Do you suffer from data overload?
This painful condition has skyrocketed as organizations have massively increased the amount of data they collect and then…well, that’s the question—what should you actually do with it?
To talk this through, I reached out to Shari Littan, director of corporate reporting research and policy at the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), an organization for accounting and finance professionals with 140,000 members.
Littan, who was previously a practicing attorney in securities and corporate litigation, has thought a lot about data and financial reporting. The trick, she says, is helping members deal with the proliferation of tech-based solutions “not only get their job done but free them up to apply their expertise to help their organizations around higher-level considerations—risk, innovation, strategy, and leadership,” she says. As Littan quips, “What gets measured gets managed—unless I’m spending all of my talent resources measuring with none left for actually managing.”
A “pain point” for many of IMA’s members is a lack of access to collaborative cloud-based technology, Littan tells me, a point she explored in a recent report which she coauthored titled Building Financial Reporting Resilience Through Collaborative Cloud-Based Solutions.
Here’s some insight from Littan:
There still seems to be significant internal competition for resources within organizations that often puts a lower priority on moving corporate reporting to cloud-based collaborative systems. And this is perceived across the profession, regardless of industry or company size.
We might see more uptake as companies reconsider their post-pandemic futures, including the roles and responsibilities of its corporate reporting teams, particularly in light of more demands for environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) reporting.
Companies are being inundated with individualized requests for information and comprehensive survey instruments as analysts seek more specific disclosures regarding ESG.
Littan says she’s spoken with an agricultural company (which she did not name) that was receiving demerits on ESG ratings due to lack of disclosure on deforestation and animal rights. But the company’s operations is plant-based farmland. “Water is a very big issue from them, but not animal rights and deforestation,” says Littan. “Knowing that investors were looking at this rating, they had to take specific efforts to get the data aggregator to consider their individual business model.”
Respondents of the IMA survey said they were most interested in cloud-based technology with a particular focus on the last steps of financial reporting.” At the end of each accounting period, the financial reporting team must take the results from these various systems and feed the data into producing external reports in compliance with a range of regulatory mandates, such as the SEC, the IRS,” Littan tells me. And, “too much of this remains a spreadsheet, cut-and-paste exercise,” she says.
“This is where cloud-based collaborative platforms can make the process more efficient, and free up talent resources from routine document creation to analysis,” she says.
See you tomorrow.
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