The challenges of reporting complex data to the Board, investors and regulators
Reporting complex data can often prove difficult at best. Where organisations lack the right systems and processes, it can make an onerous task even more burdensome and put even greater pressure on finance teams for several reasons:
Changing business environments
The degree to which the finance function must report on more complex, changing data – including non-financial data – is greater than ever before. Not only are regulators imposing stricter financial reporting, the finance team also has a broader range of stakeholders to keep happy.
New business models such as private equity-backed business come with their own reporting requirements too. Without a systems-led collaborative approach in place, it’s difficult for finance to pull together these reports easily.
This increasing appetite for more and better data, presented in a wide variety of formats, is compounded by the need to meet corporate social responsibility and other non-financial obligations. The publishing of this type of information shows no signs of abating. Legislation on payment policies, practices and performance; annual slavery and human trafficking statements; gender pay reporting – these all add complexity to the reporting mix and the list continues to grow. Being able to pull these reports together can be incredibly time consuming and is often hampered by the poor business systems and processes that the organisation has in place.
Out of control
When a CFO flounders, it’s usually because he or she isn’t in control of the numbers or too many demands are being placed on them. But by understanding what stakeholders require, and the format information should be presented in, CFOs and their financial teams can reverse engineer the whole process. Whether it’s a regulatory requirement or a private equity partner’s report, it’s highly likely that they’re going to want similar information on a repeated basis. And any repetitive reporting requirement of this nature, however complex, is ripe for some degree of automation.
By engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, the CFO and finance team can get a clear idea of what they want, using technology to help pull the reports together. Not only will it cost the finance team less time to provide the information, it ensures that stakeholders get the reports that they need in the right format, exactly on time.
Plus, with the need for the business to access as near real-time reporting as possible, it’s important that it doesn’t take days or weeks to pull this information together. Setting up dashboards and alerts can help many within in the business who place demands on finance’s time to be self-serving. This will not only lighten the load for finance teams, it will provide colleagues with the flexibility to access reports at the own choosing – as well as opening the door to more meaningful business conversations.
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