Ask most financial analysts the task they like least, and you will probably get the same answer: ticking and tying data. It's also the task they spend the most time completing.
One financial institution decided it was time to disrupt the status quo. Rather than relying on the manual process of ticking and tying, the company started using Wdata from Workiva to help financial reporting teams automatically connect data from source systems to the reports they build within the Workiva platform.
One of the institution's financial reporting managers said that with previous technology, it was difficult to determine each source of data in a project, especially if a new team member was looking at a colleague's work from months ago. The team realized they needed something new when the old solution struggled to meet the Securities and Exchange Commission's XBRL® reporting requirements for filings, according to the financial reporting manager. "That was like the nail in the coffin," he said.
Life after the switch to Workiva
Like many Workiva customers, the financial institution started by using Wdesk as a centralized place for employees to collaborate in real time. Now, the company also uses Wdata to help teams more easily collect and prepare data, search for data, and connect data to final reports. With Wdata, pre-built connectors to dozens of popular source systems make it possible to automate data pulls.
In the old days, the financial reporting team would receive data, including validations, from business partners, but the origins of data were not always clear. With Wdata connecting data directly from source systems to data marts, they can see which data mart, or subset of data, was the source of specific data points. The direct connection reduces the risk of error that can come with manually copying and pasting information.
"We know it's a direct connection to Wdata, so we know there's not any user manipulation or operational risk hazards," the financial reporting manager said.
"We can see the way it's being transformed or pulled from Wdata into Wdesk where it's validated before it hits the financial reporting space. I can see from my final document all the way back to my data mart, and I can see each step point where there's only maybe a tiny little bit of massaging done by either us or the accounting support streams. But, you really have that full lineage, which is something that didn't exist before," he said.
"It gives you that trusting feeling that this data is correct because you can see the full path from beginning to end," said the financial reporting manager, who estimates Wdata is saving employees hundreds of hours of work per quarter.
Analysts can now spend more time on analysis, not data entry or data collection, another financial reporting manager said.
Meanwhile, project owners can grant editing or viewer-only access to colleagues in accounting, legal, or compliance. There is greater visibility of data, and information is available much earlier.
Previously, reporting teams had to wait for data to go through multiple tiers of review. "Now you have systems talking to one another," a financial reporting manager said. The reporting team also can see data before it is validated, which gives them a head start on drafting a report while they wait for final numbers.
Users also can build chains in Wdata to automate workflows, such as refreshing financial details from a data source in a specific table and then pushing that data to another data source to generate a report.
"When I started back in 2012, the biggest surprise was how easy the tool was to use," a financial reporting analyst for the company said. "A lot of the toolbars and ways to navigate were very easy."
The team is still exploring new capabilities as Workiva continues to add more.
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