Financial Reporting System Weakness – Part 1

How much time do YOU spend doing financial reporting?  For many organizations, the simple answer is “too much”.  As a consultant, much of my time is spent helping companies with their financial reporting system for:

  1. Results analysis and forecasting by management,
  2. Oversight by the Board,
  3. Regulatory requirements imposed by government, and
  4. Project and program

To help in these areas, I have been using some powerful packages, which, however, all suffer from the same financial reporting system weakness:

The ‘weakness’ is simple yet far-reaching:  people just don’t use the software!

We spend a lot of time determining the requirements, setting up the system and training the staff but in the end when a new report is required, too many people fall back on Excel spreadsheets. They take the accounting data they need (or worse yet, enter it manually), do their calculations, format it and print it; a one-off custom spreadsheet that has no future value other than their immediate need.

It is true that this approach gets the job done, of sorts.  However, it can also result in mistakes in the data, inaccurate calculations, and unplanned overtime expense or delays.  And the next time a similar request comes in, the staff member has to start from scratch with a new spreadsheet.

If you ask them why, their answer is something like, “I don’t have time to fiddle with the new package.”

And sadly it’s true.  People don’t feel they have time to remember how to use the software.  They don’t take time to review their training notes.  They just don’t feel comfortable with the reporting software, so they revert to the tried and true, that second language of accounting, Excel.  Let’s face it:  when you’re in a hurry, you often don’t stop to question whether or not you have chosen the right tool for the job.

Getting Creative

When you have a planning session for a new reporting system, set aside time to talk about those last minute, I-need-this-right-away reports.  You might find that they fall into certain categories.  You might be able to design general report templates with parameters (such as the report start and end dates, the programs or products covered, or a range of vendors).   With a pre-designed and tested report template as a base, you will no longer have to start with the proverbial blank slate each time you sit down to create a report.  Suddenly, the prospect of spending hours slaving over a spreadsheet is too unappealing!

A Slight Warning

There is the risk that when you give managers faster, more accurate reports, they will want more.  Oh well, just think of the good performance review you’ll get!

If you need assistance with creating and implementing a new accounting system, get in touch with us at Energized Accounting.

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