The Daily Grind With Traditional Software: Part Four

The pulse of modern business productivity
March 14, 2014

Part Four: The pains of slideshow software

As you've heard in the previous three parts of this blog series, the current business environment continues to be volatile. Reporting trends are evolving, and management teams need better analysis in a shorter amount of time.

Ninety-one percent of finance executives say the biggest improvement they want to see from their finance and accounting teams is in the quality of financial and performance insight obtained from the data they produce, followed closely by the ability to analyze the data before it becomes outdated.

This is not a surprising statistic. Most companies are using outdated technology and reporting systems that require finance teams to spend the majority of their time on administrative tasks instead of analyzing data. Because they don't know there is any better option, reporting teams resort to using traditional slideshow software to present their financial information to management and in the process waste valuable time.

We've compiled the top five challenges reporting teams face when presenting financial data. How many of these daily struggles do you experience?

  1. Version control issues

    In most programs, only one individual can work on a slideshow at a time. When data is needed from multiple business units, highly paid employees waste valuable time trying to find out who is working on the slideshow, what changes they are making, if those changes will affect the overall analysis, and where they are in the line of people that need to make changes.

    In addition, distributing slideshows via email further complicates matters. When there are multiple different versions of one slideshow on multiple teams, how do you know which version is the most current?

  2. Formatting and updating data in charts and table

    Traditional word processors, spreadsheets, and slideshow software are not optimized for business reporting and do not integrate data with ease. Since most executives find it easier to process and formulate objectives when data is presented through tables and charts, reporting professionals spend hours each week copying and pasting data from a spreadsheet or report and trying to format it correctly in a slideshow table or chart.

    Teams try to get around this busywork by different methods, such as saving a table as an image or taking a screenshot and inserting it into the slideshow. This might seem like a good solution until a number needs to be updated—then, a new image has to be made, and the new image has to be inserted into countless slides. This process is extremely manual and prone to error.

  3. Formatting takes time away from analysis

    Management and finance executives viewing a slideshow want reporting teams to create a story out of a large pool of data inputs.

    In an article published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, a manager from Lorton Data found that employees without graphics training spend 36 percent of the time it takes to create an average proposal formatting and designing it. This means that highly paid reporting professionals are spending more than a third of their time formatting data into tables and graphs instead of using their time to analyze data and make solid business conclusions.

  4. Manually update ever-changing data

    Outdated software applications mean version control issues—it's that simple. When changes are made to data in other reports, these numbers also need to be manually changed in all instances within the slideshow. Not only do the numbers and text need to be updated, but each table, chart, and formula containing that data will also need to be changed. This stalls the reporting process, wastes valuable time, and increases the potential for error.

  5. Repetitive review process

    When finance and accounting teams collaborate with other business units, senior managers often want to review, provide feedback, and sign off on the slideshow before it is presented to management. Currently, these files are sent to each team's reviewer via email. After comments and feedback are provided, a consolidator goes through each manager's feedback to manually make every change. Inevitably, just when you think it's perfect, a last-minute change comes in and the process starts over.

Reporting teams are in a sticky situation when it comes to presenting data. They have to do more with less and deal with increasing pressure from management to provide more intelligent data accompanied by insightful recommendations.

Research shows that companies need more—a recent survey suggests that more than 80 percent of finance executives indicated that they need to change, or have already changed, their finance management systems to cloud-based solutions. Traditional reporting software that is based on outdated technology cannot meet the mounting demands placed on reporting teams.

This is part four of a four part series analyzing the difficulties associated with common office programs. To read the other posts in the blog series, follow the links below.

Part One: The burden of spreadsheets on your decision-making process

Part Two: Five downfalls of using word processing software

Part Three: Document sharing tools are mediocre at best

Mike Sellberg

About the author

Mike Sellberg is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Workiva. He is the former EVP and CTO at iMed Studios and the former Divisional General Manager at Engineering Animation, Inc.