How to Combine Data and Narrative for a Competitive Edge

At the recent the Modern Finance Experience, Al Marciante, senior director of product management at Oracle, gave an excellent presentation titled “Collaborative Reporting: Leveraging Personal Productivity Tools to Realize Collaborative Results.” He shared the benefits of combining good quality, system-of-record corporate data with rich narrative text in external reporting—benefits that can be a significant differentiator for companies.

Marciante said that 90% of companies agree that expanding qualitative commentary is critical, yet most spend all their time gathering data and have no time to create
narrative or do extensive analysis. Without this narrative reporting accompanying the data, significant facts can be ignored or obscured.

Al Marciante, Oracle Corporation

Narrative reporting effectively explains corporate value and can impact perception of management quality. But, if you could combine the system-of-record data with descriptive text by tapping into the wisdom of smart people at your company, corporate reporting could be vastly improved.

The process of collecting the narrative text and formatting the reports can also be greatly improved. Marciante described it this way. “Does this process sound familiar? Someone creates a folder and starts to dump relevant data and text files into it. Someone, possibly other than the gatherer of relevant files, then has to put it all together into a report. Formatting of the report may be the same from period to period, or it may not. Directional words describing values (like positive or negative variance) may be consistent from one period to the next, or may not. Finally, reviews are often done by emailing the draft report around asking for comments. This method does not enforce security as not all reviewers should have access to all parts of the report—not to mention that emailing sensitive data can be dangerous, and there is no good way of tracking who has reviewed it for process or audit purposes.”

This method, as it is described here, does not enforce standards. And, if values change during the review period, it is a nightmare ensuring all instances of changed data have been found and updated and reviewers notified.

Marciante said that 50% of companies are not confident with their existing tools, and given the description above, it is no wonder.

But there was good news. Marciante gave a great demonstration of
Oracle Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud to address these issues. A few of the features that support combining corporate data with rich, narrative text: automatic formatting of data from many sources (spreadsheets, text documents, presentations, etc.), defined fields that are linked and will automatically update, workflow for review, the ability to review a snapshot of the entire report at any time, and security for all parts of the report.

Following the demo, Marciante shared the success story of
Investec, citing the following benefits from their project:

. A central information store with strong controls over the process

. Process flow that enables a reliable and trusted source of information

. Ability to refer to prior periods instantly to check, compare and answer questions

. Assurance that an accurate record is made for sign off and approval

The bottom line is that Investec now has all its critical reporting in one place, with the ability to compare previous monthly or quarterly reports to tell an accurate—and consistent—story to management, stakeholders and regulators. Click on the photo to watch an interview with Andreea Tapp of Investec.

Do you want this competitive differentiator, and a process that will help facilitate it? Learn more about Oracle Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud.


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