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Rethinking Report Generation in Financial Shared Services

The move to Shared Services provides companies the opportunity to have large repositories of data in one place, captured and organized, ready for analysis and data mining.  Gone are the days, for example, when negotiating favorable purchase terms required buyers to contact the vendor to find out what was purchased, and how much, because data was distributed over many company locations and thus impossible to consolidate.  While this issue impacts all components of Shared Services, because of the types of data within scope, Financial Shared Services groups have the greatest challenges and opportunities for creating customer value using report generation capabilities.

Unfortunately, reporting processes that don’t effectively consider customer requirements can quickly overwhelm the value of the data.  And, once a report has been requested, too often it stays on the list to be created over and over again, with no clear process for review, modification, or deletion.

An accountant at a large retail company wanted to understand how other member companies manage the report generation process for Financial Shared Services processes.   Within a few hours, using iPollingTM, she had detailed answers from peers with relevant experience and knowledge, with visibility to the companies who responded and access to communicate directly with peers for additional discussion as necessary. 

Here is the background statement on the reason for the poll:  “We are looking for ways to analyze and ultimately reduce the number of reports that we are generating and circulating as a company, in order to reduce redundant reporting and eliminate inefficiencies. We are interested to learn how other companies have approached this issue.”

The first iPollingTM question asked about the current status of member companies with respect to reducing the number of reports that are generated out of Financial Shared Services.  Only 14% indicated that they have worked hard at eliminating reports that are not highly valued and are now at about the right level of reporting.  At 56%, the majority of member companies responded that they have made some efforts to reduce the number of reports and are making progress.   18% of companies indicated that they haven’t focused much attention on reducing reports because of higher priorities.  Here are the details:

current status with respect to attempting to reduce the number of reports generated ipolling

The second iPollingTM question asked about the approach followed to reduce the number of reports in Financial Shared Services.  At 58%, the predominant approach was to analyze reports internally to identify ways to consolidate information, eliminate duplicate information, and/or eliminate old reports that are no longer being utilized.   For 37% of member companies, the primary approach cited was to work with customers to identify the reports they found valuable and the ones they could do without. 

primary approach to reducing the number of Report Generation ipolling peeriosity

The iPollingTM question generated an enthusiastic discussion between members.  Here are several of the comments added by iPollingTM participants:

  • Some parts of the business have started looking at this over the last 12 months. We are just about to embark on a broader review as we anticipate there is a further opportunity available. We also are now in a better position with better data, so that we can more effectively work with our customers to streamline current practices.
  • Shared Services worked with IT and Business Process Improvement teams to create standard Discoverer or Hyperion reports generated from the Oracle system that provide the information required and that we are happy with at this time. All reports are stored in a data warehouse and only the more popular standard reports are run on a regular basis either through a scheduled job or manually by a user.  Discoverer and Hyperion also allow some users to create new reports, as needed, which are customized for their department use and analysis, but not necessarily for wide distribution.
  • A combination of a) Working with customers to identify the reports that they found valuable and which ones they could do without, and b) Analyzing reports internally to identify ways to consolidate information, eliminate duplicate information, and/or eliminate old reports no longer being utilized.
  • We worked with customers and IT to make standard reports available through electronic means (data warehouse). No reports were ones we created; only provided via print or print/mail.
  • This effort was undertaken as part of the broader Finance Transformation effort, as we do not provide reporting from our Shared Service yet. We analyzed all data and report requests coming from any Corporate department to our operations finance teams to identify duplication. We also spoke with the requestors to understand how they use each report and what value it provides. We reduced the number of data points requested by nearly 60% through either automation or elimination. However, we still see opportunities for improvement. We are always met with resistance when proposing to eliminate a report or point a requestor to another source (not of their design).
  • While this hasn’t been a priority for us because of more urgent matters that require our attention, I do believe we spend too much time making labor-intensive reports.
  • We have tried to implement a solution where we provide the data and the business units create their own reports but turnover and the result of the training of the new employees have brought the responsibility back to Shared Services.
  • Where we have made progress, our approach was a combination of approaches by analyzing and working with business partners and leveraging IT. While we have made progress, more opportunity exists to reduce the number of reports but has been met with resistance were business partners want to take the analysis upon themselves.

How does your company manage report generation for Financial Shared Services?  If you have made efforts to reduce the number of reports, what approach was the most successful?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?


 “iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility of all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated e-mail system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participate in iPolling.

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