re-imagine the finance model at such short notice is heavily based on the investment previously made in the technology solutions for systems of record, being ERP, planning and budgeting, and consolidation.
This brings into focus just how much of the financial reporting process has been automated and ironically highlights the fact that the compilation of the numbers for both internal and external reporting remains as a manual process based on the sharing and manipulation of data extracted from core systems and transposed onto spreadsheets. Only to be then further transposed into Word and/or PowerPoint for the narrative (story) behind the numbers, a process which remains largely unchanged over the last 3 decades. Even when the reports and numbers have been finalised, the all-important output either to a printed report of XHTML is a clunky and challenging process.
This feels like a big omission and the elephant in the room. The important element of communication, sharing the numbers and providing extensive narrative insight both internally for management reporting and strategy and externally for analysts and regulators should be a high priority and the process to generate these details need to be integrated and efficient. This is especially true as external regulation, such as the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) mandate, will increasingly impact on form and format how results are compiled and presented.
Like the huge innovations achieved by the big ERP vendors, financial reporting vendors are developing solutions that enable a total re-imagination for the financial reporting process, yielding efficiency, risk reduction, and quicker time to production gains for finance, along with ensuring regulatory compliance.
The latest versions of the solution are cloud-based, enabling remote working, with full dashboard visibility to control workflow management. These solutions make remote collaborative working a simple process for Finance teams to adopt.
The leading solution makes compliance with the upcoming ESMA/European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) mandate a matter of course. What would have been major headaches for companies to develop ESMA project compliance, are now simply platform-driven and with screen prompts for elements such as tagging and anchoring and roll forward to future years as built-in functionality to improve efficiency.
No more headaches with trying to decide how the figures fit into the ESEF taxonomy. The ESMA ESEF project can be jump-started by directly importing the ESEF taxonomy into the report development, ensuring the reporting output will be ESMA compliant. Even the often challenging report output in iXBRL is managed in the background and is just another output option, which also includes HD reporting.
With the appetite for developing and accepting change within Finance departments at an all-time high, opportunities to re-imagine stale processes and realise gains in efficiency, ensure regulatory compliance is there to be embraced.
With a relatively tight timescale, a highly compelling business case and mandatory fixed reporting date, it would seem logical that Finance teams will select reporting solutions based on the familiar Microsoft environment of Word and Excel, meaning minimal training for users and a reduced need to seek guidance on how to use the platform. A consideration that has become increasingly important with remote based working.
One final thought, for the finance leaders. These solutions help reduce stress on the teams during reporting periods by providing structure and efficiency. This is especially important with the focus on mental wellness across the team when working remotely.