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Reporting represents a classic paradox: complete reports are critical for business insight and decisions, yet delivery of comprehensive timely reports is often difficult—if not impossible. Reporting solutions are often a menagerie of applications from a myriad of software companies with disparate integrations, complex execution, and loose data alignment.

The equation is simply too much data + too much complexity + too many solutions. At the end of the day, the math generates too little trust.

Consider the question that global consulting firm EY posed in its research, “Are you Prepared for Corporate Reporting’s Perfect Storm?” EY surveyed 1,000 participants that included CFOs and heads of reporting to understand their challenges. Broadly speaking, their pain points fell into three categories:

  • Growing compliance requirements: 48 percent must address 10 or more reporting standards while 24 percent deal with 16 or more requirements.
  • More and more reports: 63 percent note reporting requirements are increasing and 71 percent are experiencing increases in the total number of reports created.
  • Too many reporting systems: Globally, 32 percent of respondents had 16 or more reporting systems. In North America alone, 19 percent of companies have 20 or more systems.

Regardless of how one analyzes the above statistics, the intersection of reporting complexity and the plethora of available solutions in the marketplace does not generate a pretty picture. Truth be told, it is quite ugly. And with the introduction of new IFRS regulations surrounding revenue recognition for services, products, and leases, the EY study predicts that the picture will continue to get more complicated and more demanding in the years to come.

This problem afflicts companies of all sizes regardless of geographies or industries. In fact, country by country reporting requirements are also causing many of us to lose sleep at night. It is a disease that seems inescapable.

It is time for a revolution that usurps this complicated paradigm that has gripped a half-century of enterprise reporting.

It is time to revolutionize your reporting.

How does a company embrace the “reporting revolution”? Take these five steps to start your journey for a new reporting experience:

1. Analyze your current reporting

Start with a complete assessment and inventory. Which reporting requirements consume too much effort, are problematic, new or error prone? Talk to your colleagues to better understand what they could do if they had better reports built with real time data. Engage your IT staff to fully realize how much effort they are putting into report design, support, and integration. The answers will be surprising (and, in most cases troublesome) and all the data you collect can be used to build a business case for change across your enterprise.

Most importantly, look at the multitude of reports you generate today. Yes, the volume will seem overwhelming. Yet there are principles that we can use to simplify all this complexity. Nearly all corporate reports fall into one of three categories:

  1. Operational reporting
  2. Finance and regulatory reporting
  3. Management reporting

Your Reporting Revolution starts by putting your reports into these buckets. Then examine the processes and systems that underpin each, and begin standardizing your reporting approach across all three categories (see Step 2).

2. Standardize your reporting

Think of reporting as an integral part of your business processes, not as a secondary and disconnected afterthought. Look to best practices that other companies have implemented. For example, consider period close to financial reporting; following a published best practice is an ideal way to verify, improve, and implement your own current processes. Don’t re-invent the wheel or pave the path from before; take advantage of the thousands of hours of global work that others have done before you.

3. Engage a team that understands the reporting revolution

Identify a solutions vendor and business partner that fully understands and appreciates the importance of reporting and analytics in the context of the reporting revolution. Simply put, to fully take advantage of this revolution, end-to-end solutions from a single vendor with global experience are critical. You can no longer rely on a multitude of vendors (all with different contracts) delivering single or limited purpose solutions to meet your needs. Vendors must meet all of your reporting needs and deliver the solutions for collecting and managing your data with a broad global perspective. It must be integrated and comprehensive, ready to go on Day 1.

4. Deploy modern cloud technologies for reporting

The cloud is already powering thousands of companies of all sizes—down the street from you and across the globe. Learn more about the extensive benefits the cloud offers your company (and your career) as you establish your organization and yourself as a digital leader. Leverage a solution built on the cloud and deployed with 21st-century tools that embrace mobility, the Internet of Things, social collaboration, and embedded analytics, the foundation for the reporting revolution.

5. Embrace integrated and comprehensive reporting solutions

With a broad cloud infrastructure from a global solutions provider, you’ll be able to deploy and connect configurable reports to your applications across all business units. The result is a modern environment built upon a common data schema that responds in real-time; not a bolt-on afterthought or future phase project that lingers with data mapping mistakes and painful data extractions. Plus, you will avoid the ghastly spreadsheet errors that have been uncovered in recent research.

Why join the reporting revolution?

Practically, what does the reporting revolution mean to your company, and specifically to the roles of CFOs and other finance managers?

On its surface, the revolution might seem more appealing to your tech team (fewer integrations and systems translate to significantly less work), but it offers much more for financial professionals.

Consider how the reporting revolution frees you from the pitfalls and errors of manual spreadsheets, the multitudes of reporting systems, and disparate disconnected data. It also helps you stay current with new standards and requirements across the globe, which continue to evolve at a dizzying pace regardless of geography. And if your company is growing, the reporting revolution works in tandem with your growth and becomes a positive enabler rather than a negative problem.

But perhaps best of all, the reporting revolution gives finance professionals this most important benefit: a peace of mind only possible when you are confident your reports and analysis are accurate, complete, and timely. Inherently, you trust your reports.

I urge you to join this revolution to liberate your company from the frustrations and feckless complexity with today’s typical reporting scenarios. There may be resistance to change, but with the right team and a modern approach, you will transform your reporting from just a requirement to a critical business asset.

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