Advance your financial reporting

11th Dec, 2018

With financial reporting, FP&A teams often have difficulty balancing the quantity of reports and the relevance of information shared.

Over-reporting can mean flooding business managers and executives with too much information; blurring the lines between what's important information and what isn't. On the other hand, creating minimalist reports may stop stakeholders from getting the relevant and timely information that they need for decision support. Both over and under-reporting can lead to grave delays in critical decision-making and failed strategic initiatives. So what are the tricks to reporting the perfect amount of information to your stakeholders?

There are a few noted ways you can do this:

Trick #1: Gathering user information

Every stakeholder is looking for different types of data; and potentially a different delivery medium; an executive will look for different information than perhaps a financial analyst or a customer experience operator and probably expect it to come directly into their inbox. Even within the overlays of data used by the parties, this information will be sought and applied in different contexts, towards different strategic actions - so there can be conflicting views of how financial and operational reports can be 'best' presented and provided to users.

So how do FP&A teams get past this hurdle?

The answer is very straight forward - open and effective communication. FP&A teams need to discuss with the users to find out what specifics they want to see in reports, and why they want those specifics. Figure out how the users are using the reports, and what key information they need highlighted by touching base with users through quick and simple surveys, or real-life follow ups. This will help you identify any necessary changes to help you meet the needs of your stakeholders.

Technological investments are also essential, to ensure reporting is at its most effective and efficient; alongside optimising the user experience for each stakeholder. Technological investments, will not only save time for FP&A teams with automation, but also will aid cost-efficiency in the long-run. This impact will lead to an improvement to the bottom line, and more time for careful strategic decision-making.

Trick #2: Dashboard customisation

Dashboard technology, if not already, should be a priority investment for FP&A teams. Dashboards have greatly aided the reporting process, streamlining the sheer volume of spreadsheets and workbook versions that arrive at the desks or inboxes of executives and managers. To make the lives of stakeholders even easier, customised dashboards will allow each user to receive and view the information they individually prioritised, in a format that is most useful to them.

Custom dashboards give the ability for executive-level users to more efficiently measure business performance, and to actively shape business decisions and outcomes using real-time financial and sales data. Broader company performance can also be compared and tracked against corporate goals, KPIs and plans - to ensure accountability.

Furthermore with customised dashboards, users gain the ability to create engaging data visualisations. With a large range of different formats of charts, and graphics, executives can create easy-to-understand visual reports, so that other users can quickly gain deeper insights around data such as team performance, and the resulting impact and actions. Visualisation tools have been vital in creating greater accessibility of data, to a larger range of different users - enabling what would have been hours of detailed information, to be transferred into an easy, digestible infographic.

One trick, when selecting dashboarding software is to ensure that your proposed dashboarding solution can handle write-back. Here's why - when looking at a financial performance dashboard against the budget, the very next step is typically to explain the variances, if your dashboarding platform won't let you enter commentary or update assumptions it will limit your planning capability, and force users back to MS Excel Workbooks.

Trick #3: Results tracking

Measuring results and performance is a great way for users to hold themselves accountable for their progress; as well as reflect on the outcomes and performance of their current business strategies.

Assessing your reports to see whether they have generated an increase in productivity and sales, or if they've provided insights into new opportunities, will help you refine the data that's most important to present. If you are not producing the results you are wanting, then you have the chance to review the barriers, threats and weaknesses that your business needs to overcome. If you are producing good results, you may reflect on the strategic decisions and company strengths of the year, and how they can be best utilised to take advantage of the upcoming business opportunities that will arise.

Communicating and reflecting on these outcomes, good or bad is the key for company growth. Discussing with business partners and relevant stakeholders about the targeted outcomes, and the appropriate resulting changes to reporting, is vital to cultivating successful results. Real-time reporting and insights into issues and opportunities at hand is even more important, due to the increasingly fast-paced nature of business transactions and opportunities.

Trick #4: Exploratory analysis

When users can self-service, they will no longer rely on the FP&A team for every enquiry and will assume more responsibility for their targets and plans. If a number looks wrong in the actuals they should have the capability to drill into the journals or invoices and understand the composition of a figure. Providing this drill down functionality to your users, will instill a strong sense of confidence in the numbers across the board and ensure they can answer their own questions.

Stronger reporting will drive better results.

For all four tricks - MODLR provides an all-in-one hub that will give FP&A teams all the tools that they could want or need.

Reports are created rapidly in MODLR, and can even be built in seconds through NLP technology, enabling companies to achieve that all-important business agility. Information is relayed - in real-time - to all users on the cloud platform, ensuring that FP&A teams, executives, managers and all departments collaborate as strategic partners. MODLR provides businesses with a breathing space for effective strategic decision-making, and the chance to reflect on and celebrate company success and new learning opportunities.

Finally, companies which adopt this technology will be able to take their reporting to the next level - and drive those better results to the bottom line.

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