The financial reporting process keeps 97 percent of CFOs awake at night, according to a recent survey, with only 3 percent of the senior finance execs polled saying they don’t lose any sleep over their organization’s reporting processes or deadlines.

The survey, by the financial reporting technology company Workiva and the business systems information provider FSN, polled 977 international CFOs and senior finance professionals across more than 23 industries.

Fifty percent of the respondents said reporting involved huge amounts of manual checking every time a change is made, while 60 percent of respondents said they spend too much time cleaning and manipulating data.

CFO financial reporting problems

Fifty-five percent of the survey respondents said they are concerned about whether their internal controls were working during the reporting period, raising questions about the integrity of the data they’re using.

Fifty percent of the finance teams polled indicated they don’t remove redundant information from their reporting packs, and 41 percent don’t remove reports that are no longer used, even as the number of reports grows.

The survey found that 54 percent of the finance executives polled said they spend too much time battling fragmented systems that require data from multiple sources.

Only 46 percent of the survey respondents indicated they could easily accommodate changes in information requirements, while only 34 percent said they could make changes without depending on the IT department. When gaps in reporting appear, 69 percent of the CFOs polled admitted they turn to spreadsheets to fill in the gaps. Forty-three percent indicated they don’t know how many business-critical-spreadsheets are in use.

“When you use Excel, particularly when you’re sharing Excel with somebody else on a team, it can be pretty scary to delete a column or a row because you don’t know what else it’s affecting,” said Workiva CFO Stuart Miller. “What we find is that people end up just adding on and leaving stuff behind that’s no longer relevant. In certain cases, it might be an earlier version and it might be wrong. It’s not a very controlled environment, and that’s what’s so scary to a CFO. When they ask, ‘Which spreadsheet gave us these numbers, and have we validated all of the numbers in that spreadsheet?’ their team looks around at each other and they go, ‘Well the most recent numbers we validated,’ but what about all of the numbers in that spreadsheet? That’s the thing that’s scary to the CFO is the provenance of those numbers is not always buttoned down.”

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Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.