The Daily Grind With Traditional Software: Part Two

The pulse of modern business productivity
February 7, 2014

Part Two: Five downfalls of using word processing software

In a marketplace where technology is continuously advancing and evolving, finance and accounting teams have an increasing number of daily tasks to juggle alongside reporting needs.

Does this story sound familiar?

You're the first one in the office in the morning. You have a few meetings with team members and collaborate on collecting and updating data. After some software formatting issues you get frustrated. Struggling to resolve them, you don't leave the office until after 7 p.m. When you get home, you're exhausted. All you want to do is eat and go to sleep.

Your story is more common than you might think. The majority of reporting professionals deal with these management reporting challenges daily. The root of this pain stems from reporting teams trapped by their outdated word processing software. These programs were initially created for the sole purpose of writing and editing text, not for integrating data via charts and tables within complex financial and managerial reports.

Here are the five most common challenges reporting teams face when using word processing software for their complex reports. Which do you recognize?

  1. Maintaining one current document version
  2. A common complaint among companies creating financial and managerial reports is version control. The larger the team, the larger the problem. Each person has a different version, and no one knows which document is the most current. Word processing applications fall short in maintaining a complete audit trail of changes. The only option is to manually consolidate document changes.

  3. Integrating with spreadsheets and slideshows

  4. Spreadsheets can be great for personal use or in situations where different versions never need to be integrated. The reality is that this almost never happens. Manually updating data between documents, slideshows, and spreadsheets is tedious and takes time away from analyzing data. According to a recent CFO Research survey, only 19 percent of finance teams manage to spend a significant part of their day on analysis—most lose more than half their time to low-value activities.

  5. Repetitive review process scattered among teams
  6. Despite updates to word processing features, reviews are still a major problem. Track changes are only effective until unauthorized users accept or reject changes. And when a single report is sent as an email attachment to all reviewers, the comments and changes are returned individually, more than doubling the amount of manual work. Audit trails exist but are only maintained in individually saved documents and disappear when they are consolidated.

  7. Managing and tracking number changes
  8. Last-minute changes to numbers and text that are repeated across documents is nothing new. A lot of time is wasted manually searching for these elements and reviewing them for accuracy. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees responsible for tracking data spend up to 50 percent of their time searching for data, correcting the errors, and then seeking sources to confirm data they deem questionable. Typical outcomes of this process include additional errors and missed deadlines.

  9. Security of data and information
  10. Keeping financial data secure is of the utmost importance. Did you know that by using outdated report creation and editing processes, you are introducing risk to your data? It could be as simple as a report being accidentally sent to the wrong person via email, printed and left in a public location, or even accessed by hackers. When this happens, a company can lose the trust of its customers, partners, and investors, as well as its competitive advantage.


How are reporting teams dealing with these challenges?

One way to get around these problems is through disruptive technologies. Mobile internet access and cloud technology have begun to drastically change the efficiency, strategy, and core processes of management reporting.

According to McKinsey Global Institute's report, mobile internet devices are no longer a luxury for over a billion people—they are the new way of life. These devices are user-friendly, portable, and allow for increased productivity in the workplace.

In a recent survey, Stroz Friedberg explored the state of information security in U.S. business and found that 58 percent of senior managers have accidentally sent the wrong person sensitive information. This is an alarmingly high percentage that can easily be lowered by implementing a cloud-based system. With cloud technology, executives can log in to their accounts via the internet, and no matter where they are, they can securely view and share sensitive information.

With the prevalence of these disruptive technologies, collaboration, efficiency, and security will be easier than ever to achieve. A few other benefits are:

  • Minimal to no software required
  • Access to reports anywhere with an internet connection
  • No need for IT
  • No up front investment in hardware
  • No costly product enhancements or upgrades

The Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) interviewed CFOs in various industries and found that the average days to close went from 15–35 days using traditional software to 5–15 days using today's cloud solutions. Finance and accounting teams are under more pressure today to produce timely and accurate reports distributed to management for better aligned strategic business decisions. It is time to move away from traditional word processing applications that are manual, time consuming, and error prone—join the cloud revolution to provide better business insights to management.

This is part two of a four part series analyzing the difficulties associated with common data processing 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 Three: Document sharing tools are mediocre at best

Part Four: Is your boss in the 9%?

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.