financial_reporting_525_350Do you speak “financial reporting?” If accounting is the internal language of finance, then financial reporting is how you communicate with the outside world. The reporting information might be used in a number of different ways – for example, understanding your company’s tax situation, arranging credit with your bank, or making an investment to grow your business. The information should also be clear and easy to understand. That means going a step beyond those dry accounting statements that can sometimes seem rather user-unfriendly.

How to Use Financial Reporting

Good financial reporting helps employees, business partners and customers relate to you, your data and your company. It can do this in two ways:

“Push” (you offer appropriately packaged information)

  • Convenient at-a-glance, all-in-one-place display of essential data
  • Offer personalized information depending on user profile and registration
  • Alerts when data move outside certain ranges or given conditions are met

“Pull” (you let users work with data of specific interest to them)

  • Drill down to pick out particular details
  • Define triggers for predefined actions according to changes in data
  • Share data with authorized parties, e.g. by posting to company social networks

Who Uses Financial Reporting?

Any department that needs clear, basic financial information can see the advantage of good reporting applications.

  • Finance. Even bean counters can benefit from seeing key information in plain English!
  • Sales. Besides tracking revenue to date, sales should also be alerted if a customer with whom they are discussing a sale is also past due on any major invoice.
  • Marketing. Track budget expenditure against sales to decide on any further marketing promotions.
  • Manufacturing. Drill down to see hours expensed for a given production process compared with actual hours spent.
  • PR Department. Current revenue figures for the enterprise for tagline information on company press releases.
  • Quality Assurance. Identify products costing the most in customer returns or rework to define priorities for quality improvement actions.

Where Can You Find Financial Reporting Apps?

Financial reporting functionality comes in different shapes and sizes. You can find it as:

  • Part of the package in wider-ranging accounting applications. May focus on items such as revenue, profit, spend management, billing, and tracking unpaid invoices.
  • A module in more general enterprise applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning). Can also display information on company resource utilization, and return on investment/assets.
  • Standalone applications designed to accept data from different sources and let you define different displays. Possible extensions to business intelligence (BI) functions to drive company decisions.

Top Financial Reporting Apps (Standalone and Integrated)

NetSuite OneWorld

Netsuite offers its Global Business Intelligence reporting functionality as one of the OneWorld range of modules covering Global ERP, Global CRM, Global Ecommerce, and Global Services Resource Planning. The Global Business Intelligence module provides company-wide visibility for financial, customer and business data, with a single-source, ‘single version of the truth’. Self-service functionality is part of the module for desktop PCs as well as mobile devices. Users can choose from different levels of consolidated reporting and company KPIs (key performance indicators).


FinancialForce Accounting

Financialforce.com provides real time reporting and multi-dimensional business analysis as part of an overall cloud ERP solution. Other modules are financial management, professional services automation, ordering and billing, human capital management, and supply chain management. Departmental dashboards combine figures for sales, service calls, billing, collections and related expenses. Browser, tablet and mobile access are all available for the reporting function. Users can drill down, customize and share reporting information from Financialforce.com by using its ‘Chatter’ social network with its “follows”, “likes” and ‘@”s and enabling discussions inside reports and dashboards.


Zoho Reports

As well as being a provider of integrated enterprise software modules, Zoho also provides Zoho Reports for financial and other reporting. This standalone app can be used across different functional areas. Small and medium businesses are likely to see value in the way Zoho Reports lets them customize their reporting and also bring spreadsheet users into the fold. A spreadsheet-like interface for data addition and report creation is available, and Zoho Reports also allows easy import of existing tabbed data from Excel, Open Office, CSV, TSV and HTML file formats. Departments likely to see advantage in using this reporting software include HR, operations, sales, marketing, finance and customer service.


QuickBooks Online

Dashboards & reporting tools are part of the financial management application from QuickBooks Online. Possible data views range from one-page summary reports to charts, maps, calendars and timelines. Users can personalize their view of the dashboards using drag-and-drop editing. They can also search in documents, tables and apps and use dynamic filters to immediately set up reports. Data can be integrated for reporting from Excel, as well as from other web-based applications such as Zuora, Google Maps and MorningStar.


FreshBooks

FreshBooks is built for small business owners to get organized and get paid. Built-in reporting features include tracking time, expenses and invoicing. Standard reports available include accounts aging with payment reminder functionality, expense reports with export possibility to Excel, sales tax reporting, and profit and loss. Balance sheet reporting allows a business to ready for tax or growth discussions with its bank at any time. The reporting functionality is available from any computer or mobile device (iPhone, iPad and Android).


Intacct

Intacct reporting and dashboards are part of the Intacct accounting application, positioned by the company as a ‘next-level’ solution for growing businesses. The combination of accounting, financial reporting and analysis lets you plan, define, build and assess business metrics and performance. Real time access is possible to all the financial and operational data with live adjustment to changes in exchange rates. Drilling down is possible to any level within the application. Dashboards in Intacct can be kept private or opened to public access. They can also be copied or cloned for customization without affecting the original version.


Your choice in using a financial reporting application that is standalone or part of another software product will depend on what you already have. Click on any of the items above or take a look at the GetApp list of reporting service software to see which one makes most sense for you.