Why your CAFR takes 187 days

Why your CAFR takes 187 days
March 27, 2015

It seems like everyone is being asked to do more with less, and this is especially true for government agencies.

Unfortunately, this pressure often results in highly-qualified employees spending time on non-value added tasks, like babysitting information in archaic systems throughout the data collection and reporting process.

A perfect example of this is the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). Because the CAFR is required for all government agencies to comply with accounting requirements from the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the results must be accurate.

These financial statements rely on structured and unstructured data—with most of it being the latter.

Collecting unstructured information from disparate systems and multiple departments, like that for budget reports and the CAFR, introduces challenges and takes a lot of time from all those involved in the back-and-forth between teams.

Wouldn't it be nice to have some of that time back?

The problem is clear—teams simply don't have the tools necessary to prevent the CAFR from swallowing a significant amount of time. In 2013, the National Association of State Comptrollers reported it took an average of 187 days for states to complete their CAFR reports, with some states requiring an entire year.

Take Whirlpool for example, although not a government agency, the large public company took steps to improve its data collection process for the entire enterprise and saved a total of 75 hours in a single quarter. Whirlpool faced similar process challenges to the CAFR , like version control issues between inboxes and homegrown systems and last-minute changes and requests for updated numbers.

Throughout Whirlpool's reports they are even tracking a full audit trail of changes just like it's necessary to trace adjustments in the CAFR, while still proving compliance with GASB standards.

In the end, across organizations of all types, the pressure to provide fast and accurate data is mounting. Everyone is rushing to meet deadlines rather than rushing to deliver meaningful analysis. How much time could you save on data collection? How much more progress could you make for your agency?

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.