Robert K Moorhouse FCIS CDipAF MIRS, Corporate Strategy Director, Merrill Corporation | August 11, 2016
Last time, I talked about why low reporting quality is a big problem for AIM-quoted companies. I’d love to imagine all 1000+ AIM-quoted companies read my blog, realised how heavily investors are considering their Annual Report & Accounts (ARA), and immediately poured their resources into improving it. More likely: those that read my blog (or the FRC’s original report) immediately thought, “Reporting is already a huge resource drain. I can’t afford to sink any more time or money into this area.”
An investment that saves you time is worth the money
Improving reporting quality doesn’t require you to invest more time. But it does pay to make an investment — in better technology. New reporting solutions can not only help you reduce the reporting burden you’re already feeling — they can actually help you rapidly and significantly improve the quality of your reporting.
A quick buyer’s guide to better reporting technology
There are solutions of all shapes, sizes and prices out there, and smaller companies can’t afford to get it wrong. Here are the key things a forward-thinking reporting solution should enable you to do:
- Gather documentation faster: The solution should eliminate much of the painful and time-consuming task of tracking down documentation to draft your ARA. Any authorised user in your organisation should be able to instantly upload or scan documentation from anywhere on the globe, 24/7. And come next year, you should be able to instantly recall past documentation and disclosures to make the drafting process go even faster.
- Generate your report drafts faster: Look for pre-configured formatting that turns ARA drafting into a simple plug-and-play task. The best solutions even use the familiar Microsoft Office interface, so you don’t have to be an accounting whiz or a graphic design specialist to quickly and easily put together a top-quality ARA.
- Get reports reviewed and approved sooner: Making sure all stakeholders have reviewed, edited and approved your ARA is a huge time commitment. Top solutions replace the paper-based review cycle with a fully digital workflow. Reviewers have anytime-anywhere secure access. Instead of one-by-one reviews, the best solutions allow multiple users to review and edit simultaneously. Their edits are tracked and organised for easy revisions. By editing in parallel, your team can work toward an approved draft days or even weeks sooner.
- Work faster, without making more mistakes: Keeping track of reviewers’ edits can be a nightmare. If you are manually copying and pasting numbers into your report it is time consuming and opens you up to errors. Replace this with a solution that allows single-source editing and functionality to automate universal changes. No more version confusion. No more missed edits. You can accelerate the process while actually reducing errors.
The business case: efficiency today — growth tomorrow
Everyone wants to see ROI, but it’s even more critical that small businesses with tighter budgets see a return. So what’s the business case for investing in a high-quality reporting solution?
- Less staff time spent on reporting tasks: More efficient documentation collection, faster drafting and a speedy review cycle add up to your people spending far less time on reporting tasks. This frees them up to focus on their core responsibilities. This staff time savings alone can often cover the cost of the technology investment.
- Less expensive than completely outsourcing reporting: This gives smaller companies an even better value: technology that eliminates many internal burdens and delivers built-in expertise, without the cost.
- Earn investors’ confidence — drive growth: Easy access to capital is the small business’ growth pipeline. With the tools in place to create a high-quality ARA, you can give investors the information they’re looking for, increase their confidence as they consider investing in your company, and ultimately help you gain access to the capital you need to grow your business. That’s value beyond measure.
In response to the FRC report, I’ve composed a special content series of advisory blogs and a white paper to help address the issues affecting AIM-listed companies. Look out for my next blog instalment on How Merrill Bridge can facilitate better auditing and get the Board and shareholders more engaged in the review process.
Read more from this special content series.
If you would like to learn more about how Merrill Bridge can help with your reporting, don't hesitate to contact us or read our brochure.