The truth is out there.
For former X-Files fans, this was the mantra of the former television series as FBI special agents Mulder and Scully attempted to uncover unexplained mysteries and phenomena.
While Mulder and Scully have since retired, the battle for a single version of the truth now rests in the hands of brave finance professionals searching for clarity and consistency in spreadsheets, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF documents.
Over the past five years, many companies have realized that the same manual, error-prone processes found in the external financial reporting process (the “Last Mile”) were pervasive throughout many finance processes, including budgeting, forecasting and planning.
And most companies today still don’t have an efficient, effective way to ensure data consistency across business intelligence, budgeting & planning, and other management and performance reports – leading to lack of confidence in data that can have a direct impact on the organizations ability to reach consensus and react quickly to risks or market opportunities.
Enter IBM Cognos Disclosure Management, a secure, scalable, enterprise collaboration and process automation solution. In a single application, users with different roles and responsibilities across many different departments can collaborate on an automated collection of business intelligence, performance management reports, and narrative analysis in a controlled, auditable environment.
According to the Hackett Group, 82 percent of management reports are created using spreadsheets as the primary business application.
IBM Cognos Disclosure Management ends the need to rely on uncontrolled spreadsheets and email that can lead to material errors in reports, offer no audit trail, and force the finance team to rely on complex (and extremely timely and risky) manual processes to ensure that reports are up to date and correct.
And, this new solution allows for the creation and enforcement of intelligent processes with integrated controls, compliance checklists and full visibility into each step of the process. Workflow and process dashboards help managers identify bottlenecks and re-focus resources quickly.
Take, for example, the annual budget cycle.
The budgeting process suffers from the proliferation of spreadsheets (structured data), and budget and management commentaries (unstructured data) distributed over a wide variety of reports and active participants working in different time zones.
Rather than assembling budget projections and management commentaries in isolation, IBM Cognos Disclosure Management allows budget holders to ‘deposit’ their final spreadsheet tables and budget commentaries in a ‘master’ document managed separately by a budget administrator.
Each iteration of the budget can be saved and compared with previous iterations under careful version control and shared between managers. And, senior management can now review the summarized budget in one place and easily drill down into the numbers or commentary.
The collaboration capability and the visibility of the process minimizes the number of budget iterations and time it takes to assemble a consolidated budget, while increasing the opportunity for agreement and consensus.
Besides budgeting, this solution can also be used for tax and compliance reporting, executive briefings and board books, internal manager reports and business reviews, treasury management and regulatory reporting.
IBM Cognos Disclosure Management completely changes the company-wide financial reporting process, bringing order and control to what is regarded as a chaotic process with multiple stakeholders, file formats, documents, outputs, applications and personal productivity tools.
Ultimately, it makes those in finance rest easier knowing they don’t have to re-run manual, error-prone processes.
The only “re-run” they should worry about is the X-Files.
For more information:
· Watch IBM’s Doug Barton discuss performance management trends and the current state of the office of finance.