By Tiffany Newkirk, Financial Solutions Manager at SplashBI
Month-end is a stressful and dreaded time for many accountants and financial analysts. With accounts to close and reconcile, financial statements to formulate and analyse, closing the books and getting the financial data ready to present to the business, board members and executives is a time-consuming task that, if not managed correctly, can be extremely costly to a business.
Financial reports detailing the current, historical and projected financial performance of the business usually cause headaches for financial analysts who are often left with frustrating last-minute number changes and manual processes to contend with, in order to get the reports prepared in time to meet deadlines. However, as Tiffany Newkirk, Financial Solutions Manager at SplashBI, explains, month-end reporting shouldn’t be such a manual and static process. The process should be seamless and as a result, time should be freed up for financial analysts to not only do what they love, but to do what their job should involve: financial analysis!
From Manual to Automated
Inputting numbers and financial data is time-consuming; even more so when numbers have to be added in or reallocated at the last minute which then means the entire process has to be repeated again. Not only does this process waste valuable time and money for organisations, but it can also leave staff extremely demotivated and disengaged, knowing that processes and tasks will have to be replicated again and again each month, with no solution. Furthermore, manually inputting financial data leaves ample room for human error, resulting in inaccurate reports that have to be re-keyed, re-formatted and re-submitted. It’s an endless cycle that finance teams in organisations across the globe are extremely frustrated with.
Removing manual processes and introducing automation not only means that reporting can be far more accurate by using real-time data, but it also means that when last-minute changes undoubtedly need to be made, they will be done instantly, in the right format, removing the headache for the entire finance team. Adding in new projects also becomes seamless and onboarding new team members to the process becomes effortless. With reporting kept within Excel – a tool most users are familiar with – organisations can also remove the reluctance and struggle that often comes when implementing new software or tools. It’s natural for employees to push back on using a new tool that they may not feel comfortable with or that they may not have time to use – but Excel offers the comfort that most time-poor employees crave.
Reporting with Control
The key is in the detail – which is exactly what board members and senior executives will be looking for in financial reports at times when crucial ROI or budgeting decisions need to be made. Static, manually formatted reports don’t provide the level of detail required for decision-makers, and furthermore, it doesn’t give the financial analysts the information they need to provide answers to the critical questions they may be faced with. With more time and greater confidence in the data being presented, financial analysts can fully analyse the data before it is presented, and therefore foresee any questions or issues that may arise and be prepared with answers or solutions, instilling greater control for all parties. And, by reporting on real-time data, finance teams will be able to answer questions at any time of the month, not just during month-end close.
Additionally, responsive and real-time reporting enables the format, structure or focus to be altered each month, following the outcome of board or executive meetings. For example, a new project brought in by the sales team may be critical to the success of future revenues and sales projections, so the report could be mirrored to measure this focus and to ensure the finance team is gathering sufficient data to report on its success.
Intelligent Financial Reporting
For a long time, financial analysts have been frustrated at the inability to do what they do best: financial analysis. Instead, their time has been taken up by manual processes involved in generating reports, which really should be automated, leaving room for errors and little confidence in the data being reported to the board and senior executives.
Organisations of all sizes, and in all industries, need to reconsider their current exporting and formatting process for financial reporting and analysis and assess how it could become far more efficient. By automating the process and introducing smart financial reporting, finance teams can do more than just build financial statements and instead remove the headache of month-end close time.