Four Key Strategies for Collaborative Report Production

With the growing volumes of data and report requirements from both regulators and stakeholders, organizations are feeling the pain of having to produce internal and external reports as well as managing the financial disclosure processes effectively. In order to produce these reports, finance professionals are manually copying data from disparate data sources and spreadsheets and then pasting the data into Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files. For collaboration, they send these files back and forth via insecure channels like email until the reporting process is finished.

This type of manual process is time consuming because report authors have to copy and paste their data into each report that is created, and is error-prone since often times people are creating their own calculations after getting their data from its source.

If companies want to increase the speed of their reporting processes and have more confidence that their report data is accurate, they should consider these four key strategies:

A Single Source of the Truth

One major problem with using spreadsheets or other manual tools for a narrative reporting solution is that data lives in several different places, having different versions, and are often inconsistent due to manual calculations or changes performed by different users. Not to mention that manual processes are inherently error-prone in the first place. The result is that meetings often devolve into arguments or discussions regarding which spreadsheet reflects reality rather than focusing on problem resolution or strategy. Organizations need a single source of truth to provide the framework needed for effective finance operations and report automation. It allows for all users to pull from one source so that one person’s calculations do not interfere with the reports everyone else is creating. On top of that, errors are almost completely eliminated using an automated process that pulls from your data sources rather than spreadsheets based on data sources.

Intelligent & Automated Processes

Intelligent controls, workflows, and checklists make sure users only see the data that is relevant for them, guides them along the agreed work flows established by company objectives, and also helps them easily know what is required from them. This not only helps the contributor but also the person managing the process. They are able to know where they are in the process without having to call everyone each week to get an update. They can just look into the system and see where everyone is in the process.

With report automation, if data changes from the data source, the reports will also change accordingly. The user will not have to make any updates to their reports. All they’ll have to do is run them again and the new reports will have the changes. This type of automation will decrease errors dramatically, and save high-paid financial professionals from doing low-skilled work such as copying and pasting data. Automation not only provides speed for the reporting process, but also increases confidence in the reports since there are less manual steps in the process.

Manage Risk with Enhanced Control

Putting controls around business processes is more than just good business sense – it’s also the law when it comes to financial or regulatory activities. The ability to put secure controls in place to ensure compliance with policies and regulations helps to reduce risk of non-compliance without adding costly and cumbersome steps to the business processes. Having a robust disclosure management tool that has embedded controls, security, data validation, and audit trail reporting will help your company remain compliant as well as easily show your compliance to outside auditors. Choosing a tool with these capabilities can be the difference between a quick audit and a potentially very long painfully slow audit.

Flexible Reporting

In today’s global economy, companies may need to generate reports for multiple countries, localities or regulatory bodies. They may also need to report in multiple ways for corporate parents, or to reflect divisional boundaries or to reflect ownership of joint ventures. Many financial applications don’t support IFRS and Multi-GAAP reporting, which means these businesses face an arduous manual process at period close unless they have another alternative.

A technology such as data tagging allows each item of data to be tagged or marked with certain characteristics that an advanced reporting tool can read. This enables the organizations to create multiple versions of reports to satisfy regulatory requirements quickly and easily. Data tagging is just one aspect of a reporting tool that can simplify using data for multiple purposes or that helps to streamline reports and queries. Organizations should look for and select an advanced reporting tool with capabilities that allow using the same data to provide reports in a multitude of ways.

Conclusion

Collaborative report production management drives process consistency, improves security and control, produces high-value documents into various formats, and increases the speed of narrative reporting and increases the confidence in the data of the reports. Removing manual steps and automating your financial operations will not only save you time, but also help stakeholders make better decisions with better data.

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