As the role of CFO continues to become more strategic and collaborative, CFOs are expecting their teams to follow suit. As such, many finance leaders are requiring their teams to broaden their understanding of other functions and pushing them to communicate and collaborate more effectively, both internally and externally. According to our studies, collaborative work now consumes a significant portion of the finance team’s week.
The limitations of legacy tech
One of the primary obstacles to better collaboration is outdated technology. With many finance departments still relying on email and spreadsheets to drive their reporting process, collaboration is a time-consuming, frustrating task.
Think about this common scenario: A report identifies a variance and is emailed out to multiple stakeholders for review. This triggers a massive email chain of variance queries, change requests, and edits. Soon you have multiple versions of the spreadsheet existing on different computers. Which one is the right one? And if it’s not saved on the server, who can access it?
Of course, the other issue is accuracy. How does anyone know whether the numbers in the spreadsheet are correct in the first place? Manual-driven processes are susceptible to errors like entering data in the wrong cell, messing up a formula, or adding an extra digit by mistake. As stakeholders copy and paste information into spreadsheets and email them along, you lose the ability to easily track who is entering data or verify where that data originally came from.
The role of nonfinance managers in financial reporting
When some finance departments talk about collaboration, they think about ways of making it easier to collaborate within the department. While that’s important, true collaboration means making it just as easy for nonfinance managers to be able to access and make changes to a report.
Going back to spreadsheets, often the finance department works to get the report perfect before sending it off to an operational manager for review. If the operational manager adds a last-minute update, it can require a massive amount of work to incorporate, review, and verify.
While accurate data is obviously the top priority, something else to consider when collaborating with nonfinance managers is data visualization. Even after you have all the numbers together in a report, a spreadsheet can be difficult to interpret and understand. A report is only as good as the action your team can take from it; to improve collaboration, you must improve both access and understanding of the data.
The 3 steps to making reporting collaborative
If you wish to make your reporting a more collaborative process, here are three keys to keep in mind:
Step 1. Access
Instead of static spreadsheets and email, it’s critical to move your reporting process to the cloud using smart financial reporting software like Workday Adaptive Planning. Because it’s accessible through the web, all your stakeholders can work from the same set of numbers at the same time without confusion or delay. And since you can control and track at the user level who has access and who enters data, you can greatly increase transparency and accountability throughout the reporting process.
Step 2. Ownership
In addition, Workday Adaptive Planning can automatically import data from both your financial and nonfinancial systems. This not only saves time and reduces errors, it also takes all your data out of departmental silos and brings it together to give your entire company a single source of truth to work from.
Step 3. Understanding
Once you’ve automated data collection, you can focus on delivering insights. Workday Adaptive Planning lets you easily distribute board reports, slice and dice management and financial reports for specific departments, and drill down into the details. Because it’s connected to all your systems, you can also easily create real-time, visually appealing dashboards that give nonfinancial managers instant insight into their department’s performance.
Collaboration is integral to today’s finance initiatives
The marriage of traditional accounting and analytic skills with interpersonal communication and collaboration skills reflects the changing face of today’s finance team and leaders. Data alone is not valuable to today’s organizations. But the ability to aggregate, align, and interpret company-wide data that guides corporate performance continues to separate the traditional from the modern CFO.