Usual Beasts And How To Defeat Them – Tackling Reporting & Planning Challenges

Most Sales and Finance teams are familiar with the spreadsheet hell: End of month, budgeting season, Re-Forecast, Board pack… often mean hours of work in Excel, crunching data manually, using error-prone formulas and pivot tables ad nauseam.

But why, despite the diversity of Business Intelligence and Corporate Management Solutions, does time-consuming, unefficient manual work still persist? And how can organisations achieve smarter Reporting and Planning processes?

1- The cost of inaction

I once heard from a CFO: “Our month-end reports and budgets always end up on-time, I don’t think improving a non-perfect, but functioning process should be the priority.

Yes, streamlining reporting & planning processes cost time and money. But the cost of inaction is often overlooked. The information consumed by CXOs are the primary source of decision-making for organisations and critical to align Strategic vision with Execution. There is a proven link between performing, competitive organisations and their ability to continuously improve their Performance Management strategy.

What if implementing more efficient processes could help produce frequent, accurate and automated Reports & Forecasts? What is the cost of decisions made too late, on outdated asumptions, or with a partial view? How about staff retention (can sales and finance teams spend their time in a more productive and stimulating way than crunching data in Excel?).

2- Excel use will decrease, but not completely disappear

Business intelligence, Corporate Performance Management, Planning solutions have been around for decades now and definitely improved dramatically. However spreadsheets remain. Why?

First, because it’s the most common skillset and everyone knows how Excel works. It’s universal and when most companies constantly modernise their IT ecosystem, Excel has been one of the most durable and consistent tool across organisations.

Secondly, because it offers autonomy and flexibility. Sales can crunch their own numbers and quickly answer ad-hoc questions on the fly without waiting IT or the BI team to come back to them the day after.

Regardless the systems in place, Excel has to be in the picture and the answer is not as simple as “Replacing spreadsheets”. The solution is more about how can we make these spreadsheet processes part of the data governance & automation strategy wihtout creating shadow-IT or parallel processes, challeng their purpose and bring incremental changes.

3- Focus on high-value activities

This can be an easy thing to say, especially when most teams can’t do anything but keep their nose to the grindstone to meet deadlines and keep up with their day-to-day activities.

Now that technology offers many ways to automate repetitive tasks, we can afford spending more time on what actually matters most: decision-support, value-added analysis and strategic insights. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

A strtegic vision supported by a step-by-step, pragmatic approach offers minimum risk for a quick return on investment. Aim at running a Marathon, but start walking 5km first: It’s the same for any BI project. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can bring a major impact and massive value, but have you started building a single source of truth, addressed data quality issues, removed manual & repetitive tasks, integrated Reporting & Planning processes across the organisation already?

If you want to know more about how we can help drive better performance and streamline processes from Data Management to Reporting and Forecasting in your organisation, feel free to reach out!

If you need assistance navigating through Data Management, Business intelligence, Corporate Performance Management or AI & ML solutions, please feel free to reach out to us!

Written by Olivier Bastard – Account Executive at AtoBI
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