Solving Pain Points in Financial Reporting Processes

Enabling Granular Processes Enables Value Creation @Multiple Levels and Facilitates a Better Work-Life Balance for You.

July 27, 2020

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The concept of reporting sounds a bit passive today, but if it was re-defined as proactive contextual actionable alerts would this in fact grab your attention more? Whilst for some this might move interest levels, for others being simply able to tackle any frictional issues that prevent a better work-life balance in the first place, or that enables a higher confidence in reporting submissions, might actually be seen as a more tempting driver for change. So why make the distinction at all and should anyone care?

 

Bombarded from every angle finance management will not only be the final corporate gate keeper as it is today, but will have to open itself up to other operational stakeholders to give deeper and more pervasive data access to operations, a fact that will go against the grain at least initially. This has to happen to enable processes to be managed end to end, without friction, across functional areas and will ironically see their development better resourced than ever before. Regardless all must be done with the desired and appropriate levels of compliance and controls to ensure the longer term building and maintainability of data integrity.

 

Inefficiencies within a business are currently huge with the current modus operandi being accepted by managers at face value often for various reasons. Sometimes this is in order not to rock the departmental boat, or for fear of disrupting a process that currently works albeit with issues or it might simply be that it is being viewed as too hard and risky to change within the broader current corporate computing environment.

Users at the sharp end of the business are increasingly being held back by the lack of seamless end to end processes that work without unnecessary friction, and as a result this is now being selectively and more frequently challenged out of necessity. No doubt challenges will increase further as new bottlenecks emerge.

 

Regardless we are where we are today! Finance is often handicapped by legacy systems, and by a lack of appropriate IT infrastructure, know-how or both, sometimes causing operations to replicate data rather than to leverage more efficient and newer technologies to streamline these existing financial management processes. Additionally inadequate data access for operational requirements is sometimes solved using open source to deploy as a means to an end, but which is not always solving the root frictional data flow issue being caused by the management of different functional data silos. A structural issue in many cases!

 

Lack of easily definable usage KPI’s for process management leads to no accountability at all levels due to complexity. Reports are created and often are never used but are still produced just in case they are needed in the future, and attempts to remove them from circulation unsurprisingly are met with resistance. Processes to review use are not ingrained with definitive ways of measurement like time to maintain, # of transactions handled, or errors etc. Measurement is not pervasive at all, probably due to it being too hard at the moment, but this is changing as will be seen below. It still remains a fact that whatever is produced someone will need it in a different format and possibly additional dimensions, again emphasising that the visualisation is a commodity play but content is king.

 

Expressing new projects that impact process efficiency in terms of a task cost is an easy and an understood way to relate to change management, but this time it does not seem enough. The game is very different and shareholders are beginning to see this in black and white terms of disrupt or be disrupted, driven by change not only across the organisation, but also at every level of the management stack, and will no doubt see procrastination with comments like “do we really want to automate something that is inefficient in the first place”. However this will be pushed to one side with newer technologies that allow users to explore options and to iterate versions incrementally with less effort and less cost and therefore less risk.

 

This is not just all about cost, but relates more to unleashing value creation through the ability to make more timely decisions on better quality data points. Even more poignantly on being able to undertake decisions that were simply too hard for legacy in terms of their complexity, or for it to leverage external influences for value, whether that be sub systems or web enriched processes. As business is often based on repetitive cyclical activity these changes are not one off, and because actions are sequentially based, for example from each subsidiary to a regional HR or global HQ, savings will potentially cascade into meaningful numbers.

 

How one measures any incremental productivity leveraged by digital change for project justification is hard on two levels. The first one being in the absolute measurement of $ savings and the second one related to emotional intelligence (EQ), not to mention concern of one’s personal survivability due to change. However change is coming and likely to be accelerated faster for fear of being disrupted in reality. In fact time savings are going to be so huge in practice that it will rock the boat, albeit slowly at first, as it becomes more apparent that headcount and costs for one process is distributed not so obviously. No blame here as this is just a reality as departments have historically been streamlined based on headcount efficiency as well as cost, and as a result strict comparisons between operational entities have not been done especially in mid-sized growing operations.

 

So the above sums it up. Massive inefficiency with time spent on process not on management, leading to delays or quality issues in information, and worse for bottlenecks that cause data suffocation for decision making or process flow fine tuning. With no time to stand back, no access to data & process analytics, nor apparent ways to solve the issue by making data actionable, and with a constant historical push to drive down resourcing, should we in fact be surprised as to the current situation.

 

Today however the future outlook is very different. Simply put latest technologies solve two fundamental issues. The first being raw compute power to drive the second ultra-granular transformational capabilities, all driven with data security and with required controls of segregation of duty. With this in place all forms of reporting can be achieved, including x-application, and with full or partial automation, even if the required human interaction is simply an eyeball review to leverage domain knowledge.

 

Reporting at the end of the day is fundamental to support decision making, whether that be for value creation on a continual basis, control purposes or for financial management and statutory accounting. Currently deficient and lacking in so many ways for many corporates it can be very off-putting if reports are being produced and maintained by finance or operations and never referred to at all in the daily hustle of business. Executing reporting is more often than not a broken model, especially as the most important information is not contained within one application, but across many subsystems, often from differing vendors and requiring extensive transformation. Fixing this situation is now not so much about the replacement of financial management  applications, but leveraging ultra-granular reporting capability @anywhere @anytime across them, and in so doing achieving a more robust, repeatable, auditable, and secure process for the purposes of maintaining data integrity, all supported with advanced ranking and auto review processes with simulation capability. Achieving this is going to challenge operational stakeholders to start assessing process flows in more detail, not just within functional areas but also across them, but now that their development can be undertaken in smaller steps and are more manageable as well as agile as explained above, means that they can be leveraged for significant value creation to drive both gross or net margins by simplifying complexity that will further enable time savings for further value creation. A game changer!

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