Implementing cloud-based reporting: what you need to know

Implementing cloud-based reporting: what you need to know
July 21, 2015

The last five years have seen huge advances in automation for many back-office functions—from payroll to employee benefits to expense management.

That same evolution is now happening in financial reporting. Formerly a cumbersome manual process that relied on multiple people cross-checking for errors and accuracy, technology is making those time-consuming tasks a thing of the past.

In its recent white paper, How Enterprising Companies Are Moving Business Reporting to the Cloud, the International Data Corporation (IDC) says that what business analysts need is a solution "that combines a familiar word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation authoring interface with the ability to manage structured and unstructured information." But all the right tools are worthless if you don’t know how to use them.

Real people. Real results.

The IDC wanted to find out how using an enterprise-wide platform has changed business processes for companies. They talked to three Workiva customers and discovered they had all experienced:

  • Quick, painless implementation
  • Rapid time to value
  • Usability across multiple departments
  • Benefits that accrue across organizations

Here’s a closer look at three teams:

  • For Ventas, SEC filing is no longer a massive headache. With a staff of just four people, real-estate investment firm Ventas saves money by using Wdesk to prepare all its filings in-house. Employees have a better work-life balance because they can turn changes around in minutes—a process that formerly took hours. It’s also easier to solve problems outside the office, which means weekends are spent at home, not at work.

    “We love Workiva,” says Vice President of Financial Reporting, Jennifer Robison. “Companies that are filing public documents and that have two or more people on their finance team are crazy if they don’t use it. There’s so much benefit!”

  • FirstMerit Bank brings SEC reporting in-house—and improves quality of life for finance teams. After implementing Wdesk in 2011, it just took one hour for the finance team at FirstMerit Bank to complete training and file the company’s 10-K with the new software. Since then, the department has reduced preparation and filing time across the board. And because reports can be submitted out of the office, employees are enjoying a higher quality of life.

  • Tanger Outlets speeds up time to creating 10-Qs and 10-Ks and gets comfortable with XBRL. Before Wdesk, retail outlet pioneer Tanger outsourced its XBRL work. Changing the smallest detail took hours and incurred considerable cost. Wdesk allowed Tanger to bring reporting back in-house, for faster, more accurate results. Tanger also implemented Wdesk in its investor relations and legal department. "If you're not already doing so, put Workiva to work in investor relations,” says Finance Director Jennifer Pruitt. “It's a great benefit.”

How can you get the same results?

When it comes to cloud-based financial reporting, it’s important to implement your new reporting solution thoughtfully, so teams understand how to use it. Education ensures that you get the ROI you expect from an enterprise-class platform and spares your employees the frustration of being handed something they don’t understand.

After working through this process with many customers, we've developed some best practices that make the process simpler. Here are three things you can do to prepare your employees for success.

  1. Review security policies with your team. Don’t wait to address security concerns. Educating everyone who uses cloud-based software on security policies is the first and most important step you can take. When all your employees know how to protect sensitive data, it’s easy to keep information secure.

  2. Organize and plan for growth. There’s no need to overhaul your entire system before everyone is fully trained. In fact, that can cause more damage than good. Start with a few reports to build up confidence and slowly roll out changes from there. Employees will be able to sharpen their skills and reach attainable goals, while you’ll be able to see what’s working—and what’s not.

  3. Take advantage of customer service support. Cloud-based solutions often come with amazing customer service support, and you should take advantage of it. Enroll your staff in available training courses, ask questions, and use the help desk or concierge services. Support staff is there for a reason, so don’t hesitate to lean on them as you learn new skills.

It's clear that communication and ongoing team training are keys to success. No matter what your needs are, making sure that your team is fully equipped to use a new system will help you reach your goals. It can be tough to make big changes, but it’s worth it. Cloud-based reporting plays a big part in the future of work, and there’s never been a better time to get started than now.

Read the full report, 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.