Producing high-quality reports within strict deadlines is a familiar challenge for many finance teams.
A typical report creation process can be extremely stressful, from collating the data to exporting and formatting it into a finalized deliverable.
But how can you guarantee peace of mind in the report creation process while the pressures for accuracy and consistency ride so high?
That’s where reporting automation comes in.
In this blog, we’ll cover the definitions of reporting automation and its benefits, and show how to implement reporting automation within your business.
What is reporting automation?
Reporting automation broadly describes the process of using technology to increase efficiency and reduce the manual workload of report creation.
Embracing reporting automation could act as a game changer for organizations interested in strategic productivity enhancement.
Who should use reporting automation?
Reporting automation is most useful for anyone who needs to report key information back to their clients or internal stakeholders on a regular basis.
Some of the departments that benefit the most from report automation include corporate finance, FP&A and controlling teams, as well as marketing and sales.
Finance departments, for example, can use reporting automation to keep financial reports up-to-date and error-free, as well regulatory and legally compliant.
UpSlide should result in shorter working hours, or at least more productive ones.
Our teams are happier when they’re being productive, doing high-value work and learning, instead of formatting and copy-pasting.
The benefits of reporting automation
Automated reporting tools can offer a range of optimizations to your reporting workflows – be it sorting through complex data or creating visually appealing presentations. The technology can be applied across departments and roles, bringing enormous benefits right across the board. Here are seven benefits that reporting automation can bring to your organization:
Without automation, employees would have to spend hours manually updating data points in their recurring reports, or building their reporting templates from scratch.
Automated reporting tools can seamlessly export and update large volumes of data, provide employees with access to best-practice reporting templates, and ensure that the final data is presented all within your company’s brand guidelines.
In saving time on these manual tasks in the reporting process, reporting teams can free up capacity for analysis and even more report creation.
Reduce the risk of human error
Human error is a challenge in any manual report generation process, whether through forgotten updates to key slides, missed figures, or simple typos. Reporting automation minimizes this risk by reducing the human intervention required for accurate data collation.
For example, a reporting automation tool allows you to link your Excel or Power BI data to your final deliverable with ease. Whenever the source data changes, the ability to reliably update the final deliverable in one click removes the stress and ambiguity typical of manual reporting.
Throughout multiple iterations of a report, an automation tool can help you reduce discrepancies and enhance overall output quality.
Guarantee brand consistency
When it comes to creating an impactful report, consistency is key. Automating your report generation process not only enables you to rely on the accuracy of the data you’re presenting, but also trust that your report will always conform to your company’s brand guidelines.
Some tools offer pre-built reporting templates to ensure your data is well-presented and on-brand. Solutions might also automate the formatting and presentation of your data, guaranteeing brand consistency across a deliverable and saving you time better spent on commentary and analysis.
Improve employee satisfaction
Though some industries view manual work as a rite of passage, for many employees, it’s still the source of disillusionment and high attrition rates. Leveraging automation can significantly reduce the time spent on manual tasks, providing employees with more time for greater value-added tasks – such as analysis and networking.
Plus, reporting automation will also provide employees with better access to important information, reducing knowledge roadblocks and spurring results across different teams.
Increase client retention
In industries like financial services where clients expect high-quality, accurate reports, automating your report creation process can give you a competitive edge. Delivering consistent, impactful reports builds brand reputation with your clients, ultimately boosting long-term retention.
Using UpSlide enables Colliers to create quality valuation reports in a timely manner, allowing us to focus more on our business and clients’ needs. Now we can produce even more reports, which ultimately helps increase revenue.
Boost your bottom line
A significant advantage of using automated reports is the financial savings. According to a study by Accenture, innovations like reporting automation could save businesses up to $8 trillion, globally. Automated reporting tools can save individual employees up to 33 hours per month otherwise spent manually crafting reports—be that linking large datasets to a PowerPoint or Word document, or formatting charts and infographics—cutting significant labor costs in the process.
How finance teams are using reporting automation
Thales, a leading defense and logistics company, wanted a solution to help their Procurement BI team deliver the best-quality data to decision-making teams as quickly as possible. An average decision report would be filled with a diverse range of data, from supplier agreements and invoices to payment defaults and income statements.
Since adopting reporting automation into their workflows, Thales has seen significant improvements to their data reliability, the quality of their analysis, and overall work satisfaction across the Procurement BI team.
Global real estate and investment management firm, Colliers, has been using reporting automation since 2020 across their Valuation and Advisory team. In that time, they’ve seen time savings of over six hours per valuations report, enabling their staff to focus more on the quality of their output, and on the satisfaction of their clients.
What to consider when implementing a reporting automation solution
Implementing a reporting automation solution can streamline your operations, enhance data accuracy, and grant your team more time to focus on strategic tasks. But with any significant change management project, you’ll need to plan an effective implementation strategy to ensure you get return from your investment. Here’s what you should consider:
Compatibility with your tech stack
Consider which applications are already deployed across your organization, and which ones you want to connect to optimize your reporting workflows.
There are many tools, for example, to automate reporting between Excel and PowerPoint; however, if your team is regularly building reports from data in Power BI, you might want to explore a more specialized solution.
Likewise, if your organization works predominantly in Microsoft 365, you might want to consider a Microsoft Partner for your reporting automation solution to ensure full alignment with Microsoft’s future product roadmap.
As with any significant change, transitioning from manual to automated reporting may be met with resistance from some employees due to a lack of familiarity.
The key here lies in effective communication around the benefits of the solution, such as alleviating mundane tasks, and saving time for higher-value-added work.
Implementing a clear project timeline and adoption plan is also advised to ensure your employees are fully trained on the new tool as efficiently as possible.
By addressing these considerations head-on during setup, you’ll lay favorable groundwork towards successfully implementing an automated reporting solution, thus propelling your organization to work more efficiently and deliver better insights to clients and stakeholders.
There are many reporting automation solutions out there; however, we recommend conducting a cost analysis for a range of solutions to understand which one best suits your budget and needs.
A more premium solution may require more costs upfront, but will typically come with advanced features and support to help ensure higher adoption and long-term ROI.
Security and compliance
Automating reports undoubtedly enhances productivity and efficiency, but it also presents additional risks associated with data security. When dealing with key financial data specific to your or your clients’ organizations, it’s imperative to use an automation solution that protects that data.
Before deploying any reporting automation solution, we recommend evaluating the encryption methodologies employed, and whether the software operates within a compliance framework such as SOC2.
Post-deployment, it’s also important to monitor and regulate the data permissions around your reporting automation software to establish who can interact with what data and when.
A proactive approach towards protecting your company’s confidential information is instrumental during implementation.
The impact of automated reporting
Reports are at the core of every business – they deliver actionable insights to decision-makers and the wider business to improve overall success.
But building a high-quality report takes time – from ensuring data accuracy to providing impactful analysis.
This information and analysis is key to delivering actionable advice that keeps other teams and decision-makers competitive in an ever-changing market.
Innovative businesses are using reporting automation to provide their employees with more opportunity for analysis but also with more capacity to deliver other value-added work as well.