Mistrust in the Numbers: The Truth About Financial Data

This article originally appeared in Tech Wire Asia. Read the full series here.

Data is an empowering medium. But for finance functions in the enterprise, data tends to be siloed across the organization.

Additionally, any reconciliation process needs a great deal of access further afield—into online banking facilities, each department and division’s records, and any overarching management systems like HRM or ERP.

Even in a technologically advanced Finance Department, there will probably be a great deal of manual export and import from those systems. This is the nature of data-holding mechanisms in Finance—not to be open to all comers.

Can finance officers, staff, and management trust their own data? Few do, although a report has found that perceptions of the validity of financial data vary hugely across the organization.

This wide-reaching BlackLine survey found that nearly 70% of global business leaders claim their organizations have made significant business decisions based on inaccurate data. That’s not to say, of course, that those decisions led to failure, but the lack of foundations is alarming.

Over a quarter knew that errors had to exist, but said they had no visibility into where the errors were.

Companies, therefore, are adopting systems in their finance functions that draw together the multitudinous data sources, including automated interfaces with external systems like banks and investment platforms.

This creates two major advantages, in BlackLine’s experience. First, it removes the need for many hours of data collation to produce reports. That is, after all, very much the finance department model of yesteryear, which is an after-the-fact activity (things happen, then we produce a report).

Secondly, the facilities that an overarching financial management platform bring are not a use-once solution. The interoperability, API connections, and internal data mining methods remain in place. That means that the financial status of the entire enterprise becomes an on-going, usable, and accurate resource.

The situation that is faced by today’s enterprise is summed up by Ralph Center, the MD of financial management at KPMG, and is one that’s addressed by the real-time nature of BlackLine’s finance management solutions:

“Today’s strategy is challenged by dimensions beyond reporting legal entity. Customer, market, and product line information is required by executives to compete in today’s environment. Enhanced data models augmented with new cloud technology can be a key component in response to accuracy.”

But while the technology press is fond of its references to digital transformation—or the rapid impinging of software and supporting infrastructure on the practical realities of running a sizeable enterprise-scale organization— it seems that the actuali on the ground is somewhat different.

In BlackLine’s survey results, it was found that 41% of finance directors and business leaders claim to have implemented technology to mitigate the risk of inaccuracy. However, only 28% claim their company’s reporting processes have changed.

That’s an interesting statistic given the high levels of inaccuracy that the figures show is known to exist. A change in reporting systems and procedures is undoubtedly indicative that technology is having an effect—but in most cases, it’s simply not happening.

Upon seeing the survey results, Wendy Shapiro, Senior VP for Finance Transformation at Teledoc Health says, “Finance professionals are tired of unacceptably high margins of error, and are becoming far more aware of the risks associated with inaccurate reporting. Clearly, it is time for a culture change; one that sees every level of an organization become more transparent and accountable.”

Reducing the risks surrounding inaccurate reporting, data gathering, and management in the enterprise today is of primary concern for finance managers across the globe. To enact the changes that will begin to create a meaningful transformation (that yes, is digitally-powered), enterprise-scale businesses need an enterprise-scale finance management solution, and BlackLine can supply this crucial toolset.

Schedule a demo to learn more about how BlackLine can change the way you work, report, and strategize for your enterprise’s future.