During my time as a financial analyst and now in my work with Stratify, I’ve often seen a valuable strategic resource go untapped. I’m referring to the business insights locked away in FP&A reports.
These reports can help business units track key performance indicators (KPIs) and determine whether (and ideally why) they’re performing as expected (or not). In fact, as the Institute of Management Accountants stated in a 2019 report, “Few processes within the purview of a CFO have so much potential to create – or destroy – business value than FP&A.”
However, several issues can keep your FP&A reports from delivering real strategic value to your business partners. Below, I discuss the four biggest challenges of preparing reports and the ways to resolve those challenges.
Challenge #1: Exported data can become stale almost immediately
As soon as data is pulled from a system and into a spreadsheet, that data is potentially stale. Systems of record (i.e., general ledger, CRM, human resource information systems (HRSI), etc.) are constantly updated, and often changes are made to correct inaccuracies in historical data. If your team does not realize these changes have been made, they won’t refresh their FP&A reports, and the information they share will be outdated.
Native integrations with systems of record allow FP&A teams to run reports that always contain the most recent data. And the benefits go beyond automatically-updated reports. Contextual information from your company’s systems of record will improve the qualitative value of your FP&A reports, enabling a deeper level of business intelligence.
Challenge #2: Spreadsheets are not secure
An Excel spreadsheet has a very limited capacity for security. Users can easily cut and paste your sensitive financial information. Or they can email the entire file to unauthorized individuals inside or outside of your organization.
FP&A solutions that include collaboration features allow stakeholders across your organization to access their financial reports within the application – no more emails flying around with spreadsheets full of sensitive data. Further, these new FP&A applications come with built-in security features such as data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and role-based access controls. These features protect your organization from security incidents by ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to your company’s sensitive data.
Challenge #3: Manually building FP&A reports is a huge time investment
The amount of time it takes the typical FP&A team to pull together their monthly reporting packages averages between four and seven days. Most of that time is spent manually extracting data from various systems, structuring that data into charts, graphs and tables, and then distributing these reports across the organization.
Modern FP&A solutions automate much of this process, reducing the time it takes to produce and distribute monthly reports – sometimes by half, and often to just one day. The benefits of this automation are numerous. FP&A teams now have time to analyze data and identify insights. Also, stakeholders across the organization gain access to critical data sooner, allowing them to make faster decisions on how to optimize performance.
Challenge #4: General ledger data is structured for accounting, not management
While both FP&A solutions and general ledgers can provide financial reporting capabilities, general ledgers are typically structured according to generally-accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and legal requirements. FP&A solutions can tailor their financial reporting to users’ specific needs and requirements through alternate reporting hierarchies, advanced analytics, and data visualization. This can help management to better understand key performance indicators and other financial metrics that are most relevant to their business. In addition, FP&A solutions can provide businesses with more advanced reporting features such as the ability to collaborate on FP&A reports and share the reports with stakeholders.
Stratify Technologies simplifies your FP&A reporting process
Stratify integrates with the core systems you use to run your business: general ledger, HRIS, CRM, and more. These native integrations ensure your team always has up-to-date financial and operational data for reporting, analytics and planning.
In addition to automatically creating your FP&A reports, Stratify identifies insights from the data and alerts teams to performance anomalies and forecast discrepancies.
Stratify’s intuitive interface enables quick and easy collaboration and communication between your FP&A team members and business users throughout the company. Cross-functional teams can work together in our platform’s collaborative workspace to analyze real-time performance metrics and multiple what-if scenarios. And since the data stays behind our solution’s security features, it’s much more secure.
Instead of struggling to manage the mechanics of manual reporting processes, Stratify customers concentrate on higher-value strategic analysis. One such customer is Laurel Prince, Senior Financial Planning Analyst at Field Nation, a marketplace that connects companies with on-demand IT professionals. She recently told us that Stratify has given her team the time to create solid business intelligence from their FP&A report data. “Stratify enables us to focus more on reporting and analysis to support our business partners and engage with them in a strategic way,” she said.
With Stratify, FP&A teams go from being mired in manual processes to analyzing performance metrics, identifying key insights, and formulating strategic decisions. In short, they can show their true value as internal strategic partners.
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