Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals are at a turning point. The vast majority still use Excel and PowerPoint for their reporting processes, despite the technology’s limitations. But while many FP&A professionals acknowledge those shortcomings, they continue to use Excel because they believe it is their only option, according to the 2014 gtnews FP&A Technology Survey
, underwritten by Workiva.
Many of the organizations that are upgrading their FP&A functionality are doing so through larger systems designed for complex reporting. These so-called Tier 2 systems do not require specialized programming and can be maintained by FP&A professionals—eliminating the need for IT involvement.
One organization leveraging such technology to improve its reporting process is Edward Hospital & Health Services. This full-service, regional healthcare provider located near Chicago recently invested in Tier 2 technology after using Word, Excel and PowerPoint tools, as well as a subscription-based program called HealthCare Insight. These applications presented substantial challenges in collecting report data, collaborating with teams, and reporting accurate data to management.
“Some of the issues were surrounding version control—not being able to link between Word and Excel, not being able to link easily to PowerPoint, or people not wanting us to link to PowerPoint because then they did not have control over it,” said Robyn Farm, system director of accounting for Edward Hospital.
The old process required collaboration with multiple teams, including finance, budget, executive and operations, and was very cumbersome and time-consuming. High-value employees were spending too much time manually gathering and hunting for data, collaborating across teams, going through rounds of review, and presenting outdated data to management.
During the review process, Edward Hospital staff had to do its fair share of printing, redlining, scanning and emailing, which led to confusion between departments. “We needed to know what version was the latest,” said Janette Fontana, senior accountant for Edward Hospital. “That was a big thing for us. Getting emails back and forth was confusing; we didn’t know who had the latest version.”
Edward Hospital’s finance and budget team realized that it could streamline its processes if it could find a platform that used one source of truth when reporting information. After evaluating different products, it found what it needed in the Workiva platform, Wdesk.
“When we put together financial reports of any kind—whether it be a budget book, a finance committee presentation or really anything—there tends to be more than one source for information,” said Farm. “It doesn’t all come from HealthCare Insights. It doesn’t all come from one person. There are so many different financial indicators that you calculate somewhere. It could be headcount, cash flow—things that don’t normally sit in your general ledger.”
The team also liked the way in which its new reporting system linked all documents, workbooks and presentations seamlessly. “You can’t really do that outside of Wdesk,” Farm said.
Key to a successful implementation: a Workiva staffer tasked with getting Edward Hospital’s documents, workbooks, and presentations up and running. That meant the hospital did not need to consult its own IT department. And unlike even larger platforms, the new technology allows FP&A departments to manage and maintain it. “We were able to use it on our own, and it was very intuitive and easy to navigate,” Fontana said.
Post implementation, all that scanning and emailing the team used to do during the report creation and review process is no longer necessary. Instead, it utilizes a comment feature, which streamlines the review process by allowing teams to collaborate in real time.
Additionally, the new platform allows the entire team to work on one project at the same time. “I think we feel more comfortable that the product we’re putting out,” said Fontana. “Everything that we’re putting out there is more accurate.”
Farm added that the team loves working in the product because it is so easy to use. “Anybody—whether they have an accounting, finance or statistical background—they like working in it,” she said. “They get it very quickly. You can make it your own, so if you have somebody who wants to take a lead on a project, it’s really easy for them to take that lead and set it up. You can do it so many different ways; it’s just so flexible.”Download the 2014 gtnews FP&A Technology Survey here.