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Perspectives

Business reporting in a digital world

The "Crunch time" series for CFOs

When you say the word reporting, binders full of spreadsheets, charts, and footnotes might come to mind. Or maybe conference rooms with executives grinding through slide presentations. And behind it all, there’s an army of Finance people who’ve been working for weeks to pull it all together. The ritual continues, month after month after month. In the best of all worlds, this ritual would deliver reports aligned with the changing needs of the business. That rarely seems to happen.

Spend too much time creating reports? There’s another way

In most companies, management reporting works like this: Finance determines what’s important for various levels of management to see, and then pumps out that information to recipients on a regular basis. As new requests get added to the mix, the burden of internal reporting grows; rarely are reports removed. And through it all, Finance seems to have little visibility into how reports are actually used—or if they’re used at all.

So the main reason to think about improving internal management reporting is quality: The promise of better decisions.

External financial reporting is different. Much of the required content is driven by various accounting and regulatory bodies, so there’s not a lot of room to wiggle. For external reporting, improvement is mostly about efficiency, while maintaining accuracy and control.

The good news? The benefits of both reporting quality and efficiency can be delivered by the same set of digital technologies—at a substantially lower cost.

Keep reading below to learn more and download the seventh report in our Crunch time series, Reporting in a digital world, for the full story.

Potential benefits of transformed business reporting

  • Lower cost
    The savings companies can see as reporting evolves will be real and sustainable. Companies will be reducing human labor significantly – and delivering reports vastly more efficiently.
  • More insights; fewer manual tasks
    The potential for value creation from improved reporting is even more promising. Finance is supposed to help the business uncover insights. That can’t happen when people are bogged down with spreadsheet farming, reconciling data between systems, or assembling massive binders.
  • Improved decision making
    How many leaders served by Finance will stand up and say that Finance has had a significant and consistent impact on the quality of their decision-making? That’s hard to find today, but it’s much more likely tomorrow.

Much of reporting in the past has been defined by the steps required to produce the reports themselves: collecting data, constructing reports, and disseminating them. That’s changing. In a digital world, dashboards and digital technology do a lot of that work, which means humans get to do more interesting things.

Digital technologies driving the future of reporting

A handful of digital technologies are coming together to reshape how companies can do reporting. We’re seeing the early signs of all these technologies being adopted.

Robotic process automation
RPA software shortens the time companies spend on data manipulation by automating routine tasks.
Chatbots
These dedicated virtual assistants enable users to interact directly with data using voice or text queries.
Visualization
These now familiar tools allow people to display and play with data dynamically, so it’s easier to understand and interact with.
Artificial intelligence
This collection of technologies includes natural language tools that can read and write, as well as machine learning.
Predictive analytics
This statistical technique uses algorithms to execute forward-looking analysis – especially routine financial forecasts.

Making the future of reporting real

Download the full report to learn how companies are transforming internal management reporting and external financial reporting to improve quality, timeliness, and reduce costs. You’ll also discover some lessons learned around people and technology that can help you on your implementation journey.

It’s crunch time for finance

Explore other reports and guides in our Finance in a Digital WorldTM "Crunch time" series, and read case studies about digital transformation in the finance function. Whatever your interest, one thing is clear: From cloud computing and robotics to analytics, cognitive technologies, and blockchain, a new class of digital disruptors is transforming how the work of finance gets done.

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