97% of CFOs kept awake at night due to reporting process
New research by the FSN Modern Finance Forum entitled “The Future of Financial Reporting Survey 2017” released today suggests that the financial reporting process is teetering under the strain of new information demands, a spreadsheet-spiral™, a fragile reporting ecosystem and consequent problems in boardroom. ClusterSeven, the leading global supplier of strategic spreadsheet and end-user computing (EUC) management software, has partnered with FSN on this report.
97% of CFOs are kept awake at night by at least two aspects of the reporting process and by far the most pressing concern (62%) for finance teams is that they will not meet all their reporting deadlines. Financial reporting, whether for internal or public consumption, forms the bedrock of the finance function and is often the primary and most visible measure of the finance function’s professional competence and standing.
The research was conducted amongst the 49,000 members of the FSN Modern Finance Forum on LinkedIn globally and represents one of the largest and most authoritative global surveys of its kind. 977 senior finance professionals responded to the survey covering 23 countries and 13 industry sectors. Approximately half of the respondents were from organisations with more than 1,000 employees.
“Understandably, many CFOs view self-service reporting as a panacea and way to offset the constant pressure on finance resources, but our research identifies that with so many fault lines in their regular reporting, many enterprises are simply not ready to allow users to help themselves. One quarter of organisations have reduced their finance headcount in the last three years, and 40% have kept headcount flat in the same period. In these circumstances, self-service reporting would simply make matters much worse,” says Gary Simon, FSN’s Chief Executive Officer and the leader of the Modern Finance Forum.
“For the first time this report pinpoints why spreadsheets are spiralling out of control and how this sets up a chain of events that ripples all the way through to the boardroom. But it also sheds light on how the spreadsheet-spiral™ can be broken, using unified transaction and performance management systems in the cloud that can more easily change as an organisation changes. Once these issues are addressed it is feasible to contemplate more effective spreadsheet governance, document management and self-service reporting,” adds Simon.
“There are two major reasons for spreadsheet spiral,” Chris Gomersall, CEO of ClusterSeven, explains. “Foremost, enterprise systems are proving inadequate and restrictive for operational processes, resulting in users resorting to the use of spreadsheets to fill the gap in functionality. Spreadsheets offer flexibility, and good financial modelling and analytics capability. Thereafter, the due diligence and controls applied to the use of enterprise systems for operational processes aren’t equally applied to spreadsheets. Very quickly, a large universe of uncontrolled and unmonitored spreadsheets gets created, posing a huge risk to finance departments as there isn’t an inventory of such files, or an understanding of data sources and lineages. Consequently, CFOs don’t have visibility of the data aggregation and manipulation that has been undertaken to arrive at figures included in finance reporting, putting them under great strain.”
“Automation offers a reliable solution. By automating spreadsheet management based on best practice processes, finance departments can benefit from the advantages that spreadsheets offer and tangibly mitigate the risks of reporting error,” Gomersall added.
A series of infographics will be released, over the coming weeks, depicting some of the highlights of the research. They can be viewed here. The full research will be released at a reception and dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel, at the Shard in London on 10th May 2017.