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.
Up until recently, robust reporting required the heavy involvement of IT and the Finance team, and at that, the financial data only provided a snapshot of what was going on at a particular time, without depth or meaning. In today’s dynamic business environment, leaders need to be able to answer their own questions without waiting for reports to be created or relying on outdated data. This is where self-service reporting comes in.
Recently, Centage’s Planning Maestro was named a Best Financial Reporting Software of 2021 by Digital.com, a leading independent review website for small business online tools, products, and services. Planning Maestro was ranked among top solutions for financial reporting features, integrations, and reports along with customer feedback. We are thrilled to be a part of this list as we recognize the value of financial reporting – especially when it comes to empowering business leaders to make decisions based on real, timely, and up-to-date data.
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, many 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 cycle 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 managers, 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.
All That Data: How to Avoid ‘Analysis Paralysis’
One other aspect to also keep in mind is because of modern technologies, organizations have access to what seems like an endless amount of data – and reporting on everything can prevent decisions instead of enabling them. Here are the 4 steps to keep your reporting from drawing you into inaction.
1.Define the question.
Reporting should be the tool used to answer important business questions – questions that lead to defining a path toward a company’s strategic goals. To create useful reports that can then be analyzed for decision making, organizations must first start with the questions they want to be answered. These questions should start with “why” and “what if”. From there, you can define the reports that will answer those questions.
2. Get the right amount of data from the right places
Reporting is useful when it has the right data. In many organizations, that data is spread out across multiple systems. Manually importing the data, however, slows down analysis and can lead to errors. To give a complete picture, create integrations between various systems of record throughout the company into your reporting application. The data can be updated automatically, and finance teams can spend time on focused analysis instead of data mapping and audits.
3. Timebox the analysis
The ability to drill into data can be helpful, or it can turn into a time-waster. The allure of digging into the information to find an undiscovered nugget of information, or looking for the holy grail that will give you a guaranteed answer, can waste time and delay action. Set a time limit on creating your reports and analyzing the results. Give yourself enough time to be thorough in your analysis, but not so much that you get lost in the data.
4. Set reporting and analysis structure
Mile markers let you know how far into a journey you are. Similarly, setting up your reports against defined milestones can keep your analysis keyed to what is important. What do you need to know to answer your questions? Define your KPIs based on your initial questions, and then use those to create the structure around your reports.
Data, reporting, and analysis can be challenging without restraint as days and weeks can be spent exploring information that doesn’t move the company forward. On the other hand, a focused analysis that can be formed from a complete 360-degree reporting view of organizational data uncovers opportunities that might have been otherwise overlooked.
The business environment today is uncertain so every advantage is needed to stay ahead of the game. Providing relevant data to business managers and giving them the right reporting tools to apply their own investigations, empowers these leaders to make smarter decisions for the betterment of the organization.
Centage Corporation’s Planning Maestro is a cloud-native planning & analytics platform that delivers year-round financial intelligence. With Planning Maestro, Centage offers the sophisticated features needed by small and mid-market organizations to integrate budgeting, forecasting, and deep data analysis within one easy-to-use, scalable SaaS solution. For more information on how to modernize your office of finance with intelligent planning, view our product demonstration video, or call 800-366-5111.