Wdata Puts the “A” Back in FP&A

Wdata Puts the “A” Back in FP&A
8 January 2019

The following post originally appeared on the Ventana Research blog.

Workiva recently introduced Wdata, a cloud facility for centralising financial and nonfinancial information from multiple sources. It frees up time for finance organisations, especially financial planning and analysis (FP&A) groups, to explore conditions and trends in their business because they need to spend less of it gathering data and preparing it for analysis and reporting. Ventana Research recently awarded Workiva our Digital Innovation award for Wdata because of its transformative potential.

The process of preparing data for analysis is often a source of inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the Office of Finance. Our Next-Generation Finance Analytics benchmark research finds that when undertaking analyses, two-thirds (68%) of finance departments spend the largest percentage of their time not on analysis but on data preparation activities. Only 28 per cent spend the plurality of their time analyzing data. This is a picture of a situation where the department likely spends too much time wrangling data, which is inefficient, and not enough time creating a broader assortment of analyses or providing reports and analyses, which is ineffective.

Our Office of Finance benchmark research also finds that while a majority of companies’ finance departments say the data they provide to the rest of the organisation is accurate, only 31 per cent describe the information they produce as always timely. If they need to put less effort into data preparation, the time that financial analysts now spend on it could be used to do what they’re paid to do: analysis. And Wdata can help departments put the “A” back in FP&A.

Our research shows that few companies perform analyses that can be useful in improving their effectiveness, including product or customer profitability analyses. Wdata creates the central source of accurate, timely and consistent data that finance organisations need for analysis and reporting. Because everyone accesses the same set of authoritative information, “the numbers” are always consistent. Workiva applications facilitate the creation of ad hoc or periodic composite reports that combine data, narratives, charts and other graphic elements for external and internal reporting purposes. Because Wdata can incorporate data from multiple internal systems—including data from CRM or manufacturing systems as well as third-party data such as industry statistics—it can substantially enrich the scope and richness of the analysis that an FP&A group performs.

Analysis, planning and budgeting is better with Wdata than it is with a spreadsheet because the Workiva platform behaves just like a familiar spreadsheet but also is able to work with multiple dimensions using clean data. Wdata is a cloud application and therefore can scale on demand. Desktop spreadsheets and even on-premises business intelligence systems have limited scalability.

Wdata is designed to be managed by the finance department, not IT. It is best suited for those companies with a Finance IT function—a team of individuals with a deep understanding of finance and accounting but who also are competent in working with technology. Our Office of Finance research finds that half (52%) of companies with 500 or more employees have a Finance IT function in their organisations.

I recommend that all companies that are using the Wdesk platform, especially for internal or external financial reporting, performance reporting, or for preparing regulatory reports (including public disclosures), evaluate Wdata.

rob kugel

About the author

Rob Kugel heads up CFO and business research focusing on the intersection of information technology with the finance organization and business. The financial performance management (FPM) research agenda includes the application of IT to financial process optimization and collaborative systems, control systems and analytics, and advanced budgeting and planning. Prior to joining Ventana Research, he was an equity research analyst at several firms, including First Albany Corporation, Morgan Stanley, and Drexel Burnham, and a consultant with McKinsey and Company. Rob earned his B.A. in economics/finance at Hampshire College, an MBA in finance/accounting at Columbia University, and is a CFA charter holder.