Timely financial reporting for smart insights

smart insights

Timely financial reports are the lifeblood of every business. Photo: iStockphoto.

Financials are the lifeblood of every business – and yet gaining access to accurate real-time financial reporting can be more like getting blood from a stone. And for business users who have been starved of this type of data, “it opens up a new world”, according to Yellowfin product marketing manager Ivan Seow.

Businesses are often plagued by a lack of trust in the data they have – users may feel the information they are seeing is incorrect, so they don’t make decisions based on the data itself.

“Eventually the result is that your bottom line is affected, because people aren’t making the right decisions in a timely manner. If they had access to that the first time around, then you certainly get the complete opposite,” Seow said. “We want people to have the ability to see what they need to see, and trust the platform to be able to do that.”

In the current environment, simply being able to see the data isn’t enough – being able to gain strategic business insights rests on the ability to analysing financial reporting. Seow said Yellowfin enables this by providing an intuitive, visually rich user experience around financial dashboards and reports, which facilitates discovery and exploration.

“Business users are always asking questions like, ‘Why am I not doing well? What’s the difference in KPI performance between this quarter and last quarter?’ So Yellowfin allows people to drill into the data, look at time periods very quickly, filter data, click on things to exclude. Even people who usually aren’t accustomed to BI can intuitively do that,” Seow said.

Being able to look into the future with forecasting and trending is also advantageous for businesses who want to get on the front foot and out of reactive mode. Yellowfin’s simple drag-and-drop interface allows business users to perform basic functions like introducing data into a chart, through to finetuning forecasting by weighting recent performance versus performance over the last year, for example.

And because more heads are better than one, being able to share data, collaborate and make decisions as a group within the one platform – without disappearing into email – can also help businesses respond more quickly to changing market conditions.

From a technical perspective, having a data preparation layer built into the Yellowfin platform provides the ability to not only integrate a variety of data sources but also to manage them to provide a single version of the truth. The 7.3 version of the Yellowfin platform, released in December last year, offers a new Data Preparation Module, which integrates data preparation processes directly into a single analytics environment.

“This enables users who are perusing financial reporting the ability to model data and manage metadata – including operations like cleansing and transforming the data,” Seow said.

This data preparation layer also enables users to manage data security and access levels.

“For example, if profit and loss and general ledger information isn’t available to everyone, it should be available to the people who need to see it. So we’ve got native folder security that controls the managers’ content, and ties that down to the user groups within the organisation as well,” Seow said.

This role-based, secure delivery again provides users with the trust that the data that they are accessing is accurate and relevant to the KPIs that apply to themselves and their business units.

With so many organisations now seeking to become data-driven in their decision-making, addressing financial reporting is a common starting point for BI initiatives as an easy “quick win”.

“Everyone wants to look at ledgers and profits and margins, so it’s a very obvious problem to solve. Financial reporting is one of these problems that Yellowfin can address very quickly, and then you can learn and expand from there,” Seow said.

This has certainly been the case for Yellowfin customers such as successful e-commerce groups in the UK and Germany, which are using the platform to provide aggregated financial reporting for all their stores. Feeding data in real-time back to the group level provides smart insights so they can respond to it tactically in the real world.

This article is sponsored by Yellowfin.