Fill the gaps in business reporting

Tools ease pain of older methods and offer new insights

Tools ease pain of older methods and offer new insights

Today's IT directors and their management colleagues face unprecedented challenges.

On the one hand, economic uncertainty dictates that businesses streamline, manage costs and hold off on hiring to meet bottom-line targets. On the other hand, signs of an improving economy demand that businesses invest in new opportunities to drive top-line profitable growth.

It is the classic mandate of "do more with less", with the added pressure of knowing that every major decision, every performance disclosure and every financial report will be scrutinised as never before.

Many organisations today rely on spreadsheets as their primary tool for managing performance. Trapped in spreadsheet hell, they employ legions of analysts and IT specialists to manually extract valuable information locked in transactional systems and use it to populate a variety of homegrown reports for decision makers.

Although these reports can be helpful, they are painful and time-consuming to produce as well as prone to error.

They are also typically based on fragmented information created in silos - by business unit, geography or function - which means they often present an incomplete or narrow view of what is happening in a company.

And, as anyone who has used them will testify, they are frustratingly static, making it difficult and time-consuming to drill down to the information needed to answer the inevitable questions these kinds of reports raise in the minds of top managers. For example, "Our sales in Japan were up just 2% this quarter. How does that compare with sales in previous quarters and in the same quarter a year ago?"

Fortunately, help is at hand. Management processes and business systems that improve future performance are the work of business performance management, a category of enterprise software that replaces spreadsheets and static reports with more flexible, scalable and dynamic tools.

Business performance management software goes beyond the specific functions automated by transactional systems - accounting, billings, bookings, supply chain, and salesforce automation. Consisting of a consolidation and analytics platform and financial and business applications, business performance management products use data from these systems to increase visibility, drive forecasts, predict results, manage financial and operational performance, and report on outcomes both internally and externally.

Seasoned IT directors understand that no one piece of software can solve all of their problems, and they are weary of new acronyms. However, business performance management software can at least help fill in the gaps for the reams of reporting data demanded by regulators.

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