Times of crisis demonstrate current reporting shortcomings

CFOs are currently facing unprecedented challenges as the repercussions of the global COVID-19 pandemic become increasingly tangible. After a dramatic shortfall of sales and orders, firms are increasingly exposed to higher default rates of receivables and liquidity pressures. Besides these impacts on the operating business, the crisis has revealed various shortcomings of CFO domains to handle challenging times.

In uncertain times like these, the expectations of corporate reporting – a key competency of the controlling and accounting function – are high. On the one hand, it needs to provide management with the right information to safeguard the firm’s existence. On the other hand, it also needs to inform external stakeholders about the expected impact of the current crisis on the firm’s performance reliably and transparently. In general, both internal and external reporting are significantly impacted in terms of content, processes, technology, and user experience. These increased demands refer to all relevant reporting types: statutory, management, ad-hoc, and operational reporting.

In light of these developments, a firm’s current reporting systems reveal major shortcomings. Over the last months, some of the pain points most firms struggled with include:

  • remote access to all reporting-related processes and reports
  • consistent data as ad-hoc reports are based on excel-spreadsheets
  • a missing process for continuity management
  • a missing link between operational processes to relevant KPIs

Current reporting is too inflexible, ties up too many resources, and makes it too hard for managers to draw the conclusions needed to make informed decisions.

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.

John F. Kennedy

 A business analytics transformation can dramatically improve reporting

Firms should seize the opportunity to establish a sustainable, future-oriented change in their reporting. It is timely, as firms can benefit from recent technological advancements in reporting-related areas. Reporting itself is already in the transformation phase.

The following three tendencies demonstrate this:

  • Backend systems are moving to a flat and facile data structure while reporting systems are becoming more agile and more intuitive at the same time (e.g., MS Power BI in Azure Cloud). The implementation of central data lakes that allow AI-driven master data solutions to identify causalities from an otherwise overwhelming mass of internal and external data leads to a substantial increase in a firm’s overall resilience.
  • Newly developed standardized tools (e.g., SAP FIORI) and improved hardware allow users to access personalized dashboards that reflect ongoing processes in real-time easily.

  • User-friendliness and information retention are drastically improved by guided-reporting technologies that explain interdependencies to the user by leading them through drill-downs from high-level aggregates to detailed transaction data (e.g., MicroStrategy). 

Collectively, these aspects of a business analytics transformation provide the opportunity for a quantum leap in a firm’s reporting to evolve from a data graveyard associated with high costs and little usefulness to a real business sparring partner. It is reporting that is highly flexible, quick, tailored to the information needs of management and associated with high efficiency and relevance for decision making.

Exploit current technological trends for resilient and future-proof reporting

To stabilize and improve their reporting, firms should make use of the technological trends and take short- and long-term measures.

Based on our experience, and depending on the maturity of your reporting environment, these measures might include:

  • the set-up of a “resilience mode” by defining clear processes and key responsibilities.
  • making use of the bandwidth of data architecture options (e.g., data lake) to allow investigative reporting capabilities.
  • the implementation of relevant FIORI apps for accounting.
  • the implementation of prediction functionalities to automatically incorporate realistic forecast values on demand.
  • making use of data-driven insights to obtain explanatory instead of descriptive reporting,
  • the set-up of mobile access and the usage of easy to implement BI options.

In today’s complex and rapidly changing business world, investing in corporate reporting will not only consider efficient processes but provides the opportunity to use existing, relevant data sources and combine them via analytics to gain – finally –  a distinct competitive advantage.

Contact us

Learn more about how you can transform your corporate reporting – get in touch with our experts today

Would you like more information?

Si vous souhaitez en savoir plus sur cette publication, nos experts sont à votre disposition.