Human error, automation and the world of financial processing

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About the author

 Dermot Murray is general manager of EMEA, Workiva

Advancements in technology have played a major part in improving reporting across the financial sector. While traditional reporting saw paper-based, manual processes that required an immense amount of time, resources, and money, technology enabled organisations to efficiently streamline processes despite the increasing amount of data. 

Though the uptake of digitisation has increased, many of today’s organisations are still limited by old processes and legacy systems. This is often due to the bandwidth of IT teams and their ability to adopt and manage software, but can also be drawn back to the simple reason of familiarity. Many teams favour using old processes and systems due to the comforts of working with a technology that they already know.  

Complexities associated with fragmentation

With some organisations using legacy systems, and some embracing digitisation, financial reporting has become an increasingly inconsistent and fragmented process.  This disconnect has created room for errors, causing a ripple effect littered with fines and costs to an organisation’s reputation.  As the margin for error is so high, and the consequences severe, it’s become a top concern for many organisations. According to a recent Ipsos survey for Shred-It, 53% of C-suite executives and 28% of small business owners cite human error or accidental loss by an outside party as the leading causes of data breaches. 

Fixing a single error across multiple spreadsheets, presentations, and reports is a complex process. To do this and ensure accuracy, organisations must spend significant resources – both in terms of costs and employee support. These inconsistencies and risks associated with manual processes are driving the need for financial transformation in organisations all over the world. 

Using automation to streamline the reporting process

Connected cars, homes, and devices are considered the norm today. Yet despite this, many organisations still refuse to acknowledge the possible opportunities that can come from looking at the reporting process the same way. By utilising automation to link all values across multiple reports – documents, spreadsheets, and presentation decks –  organisations can minimise risk by human error, save money, and improve consistency across the enterprise.

An end-to-end solution can also help streamline the process of document consolidation, production, review, and approval – affecting each phase of the financial reporting framework: gathering, aggregating, and sharing. More broadly, automation can improve upon:

Data Consistency - According to research by EY, nearly 75% of enterprises rely on more than six different reporting systems – such as ERP, CRM, and HCM systems. However, the data within those systems lose context and risk inconsistencies when exported and disconnected from the source. With connected reporting, people, processes, and data are unified to deliver accurate reports required by regulators, leadership, and shareholders.

Collaboration - As legacy processes and disconnected software technologies are inefficient, organisations often rely on cumbersome manual processes, large teams, third-party consultants, and a variety of point solutions to accomplish important tasks. With so many points active in the process, it’s often difficult to track the most accurate and recent version of each document. This is especially true for organisations that work across teams in different locations and time zones. Automation can ensure accuracy across document versions regardless of time, location or language, and can improve collaboration for fast, reliable reporting to management, investors, regulators and the board.

Accurate Reporting - A common challenge within the industry is the continued growth and complexity of many enterprises, with an increasing number of employees and data points spread across the world. This wealth of data is then spread across hundreds of different sources and stored in incompatible formats. By creating a single source of truth, enterprises can trust that all documents, presentations, dashboards and reports are up-to-date and consistent, reducing the risks associated with erroneous information.

Reliance on IT- Integrating a new financial reporting, data wrangling, or risk management tool into the enterprise used mean the IT team had to be involved at every point of the process – from installation to software upgrades. The process was also very convoluted, and IT teams would likely have to schedule multiple hours of downtime to download and install each update. Cloud-based technologies have eliminated the need for IT teams to deliver software patches and upgrades. Platforms on the cloud automatically update in the background, enabling teams to work efficiently without interruption and saving valuable time for IT teams to focus on priorities.

The volume of available data and accompanying regulations will continue to increase over the next few years. Organisations looking to succeed will have to prioritise transparency, efficiency, and auditability when completing their filings, audits, and reports. They must meet these problems with future proof, cloud-based technologies that enable filers to modernise processes, control collaboration, and secure access in an integrated environment. This will become especially important as teams continue to collaborate out of the office and human errors remain a top concern.

Dermot Murray

Dermot Murray is General Manager of EMEA, Workiva responsible for the build out and accelerated growth of Workiva's EMEA business. He has built and now lead a team that is responsible for sales, services, business strategy, marketing, alliances, support and technical teams driving client value for Workiva's customers in EMEA. He is a strategic technology sales and business development executive with global experience leading sales, marketing, services and technical teams for expansion and entry into public and private sector markets. He has a strong track track record of success in accelerating growth and penetrating challenging new markets. He has been recognised for my ability to transform and change individual and team performance.