The problem with reports that don't live up to their expectations is they are time wasters on two fronts -- for finance & accounting who prepare the reports and for everyone else trying to decipher what information in the report is important (if any). When this happens, people begin to question the value of not just the reports but of the finance & accounting group as a whole. As financial professionals, we are expected to provide information that is valuable to decision-making; clear, concise & accurate in its presentation; and timely to the needs of the business.
Probably the biggest pain is the reports that have been around since the dawn of time. They are usually the biggest drain on resources because of the way they are structured and where the information comes from. These reports probably bear no resemblance to where the business is today and focuses on things that are no longer goals of the company. But if you ask everyone if the report can be stopped, they drag out their pitchforks and want to lynch you for even suggesting it. How can they possibly continue when the report has been a part of their business life for so long? I remember one of my employees coming to me about a report like this and asked what they should do. I looked at the report and, in my opinion, it really wasn't a valuable report. My advice -- don't do it for two weeks and see if anyone squawks. Surprisingly (or not), not a single person noticed the report was missing! The takeaway from this is every report should be reviewed with a critical eye on a regular basis to determine if it still adds value in the context of the business' goals and objectives. If it doesn't, show it the door.
Equally important is reviewing reports to see if gains in efficiency can be made in preparing them. Look for reports that contain the same information and see if they can be consolidated. Determine if detail is really necessary or if the report users just want the summary. Also, see how often a report is really needed. If the report users only look at the information once a month before a scheduled meeting, why are you busting a gut getting it out weekly? Ensuring that reporting is a value-added exercise requires good communications between finance and the rest of the business. Understanding their needs and balancing it with what we can do given the resources we have can be a challenge. But if the end result is better reporting leading to better decision-making, we've done our job well.
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