How a European tech company cut financial reporting overtime by half

A European technology company was growing rapidly, but its financial reporting processes weren’t keeping pace.

A team of about 50 financial reporting professionals and many other content owners used Microsoft® Office, plus an external reporting program, plus several outside contractors to handle external reporting, compliance, internal reporting, and other processes for the company.

The reconciliation team manager who oversees many of the reporting functions says the company’s complicated reporting processes made it difficult to maintain consistency.

“It was a huge effort to make sure all the text aligned. We did a lot of manual work,” he comments. “We had to copy numbers from one Excel® file to another or even retype them. It was very inefficient and posed a huge risk for inconsistencies.”

The team also relied heavily on a third-party tool to generate its annual report, but the tool’s functionality was limited. “With that tool, there was no room to improve the efficiency of our reports,” says the manager.

It was time to find a better financial reporting solution.

A few team members created a wish list of tasks they couldn’t do with their old tools and then vetted other solutions that could meet their needs. Wdesk was the clear choice.

Maintaining consistency between the data and reports was a critical issue. “In finance, the consistency and integrity of reports and documents are mandatory for doing your work properly. That’s one of the things that Wdesk is very good at,” says the manager.

In just over a year, the company expanded its use of Wdesk rapidly from a handful of users to more than 130 people companywide. “It was quite easy to extend Wdesk into the organisation,” says the manager. “Wdesk is very user friendly and easy to access. Plus, it has a look and feel that most people recognise from Microsoft Office.”

And the company has already achieved significant time-savings using Wdesk. “I know for sure we’ve decreased overtime by about half,” says the manager. He estimates the company has saved almost 500 hours in overtime, totaling approximately $15,000.

One of the company’s main uses for Wdesk is producing annual reports. Because the European company trades shares on a U.S. exchange, it is required to file both an annual US GAAP 20-F with the SEC and an annual report based on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Fifty content owners draft the reports starting in late summer and finish finalising them at the beginning of the next year.

The roll forward function in Wdesk gives the team a critical head start on annual report production because it uses the previous year’s report as a starting point. About 80 per cent of the text is the same between Form 20-F and the IFRS reports, so automated text updating and text linking in Wdesk save time and ensure consistency.

“With our previous tool, we had to do all of those updates manually. With Wdesk, it’s a simple push of the button to upload the numbers, and almost the entire document is updated.”

When management or auditors want to compare changes to the reports, Wdesk makes that easy, too, with a quick blackline function that shows changes between versions. In the past, the company outsourced the blackline function to a contractor, one of four external vendors the company had to hire to handle auxiliary functions related to financial reporting.

The company also used an external contractor for XBRL tagging on its 20-F. The process took six months and required multiple time-consuming reviews by the company’s reporting team. Now XBRL tagging is managed in-house and takes just a few days to complete. “Wdesk supports us much better in the XBRL process and saves a lot of time and effort,” comments the manager.

“The feedback on Wdesk from the content owners is that they’re very happy to be working in a single live document,” says the manager. “They can work together in different sections of the document, and there’s no risk of several document versions circling around. It’s been really helpful to our process.”

The company’s board members approve of Wdesk, too. “Once they see the linked numbers in Wdesk, they have more confidence in the report,” says the manager. “Our CEO is especially enthusiastic about Wdesk.”

The financial reporting team continues to explore and expand the possibilities with Wdesk, extending its utility and value to more departments and functions throughout the company.

For example, they’ve used Wdesk to improve the financial reporting audit trail, seamlessly gathering and consolidating comments on reports and documents from content owners and management. “We used to get handwritten notes on our annual reports that were almost unreadable,” says the manager. “With Wdesk, that’s improved a lot. Our audit trail is much better than it was before.”

Wdesk Data Collection improved the efficiency and level of detail in the company’s quarterly and annual internal reports. The company had been using a separate consolidation tool for the process, but it provided only an aggregated level of information, and the team needed more extensive, detailed reporting.

Live-linking data in Wdesk is critical to this process because many numbers in the internal reports are also used in external reports and investor relations presentations. “Now that we’re using Wdesk, we have a single source of truth for our information. It has helped a lot,” says the manager.

“Now that we’re using Wdesk, we have a single source of truth for our information. It’s helped a lot.”

—Reconciliation team manager

And when the team needed a better way to support the certification of its internal letter of representation, it turned to Wdesk immediately. Now a dashboard in Wdesk tracks recipients, replies, and necessary follow-ups. “By using Wdesk for certification, we gained time and efficiency due to the dashboard and all the functionalities,” says the manager.

Responsive customer service from the European-based customer success team made the company’s rapid adoption and expansion of Wdesk possible.

“We get a quick response if we have a question or remark,” says the manager. “Even though we’re in Europe, when we communicate an issue, we know it will be worked on during the night, and the Workiva team will have the issue resolved by morning.”

Wdesk has done more than save time, improve consistency, and increase efficiency for the company—it helps them do better work, too.

“Wdesk raises our work to a higher level,” says the manager. “Before Wdesk, we were spending our time doing more manual reviews. Now we can work at a higher, more analytical level.” He adds that Wdesk has also improved their lives. ”Wdesk makes our work more fun. Plus, we can go home on time now.”

”Wdesk makes our work more fun. Plus, we can go home on time now.”

—Reconciliation team manager


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