Reporting in the Future: Financial and Operational Reporting, Dashboards, and Analysis
This article will zoom in on what you need to know about reporting solutions and processes that will set you up for a successful future.
Just like strategy and goals at most companies are often quite disconnected from the budgeting process, and the budgeting and forecasting processes themselves are still rather archaic and manual, so are many reporting processes. In other words, both areas are due for a significant overhaul for companies that want to enable world-class decision-making.
Today, one of the most typical corporate performance meetings is the month-end financial review, where finance and accounting managers present the monthly and year-to-date numbers. This is typically done by handing out financial statements to each executive in the meeting as well as presenting the same in Excel or PowerPoint on the screen and in some cases, also by displaying charts to review trends and comparisons. Often, much of the meeting is spent presenting the financials, with little time to dig into the key metrics that stand out because of major variances. In the future, CFOs and controllers will be able to perform their entire presentation online from within the corporate performance management (CPM) suite. Because the presentations will be online and organized in a storyboard fashion, it will be easy to follow and to drill down to detailed transactions or supporting reports and dashboards to provide answers.
Companies will also reengineer the review process itself so that executives can log into the CPM portal prior to the meeting, review the financials and enter questions and comments directly into the system to be stored with the metrics for later review and for historical analysis. Because CPM systems in the coming years will automatically alert managers to exceptions and significant variances, there will be no surprises in the monthly review meeting, and instead, the presenter as well as the executives in the meeting can focus their time on the metrics that matter the most and where variances indicate that there are issues or opportunities.
The ongoing reporting and analysis that CPM solutions will enable for department heads and any other department contributor performing analytical functions is just as important as efficient, highly focused month-end and quarterly performance meetings with executives. Apart from email alerts when thresholds are reached or major exceptions occur, users will be able to log into the CPM portal at any time for ad-hoc reporting and analysis related to their specific areas of responsibilities. Because your CPM solution will live on top of a well-organized data warehouse, these users will be looking at numbers that are agreed upon by the corporate team, so there is always “one version of the truth,” and discussions and decisions can be based on the same facts.
Another aspect of future reporting processes and the reporting capabilities of CPM solutions will be benchmarking. In other words, the CPM suites will allow for easy upload of industry averages or external data from public companies in the same industry. This will allow managers to analyze benchmark reports so that decision-makers not only look inward at the company’s own performance but they also compare it with external competitors or industry data. Today, many companies don’t do regular benchmarking because preparing the information is a manual and time-consuming process. This can result in delayed and less than optimal decision-making, because managers might be thinking everything is fine because results are on par or above budget, but if all the competitors are growing twice as fast, that can become a big problem at a later point, and regular benchmarking helps keep an eye on this.
Analysis in the Future
In the past couple of blog entries, we have focused on more formal planning and reporting processes, including exception reporting. A company’s decision-making capabilities are also dependent on easy and clear analysis of trends, as well as ranking and comparisons. These are some of the core features of today’s dashboard tools. However, the problem is that most dashboard tools are stand-alone software or cloud services that use their own databases or in-memory data stores, have their own user interfaces, logins, and so on, and this hinders fluent, easy end-user movement between planning, reporting and analysis. In the CPM suites of the future, all of these features will be included in the same offering and completely integrated with the same interface in a single web portal, looking at the same data store and so on. When data is being uploaded to the underlying data warehouse, users enter data as part of the budget or month-end consolidation process, it is instantly available in dashboards and reports as well because it is all part of the same, fully integrated CPM Suite.
Highly functional dashboards and analysis features will include all the typical chart types, with full drilling and filtering options, including easily taking the user from, for example, a revenue trend analysis to a forecast input screen to adjust the outlook for that revenue stream and then to a financial report, where this new scenario can instantly replace an old budget column to show the adjusted actual to forecast variances. Today, very few organizations are able to smoothly do the above three steps without moving from tool to tool and exporting and importing data multiple times, likely with the aid of Excel spreadsheets along the way.
Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver offers BI360 through cloud and on-premise deployment and is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.