Completing the Picture - The CFO’s ever changing, and increasing, reporting responsibility

Best practice dictates that changes in technology should be aligned with, or at least accompany, changes in organisation. However, by being stated as best practice in itself, this may suggest that this is not always the case.

 

Creating the capability to deliver the necessary reports and documents is posing more questions than answers in organisations around the world. More and more is being asked of the once humble but critical Office of Finance (OoF) and people and organisations must adapt in order to manage in the face of increasing demands to produce the goods.

 

The Office of Finance (OoF) now owns the development and production, supply and presentation of more documentation than ever before in its history. Simply put, the overhead created by the vast number of different regulatory requirements and disclosures is now critical to businesses in a number of ways. Ironically, this overhead has come about as tools and applications are being designed and implemented in ever greater numbers with the sole purpose of reducing the amount of time taken to get to that close point. One step forward, two back?

 

Why is this? As always, there is no one single answer. The huge variety of stakeholders in the end game of managing the final close is part of the answer. The ability of systems to support this vital but often overlooked aspect of the post close process is a more significant part of the puzzle. Systems which can quite adequately deliver group reporting now struggle to cope with the high quality output that is increasingly being required of them.  We all make mistakes but we make them more easily, it seems, when coping with the huge variety and volume of different forms of data which are fed from a group reporting system to end up in formats which need to satisfy so many audiences.

 

From Production to Presentation

However, that is not the end of the story. Through this development the OoF is now having to own the presentation of this information; it now needs the “display” skills to take content and make it accessible to the external interested parties: PR, investor relations, marketing bodies and the like. Add to this the ways in which information is put out there, the speed with which it is disseminated, and the omnipresent confidentiality and security concerns, and you have a whole new challenge. It was bad enough in the first place when just the auditors, CFO and Board, were interested. This is a very different set of skills from getting your balance sheet to balance.  It is not enough now to just get the numbers right and get them out there, it is now also very much about getting the “message” right.  It is no coincidence that “Are we on message?” is now heard more widely that the much maligned but sadly missed OoF favourite of, “has anyone seen my calculator”.

 

Now amidst the turmoil of the final preparation of a set of financial statements set for publication, the OoF must be certain in the facts that all changes, adjustments and amendments are captured and reflected with the highest degree of accuracy.  The cost of a mistake does not bear thinking about; not only in terms of a simple reprint any more, the internal grievances and anger, or indeed the more 21st century aware environmental cost of such an exercise.  No, now it is much more about the fear that any error could potentially cause a global embarrassment for the organisation, which even the most sophisticated businesses in the world would struggle to contain.
The OoF needs to embrace this change. Instead of being consumed with the need to produce information for internal requirements, and the applications which have been sold and processes implemented solely to deliver the group statutory accounts and management consolidations, focus has to shift to having to feed a new set of ravenous external stakeholders - just at that time when the OoF thought their work was done and they could relax.  

 

So, consolidation, tick, yes, but what next?  ISVs have identified this emerging sub market and are now delivering a set of solutions and initiatives which focus specifically in this potentially lucrative area. One step beyond the close may seem madness to some, but businesses are starting to understand that this is now the vital step they have to take. Group reporting and consolidation systems must have the ability now not just to achieve the fast close but to take it all to the next level and produce the documentation, which is a natural postscript to the process but which has been missing for so long.  This is desired by an ever expanding and expectant global audience. Disclosure management applications, regulatory offerings and propositions, statutory filings automatically generated out of group reporting systems are coming to the fore and the array of formats and applications on offer, HTML, CDM and XBRL, is just the beginning.  It is time to complete the picture.

 

Tagetik CPM Software

Share this post!