Wdesk Improves Reporting at Fortune 100 Bank

Take-out containers stacked up on desks, the clock ticking toward midnight, and stress levels running high. The external reporting team of this Fortune 100 company was working hard to finalize the company’s 10-K before the looming deadline. Even though they were working late, team members knew they would still have to come in on the weekend to ensure the 250-page document was finished on time.

“It was a tough schedule,” says the one of the company’s reporting managers. “When we were filing, working until midnight two or three days a week was common. And we would always have a full day of work on the weekend, too.” There are 15 people in the department who work directly to produce the company’s quarterly and annual reports.

Trying to combine one of the world’s largest financial institutions and the growing complexity of external reporting in an almost impossibly short 40-day reporting window made for a perfect storm. The team was up to the task, but getting the job done was never easy.

Just Getting By

The team was using old word processing and spreadsheet software to produce its enormous quarterly and annual documents. The creation process was cumbersome enough for any company, but this team also had to manage hundreds of people providing input, commenting, and reviewing the documents.

The reporting manager says document sharing and version control were the team’s biggest challenges. “No matter what general-purpose software says about sharing, when you have a document of our size and 10–12 people trying to use it, it just doesn’t work—it crashes,” he explains.

The team tried to break the document into six parts and work on each part separately. But that created its own set of issues. Team members had to wait for their turn—sometimes over an hour—to make their changes to the document. Once all the changes were made, the team would spend another six hours putting the parts back together and preparing the draft for distribution to business partners and executives.

The report would then be sent to a third-party printer for EDGARizing, which invariably created formatting errors. “We were sending in 400 to 500 pages of changes,” says the reporting manager. Not only did those changes monopolize the last few days prior to filing, the cost ran into the six figures.

An Easy Choice

Then, while the team was attending a conference, it found an application that would eliminate the hassles of version control and printer’s timelines—the External Reporting Solution powered by Wdesk. “Wdesk was low cost, it had minimal training requirements, and a short learning curve. Plus, it kept the entire process in-house,” said the reporting manager.

The reporting team members did their due diligence and evaluated several other products on the market before choosing the cloud-based platform. They made the switch and never looked back. The move was a smart investment says the reporting manager. “Wdesk decreased our downtime and eliminated our inefficiencies stemming from third-party vendors. And it increased our productivity and control.”

The Workiva professionals set up the company’s initial documents by importing its 10-Q into Wdesk, which the team used to familiarize itself with the application. Following their own exploration, the team members attended a training webinar. “We had a week to work with the application before we did our training, so our team was ready with questions. It worked well,” says the reporting manager.

And that was the extent of the training process. The reporting manager says Wdesk doesn’t require much training, which is a huge plus. “Using Wdesk isn’t difficult—that’s the beauty of it. One of the downsides to the other products we looked at was that it required on-site training that last two, full eight-hour days.”

Making Gains

With Wdesk fully integrated into its reporting process, the team has experienced dramatic improvements. It has reduced the time to produce reports, slashed third-party costs, and even allowed the team to file its 10-Q a day early. The company has also trimmed its outsourcing costs since it no longer needs to hire a contractor to assist with report development every quarter.

“The biggest benefit is not having to wait for access to the document.Before, everyone hated waiting,” says the reporting manager. Thanks to the single document datamodel, team members now work on their sections of the document simultaneously.

And most notably, workdays are shorter. “I don’t think anyone stayed past 9 p.m. last quarter, and the weekend work has been cut in half,” says the reporting manager. The massive number of reviewers is no longer a challenge, either. The team is able to maintain strict oversight of document access and commenting with custom security controls. “Managing changes is much easier with Wdesk,” the reporting manager comments.

Wdesk has also eliminated the need to maintain the 1,500-line spreadsheet used to indicate which numbers were linked within the document and where. Now, if a number needs to be updated, team members update the source workbook and the numbers flow automatically throughout the document, thanks to the sophisticated number and text linking feature.

In-House XBRL

The company used to outsource its XBRL tagging to its printer, which would use up precious time at the end of the reporting cycle. But with the dynamic XBRL function on Wdesk, it now manages the process in-house, building tags as the report is developed.

The Workiva Professional Services team even gave the bank’s reporting team valuable insight on how to improve its tagging process. “They suggested structural ideas that we would never have thought of because when we outsourced XBRL, we didn’t see things behind the scenes,” explains the reporting manager. “Our XBRL team is absolutely thrilled with Wdesk.”

The company has since expanded its use of Wdesk to virtually all of its external reports. For example, the team used the application to create and file an 8-K on short notice. “We only had 12 hours to do it, and it probably wouldn’t have gotten done any other way,” the reporting manager says.

That flexibility is just one more example of how Wdesk makes external reporting much easier for this Fortune 100 company. Does the reporting manager agree? He doesn’t hesitate, “Yes. Absolutely 100 percent.”

Download case study

Read More