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Why confidence in your data is the key to long-term business success

11 Oct 2019
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Article by BlackLine Australia and New Zealand vice president Claudia Pirko

When it comes to gauging how a business is travelling in the marketplace, the numbers never lie – or do they?

In Australia, and elsewhere in the developed world, highly accurate financials have long been the bedrock of good business.

There’s no surer way to undermine trust and brand reputation, within and outside your enterprise, than by being subject to the suggestion that your figures don’t add up.

The benefits of rigorous governance

Conversely, timely and highly accurate financial reporting results in a number of compelling benefits, not least the positive brand reputation that results from being known as an organisation which values integrity in all its forms.

In the digital era, reputations are easier to damage than they’ve ever been and even small errors can become big news, once amplified exponentially by social media.

Establishing and maintaining protocols that facilitate transparency and accuracy may be the means by which you avert a trust destroying crisis down the track.

A reputation for trustworthiness is more than just its own reward.

Research shows organisations which are known for their integrity have greater access to business opportunities and a healthier internal culture than those which are not.

They typically have lower employee turnover, attract quality candidates who are happy to have their personal brand aligned with that of a high calibre organisation and are more productive and innovative than their less well-regarded competitors.

They’re also able to make smart decisions swiftly, courtesy of the fact they have access to up-to-date, trustworthy data on which to base their calls.

Implementing systems that promote accuracy and integrity

Don’t think your enterprise has ever made a major decision based on inaccurate financial data?

You’d be in the minority, if that proved to be the case.

A recent Blackline global survey of business and finance leaders revealed almost 70% of respondents had done so.

Tardy detection and correction of errors were identified as culprits; in some enterprises, setting things straight once an anomaly has been noted is a process which can take up to two weeks.

Here are some ways in which organisations can up their trust quotient by embedding accuracy and rigour in their operations:

Improve data integrity by reducing human error

Everyone makes mistakes, even if only occasionally.

But even rare errors by employees can have a significant impact on the accuracy and integrity of records.

And if everyone makes a couple, the effect is cumulative.

Reducing opportunities for staff to slip up by streamlining or eliminating outdated manual processes across the finance department means there’s a greater likelihood the company data and figures will reflect the status quo accurately.

Automation also allows finance employees to utilise their time more productively, by focusing on higher-value activities, rather than repetitive tasks.

Centralise key functions

Information that’s located all over the place, on multiple spreadsheets and servers, is more prone to corruption and compromise than data that is managed via one location.

Centralising key accounting processes and implementing a whole-of-enterprise data management platform can result in greater transparency, visibility and accuracy.

Build a culture of accountability

Encouraging employees to take ownership of their work can result in a raft of benefits, including increased productivity, greater commitment to their job and improved morale and job satisfaction.

Employees who feel accountable are also more likely to focus on doing things accurately and well – and encouraging individuals in their teams to do likewise.  

This also supports improving the integrity of the information on which key business decisions are made.

Time to act

In today’s competitive Australian business environment, data-driven decision making has superseded management by feel in many organisations.

It’s only possible if business leaders have up-to-the-minute information on which to draw – and are able to trust implicitly in its accuracy and integrity.

Putting systems and processes in place to make this possible should be a priority for all enterprises which hope to survive and thrive in 2020 and beyond.