The board of directors sits at the pinnacle of every organization. They are the strategic thinkers that see the big picture, ask the important questions, and ultimately guide the company toward success. To do that, they need the right information. Reports to your board must be accurate, timely, and thorough.
At the same time, a good board packet should tell a story. It cannot be structured in a way that allows board members to get mired in excessive detail at the expense of missing out on the big picture. Effective board packets provide a combination of numbers, visual features, and a narrative summary that helps readers better understand the context and nuance surrounding the information in the report.
Assembling all that information in just the right format can be a challenging and tedious task. To add further to the pressure, accuracy is of paramount importance when you’re reporting to your board of directors. Nothing is more embarrassing than presenting a packet of information, being questioned about the details it contains, and then realizing that errors were missed somewhere along the way.
What’s the secret to getting your board book right and impressing your directors, without a lot of time-consuming manual processes (and perhaps some sleepless nights as well)? Your selection of the right board reporting software is essential. It has significant implications for your ability to deliver on your promise of accuracy and timeliness, helping to inform your most strategic decision-makers, and doing it without working yourself (or your staff) into a frenzy every month or every quarter.
Here are the key factors you should consider when seeking the best board reporting software for your organization.
Real-Time Access to Your Most Important Data
Unfortunately, the standard out-of-the-box reports that come with most enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are simply inadequate to the task of preparing a strong packet for your board of directors. Most reports are focused on operational tasks and details rather than on the big picture. Built-in ERP reporting tools generally lack the flexibility to customize or fine-tune layouts to suit a demanding executive audience.
Yet these built-in reporting tools have one very important virtue: they are inextricably tied to your ERP system, which sits at the heart of every business and contains your organization’s most essential information. If you make a last-minute update or change to the general ledger, for example, the built-in reports that come from your ERP system will automatically reflect that.
There doesn’t need to be a trade-off, though, between flexibility and up-to-the-minute accuracy. A strong purpose-built reporting tool makes it possible to have the best of both worlds. By integrating directly with your ERP system in real time, a modern, adaptable board reporting solution can easily refresh the information you’re providing to your directors with the latest data from your source systems.
Flexibility without IT Dependence
It’s also important that the report layouts and formats you use in your board book can be easily adjusted to suit the changing needs of your organization, or in response to a request from your board of directors to present the information in a different way.
Unfortunately, many board reporting software solutions require specialized expertise to make those kinds of changes, even very minor ones. This results in a dependency on the IT department, which creates a delay whenever you need to change the format of the board packet. Given the fact that most board packets are created under significant time pressure, this dependency on IT resources can be a significant problem.
A picture is worth a thousand words. That’s especially true of quantitative information, which is often presented most effectively in graphical format. Executive dashboards have become increasingly popular because they display information in ways that are easy to grasp quickly and intuitively. Most ERP reporting tools, however, either fail to provide good visualizations or they are limited in their capacity to incorporate data from external sources.
The best board reporting solutions will offer flexibility in this respect. They will have near real-time integration to your ERP system, along with the capacity to include information from other sources and display that information in a holistic way that most effectively communicates how the company is performing relative to its strategic targets. By mixing pure numeric information with charts, graphs, and other visualizations, a strong purpose-built board reporting solution will enable you to put your best foot forward.
Collaboration has become increasingly important, especially in an uncertain market with a growing trend toward flexible work locations. Unfortunately, the manual spreadsheet processes that many companies still rely on tend to fall short when it comes to managing version control, comments and discussions, and workflows and approvals.
Like other organizations around the world, boards are increasingly operating virtually. The ability to carry on asynchronous discussions directly within your board reporting solution makes it easier for directors and managers to collaborate between formal meetings. This, in turn, makes those meetings far more productive.
At the same time, cybersecurity remains a prominent concern for anyone dealing with confidential information on a regular basis. The best board reporting solutions will include strong security measures to guard against unauthorized disclosure of private information.
Low Total Cost of Ownership
Finally, the best board management software will enable your most important resources to work more efficiently and effectively. Many organizations still rely on manual spreadsheet-based processes that require exporting information from external sources, then importing it into an existing spreadsheet.
This is an extraordinarily time-consuming process. Unfortunately, it also tends to introduce a lot of errors. If you have added additional rows to your source data, it can create errors in the predefined formulas in your target spreadsheet. Manually entered numbers may be transposed, which will also result in errors.
What’s even worse is that any data you extracted from your ERP system may be out of date, starting from the moment you perform the export. Subsequent changes to your accounting system will not be reflected in your board reports unless you perform those manual tasks all over again.
There is a better way to produce your board books. A strong purpose-built board reporting solution enables your staff to deliver powerful reports that tell a story, and to do it quickly, efficiently, and accurately. If you’re looking for board reporting software for your organization, contact us today to discuss your needs.