Internal reporting, otherwise known as management reporting or narrative performance reporting, is the monthly consolidation of departmental results and is a process – and pain – shared by public and private companies alike.
The internal reporting process has been a prevailing ache in the side of professionals for years because it’s laden with inefficiencies and errors. Each month, it’s the same tedious routine of using last month’s now-outdated template, pulling in the new numbers and attempting to fill in the blanks with meaningful narrative.
It’s almost as if no one has ever imagined it could be done any other way. In particular, internal reporting processes have been widely accepted as a necessary, time-consuming evil. But, sometimes we don’t know there’s a better way… until there’s a better way.
So what are the four most common internal reporting challenges and how can you fix them? Read on to find out.
Challenge #1 – Manual data entry, increasing the risk of error
Since most internal reports use a template and are recurring, much of their skeleton stays the same – it’s mainly the figures and slight adjustments to the narrative that change. But if you’re manually gathering analytics or financials and keying them into these documents month-over-month, there’s a high probability that somewhere along the line a fatal error will occur – an extra zero here, a missed decimal point there. And in all likelihood, it will be discovered during a management or board meeting and the faces around that table will not be happy.
Furthermore, these manual processes equal a lot of time wasted re-entering and updating data – time that could have been used on analysis or making meaningful business decisions. Errors combined with wasted time and wasted resources is not an ideal scenario.
How to Overcome It: It’s quite simple, really. Stop relying on manual, time-consuming data entry that leaves a high margin of error. Instead, take this headache out of the equation by establishing a real-time connection to your internal source systems so the data and narrative within your monthly management reports is current and accurate. This will immediately reduce errors and streamline processes.
Challenge #2 – Telling the story behind the numbers
Since many of us are numbers people, it’s easy to develop a tunnel vision when you’re reporting financial stories to your managers. Numbers tell their own story and, when taken at face value, they tell a very neat story. However – context is equally as important. When financials are contextualized to management they add significant weight to the meaning of the numbers and thus guide and impact the decisions those financials determine.
How to Overcome It: Remember, data is only half the internal reporting story – narrative can be automated and streamlined too. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every month by updating the narrative. By using an internal reporting solution, your report narrative automatically updates as the numbers fluctuate, ensuring you’re always telling the most vivid, accurate story around company results.
Challenge #3: Persistent versioning and control issues
When you’re creating the same report month-over-month, it’s easy to become blind to the location you’ve made changes and also places where you should probably update, but you haven’t. This means that pieces and parts of old documents can sometimes make it into the current month’s reports, even though they’re no longer accurate. Not to mention, while you’re working on that PowerPoint presentation, your coworker might be making updates to an older version – so then who’s tasked with the tedious job of consolidating all those track changes from both documents in a master file?
How to Overcome It: Remove all those extra cooks from the kitchen and optimize your monthly PowerPoint presentations to automatically reflect real-time changes to company information. Also, take advantage of permission-based features in your disclosure management software that only allow certain users to edit documents at specific times so everyone can be confident they’re working from the master version that’s guaranteed to be accurate and up to date.
Challenge #4 – It’s repetitive and time-consuming and repetitive and time-consuming….
Many companies dread monthly internal reporting because they’re using outdated processes that involve creating the same documents almost from scratch time and time again. This creates headaches not just because it happens so frequently, but because it’s time-consuming and not the best use of time when other projects are at hand.
How to Overcome It: Rome wasn’t built in a day, but your monthly internal reports can be – all it takes is the ability to automatically roll financial reports forward month-over-month to eliminate time-consuming, repetitive work. Set the dates you want to report on so the numbers and narrative will automatically update for that period, and voila! You’ve created your monthly report in a fraction of the time.
Interested in learning more about how Certent can help you streamline the monthly internal reporting process? Book a demo with one of our experts today!