Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)

The city's prior CAFR process was based on Excel® and Word® files converted to PDF. There were 40 to 50 tabs within 20 different spreadsheets and upwards of 30 to 40 Word files.


  • The city's prior CAFR process was based on Excel® and Word® files converted to PDF. There were 40 to 50 tabs within 20 different spreadsheets and upwards of 30 to 40 Word files.
  • A variety of reports, including Crystal Vision, and SQR reports, were used to collect data from both an Oracle® financial management system and Summit accounting software.
  • When the final data was ready for download, one person was responsible for organizing the report structure in Excel—creating formulas and rolling up in various ways. This work, including maintenance for the next year, took up 75% of the individual's full-time job.
  • Once the worksheets were prepared, accountants received a printed copy of their sections of the CAFR to edit and check. This lasted three rounds, but each round was slower than the previous. Data had to be updated in the system, but the system needed to be locked down in order to create the new report for review—creating a serious bottleneck.
  • Over the course of the three-month preparation phase, the accounting manager distributed small parts of the report to the auditors. An audit that should have taken six weeks was often stretched out much longer because all the pieces were not ready at once.
  • Once the report was audited and correct, the team spent a few weeks converting the Excel and resulting Word files into PDFs and attaching charts, indices, references, and everything else required to make the report into a book.
  • No one in the process had a full picture of all the numbers. Each accountant monitored them in a microcosm—going issue by issue or error by error and not seeing the big picture until late in the financial cycle.

How Wdesk works for the accounting manager

  • The manager created a CAFR framework in Wdesk that's rolled forward each cycle. Instead of having one full-time person recreating and managing reports each year, new numbers are entered into master workbooks.
  • The new framework is built on master workbooks that are linked together and across report components. With linked numbers, accountants only need to enter their collected data into a source cell. The updates flow automatically across any linked charts, tables, narrative, or cells, removing the need to sift through hundreds of Excel tabs for each change.
  • Because Wdesk is a complete platform, workbooks, narrative documents, and charts are created in one place with integrated indices and references. When the report is done, it's exported directly from the application without additional conversion or compilation.
  • In the new cycle, the accounting manager sends digital review files to the auditors rather than waiting for physical copies. The manager creates a version of the report in progress and emails it to the auditors. In the meantime, the accountants continue working in the document. When something changes, the manager generates a blackline of the new version and sends it to the auditors, so they only see what has changed.


  • The manager and his team received significant recognition from the city debt manager after a recent bond-offer statement. The manager pulled the data straight from Wdesk, a draft statement with analysis, in only two or three days after the request—as opposed to nearly two weeks in previous years. For the first time in city history, they included their draft financials for government funds in their bond-offer statements. The city was quickly re-approved on its AAA rating.
  • The manager saved more than 50 hours on overtime costs spread among 30 people because of efficiencies gained through the full process in Wdesk.
  • In general, the manager says there have been bottom-line time savings. He and his team have been able to hit deadlines at different times, and people outside of his office have noticed.
  • The manager has impressed his director by maintaining a new reporting system that is outside of the Oracle system. The application automatically upgrades with new feature releases, and the framework remains in place, independent of any costly upgrades to the financial management system.

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