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Airline’s reporting processes take off with Wdesk

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This company originally began using Wdesk to streamline SEC filings, but wanted to apply it elsewhere to improve internal reporting processes and other external reports, such as sustainability reporting.

The director of financial reporting for a national airline was in a bind—his senior financial accountant was leaving the company. As the power user of Wdesk for the department, the financial accountant gathered data for the company’s external and internal financial reports and created the documents in Wdesk. Now the director was left to handle that job, in addition to his own. 

Until he could find a full-time employee, the director hired a contractor to bridge the gap. To save time and let him focus on his work, his Workiva Customer Success Manager (CSM) stepped in and trained the contractor.

“It was a huge help,” says the director. “Training a contractor wouldn’t have been a value-added use of my time because I knew that he was going to leave soon.”

Ultimately, when the director hired the full-time employee, the Workiva CSM trained that person too. “It was seamless, and we didn’t miss a beat,” says the director. “It freed up my time to stay engaged with the business rather than training a new employee on reporting software. Plus, the results from training the contractor were so positive, it gave me the confidence that my new hire would actually get better training!”

Maximizing Wdesk

The airline’s reporting team is adept at maximizing the features of Wdesk to streamline its exceptionally data-heavy reporting process. The airline industry must report massive amounts of statistics and key performance indicators in its SEC reports, and those numbers change frequently. That constant change makes the Wdesk linking function particularly important.

In the past, when one number changed, the airline’s reporting team burned up a lot of time checking documents to ensure the number was updated throughout the file. Linking solved that problem. When a number changes, the team simply has to update the source cell, and all other data points related to that number update automatically.

“Now I have more time to analyze the data and look at the business, rather than checking information in the document,” explains the director.

He also says the outline function in Wdesk facilitates collaboration and communication. Beyond just being able to flag areas for the team to review, he says it gives them a global view of the company’s financials.

“It gets team members to think about areas outside their normal responsibilities and gives them the bigger picture when they can see the full document.”

Saving time

When reports are almost final, the director uses Wdesk to send them to the disclosure committee and auditors for their input. Committee members make notes using the review function to ensure that everyone's input is captured online.

Those reviews can be tailored to show only what's changed since the last round. “The blackline function is especially nice for the auditors,” comments the director. “It speeds up the review process, especially near the end when minor edits are being made. People can focus on what’s been changed, rather than going through the whole document.”

And because Wdesk is cloud based, the team can work on documents anywhere, anytime. Case in point—the director and senior accountant were both at a conference when they needed to file several 8-K reports. “We just pulled out our laptops, hit 'File' and away it went. It’s great to file remotely,” comments the director.

In total, the team saves time whenever it uses Wdesk.“We’re filling that time with other work and more analysis to improve processes,” says the director. “And we’ve been able to add more value to our finance function.” The director estimates that Wdesk cuts almost two weeks out of the 10-K filing process alone.

Expanding opportunities

The company is using Wdesk to streamline internal reporting functions, too. “Right now we’re tracking workflow through a spreadsheet, but if we keep it all in Wdesk, that will save us a step,” says the director. He plans to build a dashboard in Wdesk to track the reporting process, manage deadlines, and reduce errors.

The team is also using Wdesk to produce the company’s monthly management reports, which include a massive amount of information—from historical financial data to financial forecasts, network information, and flight destinations. They used to print about 50 copies of the 150-page report and deliver them throughout the company. “It was a lot of paper and an unnecessary cost,” says the director.

Now he issues the reports with Binders, the Wdesk feature that loads reports directly on a user's iPad® or tablet . The digital distribution ensures information remains encrypted and secure, and eliminates the chances of files being seen by unauthorized users. Management appreciates the convenience of the new format and engages with it easily.

“When we send the report out, we can see that people are consuming the data right away,” notes the director.

Producing the report in Wdesk also lets him expand content and add detail without worrying about printing cost. Because all of the documents are linked, if the director needs to update a chart or a figure, he can update the source cell and push the information out to management in real time.

The director says the airline industry is uniquely collaborative, and companies will often meet to talk about challenges and solve complex issues. He doesn’t hesitate to mention Wdesk at those meetings. “I’m happy with Wdesk, and I’ve already recommended it to a number of my peers.”

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