How to evaluate business reporting solutions in the cloud

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October 10, 2014

Business reporting is complex—but many organizations are finding out that it doesn’t have to be. Their secret? The cloud.

When it comes to business reporting, all companies have different needs, and cloud services are flexible enough to allow for unique reporting solutions that can help businesses save time and money.

Meet standards with a sensible solution
Companies must comply with business reporting standards from a variety of regulatory bodies. Doing so requires gathering data from nearly every department across an organization—and that’s no easy feat when information is scattered across programs or sequestered in offline documents.

A cloud-based business reporting solution can help ensure that all the information you need is accessible, in one place, and ready for reporting. It can also be instrumental in keeping that data accurate and up to date. However, what’s right for one company may not work for another. Before implementing a new solution, it’s important to identify your specific reporting needs.

Here are some things to consider as you think about moving your business reporting to the cloud.

Mind the gaps
There is often a knowledge gap between what investors and regulators need to know and how a company is truly performing. This incomplete picture can lead to poor financial forecasts, investor mistrust, and loss of business. As reporting requirements frequently change, keeping up can be confusing and time consuming. Some of the regulatory bodies and internal management teams that dictate reporting requirements are:

  • SEC reporting
  • Performance management
  • Sustainability reporting
  • Governance, risk, and compliance

Cloud-based solutions can help you keep track of different report types and understand how other organizations within your industry are managing similar reporting requirements.

Look before you leap
Before you switch to a cloud-based reporting solution, it’s critical to ask hard questions to identify gaps and needs. Your teams can provide invaluable information into how their departments work and what they need to achieve. Once you’ve gathered this vital information, you’ll be able to better evaluate new solutions and choose the right option with confidence.

Keep an eye out for these capabilities
When you’re in the process of evaluating a cloud-based reporting solution, don’t settle for the first one you see. With all the options available, it can be difficult to choose, but there are some that stand out from the others. Qualities to look for in cloud services include:

  • Efficient data collection and management
  • Keeping your data organized and in one place will help save time and take stress and confusion out of reporting. Instead of trying to gather data manually or relying on various departments to deliver information, cloud services keep everything together from day one—making it easy to access and manage your reports.
  • Comprehensive version tracking and audit controls
  • Traditional document storage makes it difficult to see who accessed, edited, and changed important information. Review cloud-based options for features that allow you to see who accessed what and when. In addition, look for version tracking that shows the complete history of every document.
  • Collaborative tools
  • Communication and collaboration can make all the difference when it comes to putting together comprehensive reports. Make sure the service you’re looking at puts collaboration first, allowing multiple people to review and comment on important documents.
  • Robust permissions
  • Don’t let your information get into the wrong hands. Incomplete reports or information that leaks too early can lead to disastrous results. Your cloud solution should have a permissions system you can rely on.
  • Common functions for multiple report types
  • Learning new commands or getting used to different shortcuts for every report can be frustrating and unproductive. Good cloud services will use common functions for multiple report types, freeing up time and providing a knowledge base that will allow you to focus on what really matters—the report.

For more information about organizations that are taking the plunge into cloud services, explore IDC’s recent white paper: How Enterprising Companies Are Moving Business Reporting to the Cloud.

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.