FP&A It Forward recently polled its Insights Advisors, a diverse international group of Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A), executive and business leaders, to gauge the satisfaction of those involved in business wide reporting related processes. Ultimately, the satisfaction of business professionals is expressed with a key metric, the percentage of participants who FP&A Happy when it comes to reporting effectiveness, presentation, self-service analysis and level of distribution automation.
Thank you to all Insights Advisors who participated in this independent research on business performance reporting and analysis. If you’re interested to participate in this ongoing research, we would appreciate your involvement! It is not too late to sign-up as an Insights Advisor and contribute to this ongoing research.
We have made our comments in italicized font under each heading. We would be curious to hear your thoughts on both the statistics and the implications to businesses today.
Reporting Effectiveness for Key Decision Makers
Overall, 20% of business professionals are happy that key decision makers are getting the right data in the right format to the right person or group at the right time.
If those who are okay with their reporting for decision makers are included, the percentage jumps from 20% to 59%. This means that 41% of business processionals are unhappy with their ability to keep decision makers informed adequately.
“We simply find this reporting effectiveness statistic disturbing.”
But instead of dwelling on the lost opportunities, including the millions of lost revenues or the past overspending that could have been curtailed sooner, what can be done to improve organizational decision making? To answer that key decision makers, whether senior leaders or front-line operational leaders, need to be identified. Then, the data to support effective decision making needs to be understood, captured, modeled and made available in easy to consume and actionable formats whenever it is required. Closing the gap on this should be a priority for all C-level executives.
Reporting Presentation and Formatting
Overall, 24% of business professionals are happy with their capability to present financial and operational reports in the desired format (i.e. layout, colour, visualizations).
If those who are okay with their reporting presentation and formatting capabilities are included, the percentage jumps from 24% to 56%. Finally, 44% of business processionals are unhappy with the capabilities they have to present and control formatting on reports.
“It is no wonder that Excel still rules the world when it comes to reporting.”
Dedicated Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A), Business Intelligence (BI) and Reporting solutions have much to offer in way of automation and other features, but in most cases end users cannot do without all the formatting and flexibility that comes native in Microsoft Excel. Because of that, many dedicated solutions now offer the ability to design board quality reports directly within Excel itself. If you don’t have an automated method to produce reports without manually fiddling with report titles, making adjustments to account descriptions, etc. and re-formatting each time the report is produced, investigating a solution to automate this task should be a priority.
Overall, 20% of business professionals are happy with the self-service reporting available for end users.
If those who are okay with their self-service reporting capabilities are included, the percentage only jumps from 20% to 35%. Finally, 65% of business processionals are unhappy with the self-service reporting available for end users.
“It seems self-service reporting is still a myth.”
Self-service reporting and analytics are still not as widely adopted as they should be considering the potential business benefits, in terms of ensuring key decision makers have the right information to make the right decision at the right time. There can be many reasons for this, including the following:
- challenges to changing the historical reporting processes,
- lack of training,
- data model complexities,
- end user skillsets, and
- the right data granularity not being available for end users.
To achieve greater adoption, as well as, the business benefits of self-service reporting and analytics, the answers to the questions above about serving up the data for each key decision maker in the organization need to be explored first. Then, if an existing self-service reporting tool cannot meet the needs of decision makers, a new dedicated solution can be explored.
Automated Report Distribution
Overall, 18% of business professionals are happy with the capability they have to automate report distribution for end users.
If those who are okay with their ability to automate report distribution are included, the percentage jumps from 18% to 48%. Finally, 52% of business processionals are unhappy with their ability to automate report distribution for end users.
“Sometimes self-service reporting is not enough, but timeliness is still just as important.”
In most organizations, many management reports and board packages are both highly formatted and also distributed along with analyst comments and explanations to senior leaders and board members, who may or may not be licensed users of any dedicated decision platform. And even if they are, they probably do not log in very often. Whether it is month, quarter or year end, the clock is always ticking until the final reports are published. Similarly, in some organizations, operational leaders either do not have access to a self-service reporting solution or do not have access to the right data to explore themselves and instead rely on reports that are distributed to them. In both cases, timeliness is very important and the time spent manually carving up reports and sending them out to the right people via email could be better used elsewhere. If your organization needs to close the loop and automate the distribution of reports, and your existing solution does not have this capability, there are options that exist to enable this automation that may work alongside your existing solution.
Time Invested in Report Distribution
Overall, 48% of business professionals report that their organization spends up to 8 hours a month to distribute financial and operational reports. A further, 17% take 9 to 15 hours and the remainder, 35% take over 16 hours each month.
There also appears to be a relationship with overall respondent happiness given 70% of those classified as ‘Happy’ vs. 41% of those classified as ‘Unhappy’ can complete this process within 8 hours each month.
“When one zooms out and looks at the larger picture, many organizations are easily investing over 200 hours each year to manually distribute financial and operational reports.”
Analyzed in isolation, assuming the ongoing cost to organizations to pay highly qualified financial professionals to manually collate and distribute reports is easily $10,000 (based on 8 hours per month) to over $20,000 (based on 16+ hours per month). Surely, everybody involved in this process can agree that this time could be better invested in other value-added activities. Financial professionals in organizations involved in this ongoing manual distribution of reports should calculate the ROI of an automation solution and then make a case to streamline this activity and release this valuable time back to those currently tasked with these tedious processes.
Survey respondents were asked a series of brief questions on a 10 point scale, such as, “How happy are you that key decision makers are getting the right data in the right format to the right person or group at the right time?”
Depending on the respondent’s score, three categories of people can be distinguished:
- Happy – respondents giving a 9 or 10 score
- Okay – respondents giving a 7 or 8 score
- Unhappy – respondents giving a 0 to 6 score
The survey results reported above are based on 54 Insights Advisor respondents.
If you value independent research on business planning, reporting and analysis and are interested to participate as a volunteer Insights Advisors, we would appreciate you signing-up as an Insights Advisor today! The time commitment is very minimal, less than 1 minute to sign-up, then less then 20 seconds on a quarterly basis. As per the sign-up details, you will not be added to any other email lists and will not be contacted for sales related purposes. You have our promise on this.
If you would like to contact FP&A It Forward and explore how our solutions may help you optimize planning and performance management at your organization, we would very much welcome hearing from you.
If you have not seen our past FP&A Happiness Report focused on planning processes and technologies, we invite you to check it out here.