Top 12 Most Challenging Operational Reports

Today’s business leaders face an uncertain economic landscape. In the aftermath of unprecedented business disruption in 2020, organizational decision-makers are turning their focus to new concerns. According to McKinsey research, supply chain disruption, inflation, and a growing labor shortage are now top concerns for the C-suite.

As leaders reevaluate the agility and resilience of their organizations, they need accurate, timely operational reports that provide real insight into the inner workings of their businesses. The task of creating those reports falls onto the shoulders of finance teams that are sometimes already struggling to manage a heavy workload.

insightsoftware recently teamed up with Hanover Research to check in on what finance teams are handling in the way of operational reporting and how they feel about their current reporting tools and processes. We surveyed 500 financial professionals from North America and EMEA to understand their day-to-day operational reporting requirements. Here’s just some of what we discovered.

The Number and Frequency of Operational Reports Is Increasing

Departments across the enterprise from Marketing to Maintenance require operational reports on a recurring basis. For example, our survey found that 56% of decision-makers produce recurring operational reports for accounts receivables aging, 54% for accounts payable aging, and 53% for daily cash flow tracking.

Half of decision-makers produce all their recurring reports at least once a week, and for the top twelve operational reports required, more than 12% of finance teams produce the reports daily. By any objective standard, that’s a lot of reporting to do in a short period of time.

Speaking of Time…

Time is not on the side of many finance teams. Increased operational reporting frequency strains resources considerably. Half of finance decision-makers need four hours or more to create certain operational reports. Multiplying that time by the number of reports needed on a daily or weekly basis, it is clear to see that time constraints are a significant factor for operational reporting.

Among decision-makers who admitted they struggled to produce at least one crucial operational report they needed, 46% cited time constraints as the largest barrier to producing operational reports.

Technical Complexity Compounds the Issue

Another 46% cite the technical complexity of certain operational reports as a major barrier to providing them. As a result of this complexity, 71% of finance teams turn to IT for help in creating recurring reports.

Interestingly, 53% of finance decision-makers indicated they prefer IT to be involved in report creation. This could be due to the fact that finance teams are already stretched quite thin, making it difficult to handle reporting without involving help from outside their own department. Moreover, because reliance on IT has become so common, it is likely that some finance teams have not experienced–or even been aware of–tools that make creating these reports an efficient process. In the absence of experience with these tools, turning to IT may seem like the optimal solution.

Manual Processes Drag Teams Down

Many of the tools finance teams use for operational reporting do not allow for automation of recurring reports. For example, the go-to tool for 76% of finance decision-makers is Microsoft Excel. Finance teams use this tool by copy/pasting data from their source systems manually into the spreadsheet and manipulating it from there for analysis and presentation.

Using such tools results in almost one-third of respondents producing reports either all or mostly manually across all report types.

Which Operational Reports Are Most Challenging to Produce?

Almost 90% of finance decision-makers reported struggling to produce at least one critical operational report type.

Considering that sobering statistic, with which reports are finance teams most likely to struggle? The top three reports cited by respondents as most difficult to generate were:

Project Expense by Category
Weekly Forecasting
Revenue Trends.

However, other common types of operational reports were not far behind.

Meeting the Challenge With insightsoftware

Though the volume and velocity of operational reports is not likely to lessen any time soon, that does not mean that finance teams must consign themselves to hours of time-consuming manual processes or wait on IT for help.

insightsoftware works with companies globally to provide solutions to their operational reporting challenges. Our reporting software helps finance teams automate recurring operational reports, streamline analysis and report distribution and presentation, and generate reports with real-time data from multiple enterprise business systems.

To learn more about what’s happening in the world of reporting, download our Operational Reporting Trends report today.

Operational Reporting Trends Report

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