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  • The Controller’s Guide to Automation: Bridging the Gap Between Accounting and Finance

    WHITE PAPER

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    Go from controller to strategic partner Yesterday, you were the chief accountant, responsible for finding, compiling, and synthesizing data into a simple accounting standard to reflect your company’s financial performance last quarter or last year. Today, you are the controller, at the center of a lean, high-performing financial reporting function that manages a complicated financial close and creates business value.

    It is your strategic analysis of financial performance that serves as the bridge between historical data and forward-looking insights. Your story enables your company to respond and reposition itself quickly when confronted with market changes and/or competition.

    01 OVERVIEW

    Your strategic analysis serves as the bridge between historical data and forward-looking insights.

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    It starts with your processes Like every area of the modern enterprise, the finance department is under pressure to increase productivity, to break down silos and increase collaboration with business units, and to quickly scale up the financial close process to meet the needs of business growth.

    Your mission: to make reporting easier—for you and your team. Unfortunately, you may have inherited a standard operating procedure that involves distributing disconnected spreadsheets via legacy systems.

    Despite a role that emphasizes looking ahead, your technology could be holding you back.

    01 OVERVIEW

    80 percent of controllers say their jobs have changed to be more forward thinking and that they have to add more value with strategic analysis of reports.

    Source: Institute for Management Accountants

    https://www.cfoinnovation.com/white-paper/8808/evolving-role-controller

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    01 OVERVIEW

    To prepare for new challenges, you need new tools If you have outgrown desktop software, it is time to look to the cloud. Cloud solutions are the leading source of the process innovation that generates measurable productivity gains in financial reporting. Increased productivity is one reason the controller’s role can shift from a historically delayed reporting function to providing real-time information and strategic insights.

    Nearly 70 percent of controllers agree or strongly agree that technology can enhance quality, transparency, and accuracy of reporting process.

    Source: The Transformative Controller

    https://www.workiva.com/resources/gartner-names-workiva-leader-financial-corporate-performance-management-solutions-magic https://home.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/pdf/2016/05/forbes-transformative-controller.pdf

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    THE FINANCIAL REPORTING CHALLENGE02

    Old technology cannot keep up with today’s financial reporting Is your team managing financial reporting using legacy systems and desktop software? Then you already know its limitations. According to a recent Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) survey, controllers see their two biggest challenges as the number of disparate systems that exist across their organizations and the lack of integration between these systems. Nearly 70 percent of these organizations attempt to integrate their data through spreadsheets.

    Controllers’ two biggest challenges are the number of disparate systems that exist across their organizations and the lack of integration between systems.

    https://www.cfoinnovation.com/white-paper/8808/evolving-role-controller

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    THE FINANCIAL REPORTING CHALLENGE02

    These tools were not designed for automated data collection and collaboration between multiple users that today’s controllers really need. This leads to time- consuming manual effort, multiple versions of the truth, a slow process, and serious errors. Any one of these risks creates bottlenecks, and every delay represents time that could be better spent on value-added analysis.

    Automating the financial reporting function is the only way to improve its performance and the competitiveness of your company. Deeper analysis, produced more quickly, inspires confidence and helps add value to the business.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/stop-using-excel-finance-chiefs-tell-staffs-1511346601 https://www.wsj.com/articles/stop-using-excel-finance-chiefs-tell-staffs-1511346601

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    THE FINANCIAL REPORTING CHALLENGE02

    Traditional business software is not enough With performance reporting, internal controls, and external financial reporting, you and your team simply have too much to manually manage all of the pieces. Unfortunately, legacy software was never designed to be automated. It is too old, even with bolt-ons and plug-ins. Desktop systems have discrete file types that don’t play well with others. Conversely, legacy structure systems are not flexible enough to handle changes to processes.

    There is a substantial amount of information created across internal controls, management/performance reporting, and financial reporting. This information is generated from a variety of systems, including your organization’s enterprise resource planning (ERP), Business intelligence (BI), and enterprise performance management (EPM) software. Unfortunately, these systems don’t naturally speak with each other.

    You need a system to tie all of the pieces together in order to holistically make sense of your situation. Spreadsheets and word documents were not created to do this. Of course, the better your view of the business, the more capable you are to make decisions backed by the most accurate and timely data.

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    DRIVING PRODUCTIVIT Y THROUGH CLOUD TECHNOLOGY03

    What is a controller to do? Look to the cloud for your last mile reporting solutions. Cloud-based financial reporting systems improve productivity and create business value through process improvements.

    You have made significant investments in ERP, EPM, and BI systems, but once all that data is exported, it ends up in a traditional desktop spreadsheet. Rolling up spreadsheets into consolidated financial statements may get the job done, but it is still limited. To improve productivity while delivering more to the business, you need a dedicated tool that can automate and streamline the last mile of your financial reporting process.

    https://www.workiva.com/resources/total-economic-impact-workiva-wdesk-benefits-streamlining-management-reporting-global-agri

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    1. Automate data capture and consolidation Eliminate excessive spreadsheets through automated data capture. Information from your disparate systems, including financial and nonfinancial data, is brought together through data connections. In Armanino’s CFO Benchmark Report, 67 percent of CFOs surveyed said that financial reporting and analysis was their highest systems integration priority. In one step, you can capture your data into a cloud-based tool that becomes your single source of truth for analysis.

    2. Streamline your financial close process Financial reporting is a linear process that must scale, respond to new information, and satisfy requests for analysis. Cloud solutions are flexible and generally do not require an IT consultant to create a new template or form to create a new insight. Data drawn from an existing single source of truth data pool can be sliced, diced, analyzed and shared, all without resorting to a new desktop spreadsheet.

    3. Reduce the time it takes to close your reporting Using automation technology streamlines the process, reduces manual data entry, and increases standardization. Generally, repeatable processes will shorten the time it takes to close out your financial reporting period.

    Steve Harms, Vice President of Financial Reporting and Tax at American Equity Investment Life Holding Company, was able to shorten his reporting schedule by two weeks. “We get a much cleaner, better quality first draft two weeks ahead of time. Wdesk gives us more time to take a step back and do some analysis. I can take a day to do a real, in-depth review of the document before we turn it over to the CFO, CEO, and auditors,” says Harms.

    Business leaders can use that extra time to develop responses and recommendations based on the report.

    4. Eliminate software and upgrade management You are an expert in analyzing business data, not managing and maintaining software. Cloud-based tools are automatically implemented and updated by the solution’s provider in the background. The leading software developers are dedicating almost all research and development budgets to cloud solutions and have become the source of financial reporting process innovation.

    5. Support business decisions with secure data Using multiple spreadsheets creates just as many concerns. There are the risks associated with errors from manual data collection, as well as potential security leaks from circulating files through email.

    According to Alan MacPhee, Controller at Hecla Mining, “I like that Wdesk is cloud-based, so we don’t have to worry about the vagaries of email or servers crashing.”

    There is growing evidence that the security of business data in the cloud for most mainstream organizations equals or exceeds the levels achieved by mainstream IT on-premises.

    THE FIVE PILLARS OF PRODUCTIVITY IN THE CLOUD

    http://info.armaninollp.com/pdfs/white-papers/2016/cfo-evolution-survey-benchmark-stats.pdf https://www.workiva.com/customers/american-equity-investment-life-holding-company https://www.workiv

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