Solving the Disconnect: Addressing Key Concerns in Global Reporting Teams
Jennifer van Dijk
‘Disruption’: a challenge, an aspiration, or a fear?
As businesses start to feel the full force of political, environmental and economic upheaval, we are now said to be living in an ‘era of disruption’. In these turbulent times, the term seems to be reverting from its status as a popular buzzword. Qualities of innovation and boldness may remain as championed as ever, but managing risk is becoming the top priority for organisations.
Finance and accounting departments are far from immune to this increasingly conflicted relationship with change. Told to ‘embrace disruption’, reporting teams are urged to arm themselves against the impacts of external change by cultivating innovation and adaptability—in other words, to fight against external disruption by being disruptive internally.
A change in mentality?
Our recent survey revealed some interesting data. Despite stating an increase in timelines and an unpreparedness for future challenges, the majority of finance leaders across Europe reported being in favour of the new ESEF mandate. But how can this be explained?
Widespread acceptance of a dysfunctional status quo could be pointed to here. But finance professionals might also be making an important distinction between the benefits of the mandate itself and their frustration with how processes and changes are being handled internally. This suggests a disconnect between decision makers and those involved in daily reporting processes—a risk that becomes more prominent the bigger the organisation.
There’s a building sense of urgency—and it’s coming from all angles
Beyond the external pressures of new mandates and an uncertain global landscape, reporting teams are internally having to navigate a widespread cultural shift. Between new generations entering the workforce, the great resignation, and a collective rethink of the nature of work, recent years have shown that finance and accounting professionals want to embrace change.
However, they are also acutely familiar with their own processes, and their limitations.
As cascading requirements trickle down from parent to subsidiary, anxiety is beginning to mount with the knowledge that they will not be able to keep up. Reporting teams are seeking clarity and time: two things in particularly short supply.
Change takes time, but time is running out
They see how much needs to be done, and know they do not have enough time.
Most managers have had the experience of implementing a new structure, software or tool…only to see their entire process come to a standstill for far longer than expected. With so many oncoming regulations and standards around the corner, it’s understandable that many choose to continue with what is in place, making quick fixes to individual problems along the way.
Seek tools and strategies that go beyond the task of report building and enhance workflows throughout the entire company.
Leaders need to carefully weigh the amount of time these changes are likely to take against the longer-term risks of not making them, or of turning to endless bolt-on solutions. The key here is to seek tools and strategies that go beyond the task of report building and enhance workflows throughout the entire company.
Transparency and collaboration: too much of a good thing?
When used effectively, collaborative solutions can enhance the quality of a report, build trust between stakeholders, and speed up timelines. But it is worth noting that for some, the worry may not only be a lack of collaboration, but the wrong kind.
If done carelessly, bringing too many new people into existing processes can be counterproductive. Indiscriminately breaking down silos can cause unnecessary confusion and trigger questions that only serve to further delay timelines.
Efforts to bring stakeholders closer together need to be implemented thoughtfully alongside adequate controls.
While the importance of improving transparency and oversight cannot be understated, this can’t be done at the expense of efficiency. Efforts to bring stakeholders closer together need to be implemented thoughtfully alongside adequate controls, both as part of a global strategy while also letting individuals shape their teams on a local level.
Standing out in an era of standardisation
For multinational companies, one of the biggest challenges is tying together so many different ways of working. Legislative, cultural, and personal differences between different teams can make this feel like an impossible feat. When combined with a high level of employees changing positions or moving between entities, those in charge of reporting can find themselves having to defend numbers they don’t fully understand.
It’s easy to see why standardising processes is so important for these organisations. But those who have implemented their own processes over the years may also be wondering how they can ensure their work continues to stand out.
New, more efficient ways of working will allow finance and accounting team members to focus more on the interpretation and analysis they were trained in.
Leaders need to make it clear that standardisation doesn’t mean anonymity. New, more efficient ways of working will allow finance and accounting team members to focus more on the interpretation and analysis they were trained in. By providing employees with the support they need to develop these skills, leaders can show this as the opportunity it is.
Bridging the communication gap
Arguably, the aversion isn’t to change, but to the wrong kind: surface-level modifications that only add to the burden without solving underlying issues.
Leaders are tasked with a delicate balancing act. They must bring together their organisation in a standardised manner, while also allowing individual teams to work in a way that is most effective for them. Processes need to be changed in a way that genuinely targets the issues at hand rather than bringing in more issues. By taking the time to listen to concerns and implement solutions with the appropriate level of care, it will be possible to prepare ourselves for oncoming challenges without missing a beat.