Perhaps the most important task of any finance or analytics team is to report on the data in an effective and easy-to-understand way. Whether you’re looking at regulatory reporting, management reporting, environmental reporting, social impact reporting, or anything else – the quality of your outputs makes a big difference in whether the right actions can be taken on the back of that information.
Most companies claim that they’re making data-driven decisions but when you peek behind the curtains you often find that the reporting structures and workflows are actually not set up in a way that can enable this effectively. Here at Apliqo, this is something that we’re very passionate about and many of our tools focus on this almost exclusively. As such, we’re always looking out for new ways to think about reporting and we strive to keep our finger on the pulse of where the industry is going.
Recently, BARC released its most recent research on the future of reporting and it brings up some key concepts that we think are quite pertinent. Let’s walk through them together and hopefully they can give you some food for thought as you consider your own reporting practices.
Flexibility and customisation are critical
Every organisation is going to have different reporting priorities, challenges, and requirements – and so it’s absolutely imperative that your reporting technology is flexible enough to handle the unique characteristics that you require of it. Your ability to customize your reporting based on key inputs, perspectives, and decision-making frameworks makes a big difference in the overall impact that it can have on the business as a whole.
The tools must be user-friendly
Gone are the days when the only people interacting with reports are those in the finance or business intelligence teams. In modern organisations, every function needs to be able to pull their own data and analysis which makes it even more important that the reporting functionality is user-friendly. By decentralizing these aspects, you empower people to take control of their own numbers and drive their own success, all of which leads to better results in the long run.
Data quality is paramount
The protection, management, and security surrounding data is a key input that can make or break a reporting workflow. The future of reporting relies on state-of-the-art data warehousing, robust data cleaning and preparation, anomaly detection, and various other components of a healthy data environment. This will involve your IT team to ensure that your data sources are carefully integrated, they’re performing as required, and that you’re not misinterpreting things because of a data flow issue. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.
Reports must inspire action
We speak about it a lot on this blog but your reports mean nothing unless they actually inspire action. FP&A practitioners must ensure that their reporting is done in a way that informs management and enables decisive action. This comes down to its presentation, the storytelling, the ease of use, and an intentional strategy about the level of detail that is relied upon. The information needs to be easy to grasp and indicative of the types of decisions that need to be made in any particular situation.
The BARC report goes into a lot more detail, so it’s certainly worth checking that out, but hopefully this gives you a sense of some of the key principles of what the future of reporting looks like. It’s something we’re keeping a keen eye on here at Apliqo and we have no doubt that it will continue to evolve as the technology advances. Watch this space!