Highlights from AGA PDT for Federal Financial Reporting Teams
If there's one thing I remember from AGA PDT, it's that federal agency leaders in financial management are leveraging technology to stay ahead—not cutting back.
Forget about a robot takeover. Budget pressures and a retiring workforce are fueling the use of automation to free highly skilled staff from mind-numbing manual tasks. Instead, they can have time to focus on high-value strategy and analysis. And rather than trimming staff, federal government agencies are looking for ways to do more. Cloud technology and shared services are making it possible for government teams to break through traditional silos, integrate back-office functions, eliminate duplicative work, and use more data for decision-making.
The benefits go beyond cost savings:
- Reduced risk: Connecting data across agency silos, especially within the agency CFO's office, and using dynamic dashboards and reports not only provides increased visibility and accountability but also reduces the risk of poor data quality. With better data quality, CFOs can be more confident in using data for decision-making.
- More fulfilling work: You didn’t get those advanced degrees and certifications for nothing. Rather than spending hours manually aggregating data, copying and pasting spreadsheet formulas and cells to different reports, formatting charts, or redoing work, you can automate. Then, you can concentrate on higher value tasks.
- Fostering a culture of collaboration, transparency, and ownership: Instead of sifting through long email chains of feedback from colleagues, teams can work together directly in a single cloud platform, even in remote locations. Cloud technology allows for real-time collaboration and up-to-date information, so teams can manage their work more effectively.
Challenges in connecting people, data, and processes
Based on informal conversations at AGA PDT, agencies are ready to upgrade from legacy software and traditional ways of working. My colleagues and I asked visitors to our booth at AGA PDT about their financial reporting and internal controls processes and heard many of you work with several departments to gather structured and unstructured data from multiple sources and systems.
Gathering all of that data can take time and is inherently risky. One person said the process was like "duct taping together" various datasets—making it difficult to trace data back to the source when executives have questions.
In addition, the process of analyzing and reporting or presenting that data can be quite manual, which can lead to the risk of human error. At the booth, many of you talked about version control issues and how difficult it is to manage last-minute changes.
In some cases, the hours needed to produce required reports put final reports at risk of becoming a check-the-box exercise versus providing the public with valuable insights. And once an annual report is complete, it's time to start the process all over again for next year.
It can take time to find the right enterprise solutions for financial reporting and governance, risk, and compliance that will work under FedRAMP. But, there are solutions out there. (Having earned authority to operate ourselves, Workiva knows it's a rigorous process.)
What challenges face your team? We put some of the questions we asked at the conference into an online survey to help gauge the current state of reporting processes at government agencies.
Try the survey for yourself, and let us know about your experiences. Is your team ready for a technology update?