How to Stop Worrying About Management Reporting and Get Some Much Needed Rest
The Financial Statements and Internal Reporting Problem
Therapist: Ok, so what seems to be the problem?
Patient: Doc, I’m a mess. I’m totally miserable.
Therapist: Alright, can you elaborate?
Patient: I’m not sleeping, I’m stressed, I dread going into work.
Therapist: So you don’t like your job?
Patient: No! That’s the thing—I love my job. I’m in accounting, I love working with numbers, I adore my team, and I want what’s best for my company.
Therapist: Then what’s the problem?
Patient: I can’t do it!
Therapist: Performance issues?
Patient: No, I literally can't do my job. I know my stuff, I know the story I want to tell. But when it’s time to execute our financial reporting, we are totally at sea.
Therapist: What do you mean?
Patient: Take the board report. We put these reports together to present the board our company performance, competitor news, and future expectations. They're a big deal, and we do them 12 times a year. However, that means monthly misery for me as I try to collect the data from my team members. It all comes back to me in a mess of different documents in different styles. Then I have to put it all together hoping it makes sense. And if there are any updates—which there always are—it’s like going back to square one.
Therapist: That sounds frustrating.
Patient: Tell me about it. And it’s the same with the CFO deck. It's supposed to be concise financial and operational information that helps my boss understand the business and make meaningful decisions. But there’s nothing concise about it. We've got the same process disconnect and version control nightmare as the board report. Same with the income statement and balance sheet. And the statement of cash flows. And the business unit and product line reporting and covenant reporting. Oh, Doc, I’m in trouble.
Therapist: So management reporting is at the heart of your issues.
Patient: Correct. I keep having this dream, Doc. It’s about the budget and forecasting report, which is what our company bases its entire ongoing strategy on. Pretty important, right? So I’m at my desk, about to publish the report, and I’m sweating. Then I get an email that a change needs to be made. But I don’t know exactly where or to what piece of information. Then I get a text with another change. And then an instant message. There’s so many changes but there’s no way to audit my report. So I scramble as best as I can when the board asks for the report.
Therapist: What happens then?
Patient: I don’t know. That’s when I wake up.
Therapist: Do the others on your team feel this way?
Patient: Absolutely. Everyone knows the process is terrible, but what are we going to do? We’re a finance team, not a software company. We try to make it easier on each other but the information all exists on all these different computers and trying to collect it all and have it make sense is like trying to reconstruct War and Peace—if all the pages were ripped out and out of order. The flash and KPI report, which is supposed to be an instant snapshot of the business, takes so long that by the time we’re finished, the entire thing is obsolete. Our board and executives are counting on information that we're not 100% confident in, which means they may be making some big decisions on bad data.
Therapist: That seems risky.
Patient: Exactly! It's this terrible cycle of risk. An erroneous report leads to a bad decision, the business suffers, which increases the importance of good reporting and round and round we go. My team loses credibility, putting our jobs at risk. There’s no accountability, no visibility, absolutely no confidence in the data. And the worst part is, each report starts the whole process anew. It’s like we’re doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
Therapist: We have a word for that in my industry.
Patient: We spend so much time on process that we hardly have time for the point of these reports—analysis, investigation, financial storytelling.
Patient: Is there something you can prescribe to me, Doc?
Therapist: Have you heard of Workiva?
Patient: Is it a pill?
Therapist: It’s a software platform. I think it might solve your problem. It automates the manual processes key to all eight of those reports you mentioned.
Therapist: Instead of collecting data from dozens of different, unreliable spreadsheets, it allows data gathering, analysis, and reporting to take place in the Workiva platform, with total visibility and total control.
Patient: What if there’s an update?
Therapist: Then it updates automatically on every version of the report. With Workiva's platform, a change made in one place is made everywhere else it's used with an audit trail so you’ll know when it was made and by whom.
Patient: No more risk.
Patient: With that type of reliable data, I'd feel a lot more confidence when reporting to mother.
Therapist: To whom?
Patient: The board.
Therapist: You said "mother."
Patient: No I didn't, did I? Hey—what are you writing?
Therapist: Don't worry about it, we'll talk about it later. Did I mention that with Workiva, you can audit the process, assign tasks, check progress, and submit reports for approval all while adding comments and feedback?
Patient: That would be helpful.
Therapist: And, instead of starting from scratch with every report, Workiva lets you make templates for those reports you can reuse over and over again.
Patient: That would give me more time to focus on the substance of the report, instead of wrangling data that I'm not even sure of.
Therapist: That's the idea. And I think it will help you and your team get some more sleep.
Patient: Where can I learn more about Workiva?
Therapist: Have a look at this, and then call me in the morning.
Patient: Thanks, Doc!