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The Value of Self-Service Financial Reporting

April 18, 2018
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Financial reporting is a critical task for any organization. Understanding where your actual financials stand in relation to budgets and projections is important to keeping your business on track and in helping to create new projections and budgets.Yet the modern business environment is much more fluid than the occasional re-aligning with budgets allows for. Course corrections need to happen at the business unit level, and they need to incorporate more data than what the financial team has fed into a data source. On top of this, financial data only provides part of the picture.Until recently, robust reporting required the heavy involvement of IT and the financial team, while viewing only financial data provided merely a snapshot of what is going on without depth or meaning. Now, business leaders need a means of answering their own questions without waiting for reports to be created or relying on outdated data. This is where self-service reporting comes in.

The Historical Challenges of Financial Reporting

Businesses need to be agile and to react and adjust to a myriad of conditions including customer demands, changing business models and shifting market conditions. But to do that, leaders need to understand how those forces, as well as the relevant financials, are impacting their business units.This need, in the past, raised some serious issues for managers. From spending hours on importing financial data into spreadsheets only to have a limited view, to adding reporting requests to a seemingly never-ending IT queue, business units were always at least one step behind what was happening. In fact, according to a Gartner report, 70 percent of an organization’s users don’t have access to business intelligence tools or the knowledge to use them effectively.Even when a leader could get the data they needed, reviewing a static report typically led to more questions. This resulted in an endless cyle of the process – define report requirements, spend hours trying to answer questions with a spreadsheet and end up requesting a new report from IT.

The Benefits of Self-Service Reporting

Self-service financial reporting shifts the burden from IT and a manager’s abilities with Excel and instead creates a visual, interactive reporting system that allows for deep dives into the data.By providing a self-service reporting mechanism to business leaders, an organization’s employees are empowered to make good decisions based on real, timely, and up-to-date data. Because reports can be called up as needed, the information to guide a decision can occur during a leader’s workflow, instead of interrupting it as they wait around for the reports they need.With the right reporting tools, financial information can be layered in with data from across the organization. This provides a 360-degree view of both the what and the why and allows for deep dives into reports. Managers can follow the data all the way down. This means that questions that arise from viewing the initial report can be quickly answered with a few clicks.The insights from the data are also more accessible. Self-service financial reports can be presented as graphical dashboards, making it easier to spot trends against business unit defined KPIs. With a visual representation of the data, leaders can gain an understanding of the current situation at-a-glance, enabling better decision making, faster.If providing a full picture of a company’s condition is consolidated at the top of the organization or behind the already overburdened financial and IT teams, data-driven decision making becomes a bottleneck to innovation and increased revenue. Providing relevant data to business managers and giving them the tools to apply their own investigations, empowers these leaders to make smarter decisions for the betterment of the organization.To enable data-driven decision making across a company, you need the right tools working for  you.

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