Using Automated Financial Reporting to Deliver Better Business Outcomes
Mar 10, 2020
Organizations that have undergone a financial transformation will see a number of benefits post go-live, but won't see a strong ROI from their technology investment if they don’t change their way of thinking as well, specifically around automation and how it benefits the organization.
Many see automation purely as a means to do more with less, and while this is one of the benefits of this technology, it isn’t the sole benefit. By freeing up internal resources, automated reporting allows organizations to identify new opportunities for revenue, improve efficiency, and plan with better confidence. The organization can then monitor the results of these initiatives and course-correct as necessary. This creates a cycle of continuous improvement that can help an organization better meet its objectives.
An Automated Financial Reporting System is Just the Beginning
First, let’s look at how automated financial reporting allows finance teams to change the way they operate. A modern financial reporting system can automatically pull financial data from various sources, standardize that data, and then provide detailed reports, all without requiring manual ETL processes or data entry. This reduces the amount of work necessary to compile reports and gives finance teams time to dedicate to analysis. Because humans (and therefore human error) are removed from the process, data is more reliable, meaning less time is spent verifying the report and more time is spent analyzing it.
Automation also makes it easy to look beyond standard reports as well, encouraging finance teams to explore new data sets. With a legacy finance system, finance experts would need to put in a request with IT in order to have them pull specific data sets and then standardize them. This process would take days or even weeks and potentially render the data meaningless as a result, since the data could potentially be outdated by the time it was finally ready for review. With the automated reporting available in modern finance reporting systems, however, finance teams can pull these reports instantly, opening up new reporting possibilities and making data analysis easier.
Another key benefit of financial automation is how it allows organizations to forgo batch reporting and review a report in real-time instead. This allows finance teams to spot issues or opportunities sooner and act with greater immediacy.
On their own, all of these benefits can help finance professionals do more with less. In combination, they give finance teams the time and resources necessary to operate more analytically.
Strategic Digital Finance
To be truly strategic, finance departments need to change four things:
- Technology. Automation is important, both for reporting and for other finance functions necessary to operate more strategically. However, cloud technology, the ability to integrate seamlessly with other applications, and other technologies help lay the foundation for a strategic finance team.
- People. Since less time is needed to perform basic administrative tasks, finance teams need to reevaluate individual roles and, in some cases, retrain employees so that they can assume more analytical roles.
- Processes. As traditional processes of collecting and reporting data fall to the wayside, new processes need to be put in their place.
- Data. Data needs to follow a model that allows it to be easily parsed so that reports can be created using almost any desired criteria.
Driving Continuous Value Through Reporting
In order to deliver ongoing value by leverage automated reporting, finance teams need to reconsider their role within the organization at large. As the finance team gains more insights into how the organization can better meet its goals, it needs to be able to not just share those insights with other departments but also work with them on the execution. This should become a continuous cycle; finance analyzes a report, suggests changes, monitors the results, then starts over again. To be effective, finance must be a true partner with other departments.
Finance teams also need to use automated financial reporting to find opportunities for the organization to innovate. Again, this should be a process in which reports are analyzed regularly with the express purpose of finding new opportunities for improvement.
Finally, automated reporting can effectively eliminate standard reporting cycles, allowing organizations to spot issues and opportunities at any point in time, instead of having to wait for a monthly, quarterly, or yearly report. This allows finance teams to be nimbler and more proactive when it comes to business decisions.
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