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Data overload is real

May 3, 2021, 9:00 AM UTC

Good morning,

 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.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

The financial benefits of cloud computing and how organizations can optimize cloud spend is explored in A Bright Forecast on Cloud, part three of a four-part Cloud Impact Study from Aptum, a global hybrid multi-cloud managed service provider. The study also takes a look at the top drivers behind cloud computing investments. About 400 senior IT professionals in the U.S., U.K. and Canada participated in Aptum’s study.

Going deeper

A new report, Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Recovery, examines the varied impact of the coronavirus pandemic on small businesses across different geographies and industries. Among the top performing industries over the past 12 months are home improvement and real estate. "At the end of March 2021, mortgage bankers’ annual revenues were up by 30% compared to their pre-pandemic level—an increase of $147,000 per business," according to the report. However, some of the hardest-hit small businesses are in the recreation industry. For example, annual revenues of bowling alleys were down by 33% at the end of March 2021, which is "a drop of more than $250,000 per business, compared to before the pandemic," the report found.

Leaderboard

Michael Dastugue was named CFO at HanesBrands, a global marketer of branded everyday apparel, effective May 1, 2021. Most recently, Dastugue was EVP and CFO at Walmart U.S.

Rosanna Godden was named CFO and board secretary at Super Coffee, a bottled coffee brand. Prior to Super Coffee, Godden spent the last decade at Amazon working on the company's corporate mergers and acquisition team.

Humberto "Bert" Alfonso was named EVP and CFO at Information Services Group, a global technology research and advisory firm, effective June 7, 2021. Alfonso will succeed David Berger, who will retire from the position after almost 12 years with the firm.

Overheard

"Even before the pandemic there was a trend...towards leadership being approachable. I can’t see that changing that much after the pandemic."

— Lynn Harris, founder and CEO of Gold Comedy, on the effect of including levity in company culture, as told to Fortune.

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