Good financial reporting isn’t just a “nice to have” for the corporate CFOs you advise. It’s one of the most important functions in the entire accounting process — if not the most important.

Think about it: Unless your client’s system can produce accurate, timely and useful reports, they’ll have no way of assessing the financial health of their business. Even worse, they won’t be able to spot potential issues before they become major problems.

Of course, it’s not easy to define “accurate, timely, and useful.” It can mean different things to different companies. But many finance professionals have the nagging feeling that although their current ERP financial reporting system does offer useful information, it’s not doing everything it could for their business.

So, how do you know when it’s time to suggest that your client make a switch? Here are three common signs your client needs to replace their ERP financial reporting system.

1. They’re doing too much manual work. One sure sign that a financial reporting software isn’t delivering the goods is that accountants are still creating workarounds in good old Microsoft Excel. This approach may seem to work smoothly for your client … until they have to make a small change to one report and realize that this will require making changes to a host of other reports, too.

For example, they might change an account code in one report and then spend hours dealing with the “ripple effect” in dozens of other reports. Or one of their business managers may ask Finance to display negative numbers with black parentheses instead of red text. Your clients will then have to waste hours propagating this change through hundreds of spreadsheets. It’s not a difficult task — but it certainly doesn’t add any value to their business.

Now, if it’s this much of a hassle to perform simple changes in a financial reporting system, imagine how difficult things will be when it’s time to add new line items, new departments, or even new acquisitions. The ideal reporting system would allow your client to make a change once and see it reflected in every report they produce from that point on.

2. They’re sending the right information to the wrong people. It’s every accountant’s nightmare: working up hundreds of reports for a financial close period, attaching them to an e-mail, clicking Send … and then realizing that they copied at least one person who wasn’t supposed to see all of these reports.

This isn’t just a matter of cluttering up people’s inboxes with information that doesn’t pertain to them. For corporate accountants, there’s a real risk of putting confidential corporate data at risk — and perhaps getting fired as a result.

It shouldn’t be this hard to send the right reports to the right people — and with a good ERP financial reporting system, it isn’t. Your client will be able to configure even the most complex distribution lists right in the software so that there’s no chance of disclosing sensitive information to the wrong people.

3. Their biggest questions are going unanswered. Even if your client is delivering all the right reports to all the right people, their stakeholders are going to want to know the “Why?” behind the data. Why did travel expenses only increase for one out of five business divisions in Q3? Why did inventory decrease in all but one warehouse?

Stakeholders who want the story behind the numbers shouldn’t have to pick up the phone and ask the finance team for help. They should be able to log on, open an interactive report, drill down into any line item, and see every transaction that contributed to that number — right down to the journal-entry level.

Urge your client to look for a financial reporting system that lets users conduct their own research, rather than relying on Finance to do it for them. They’ll reduce data bottlenecks and empower everyone to make better-informed decisions.

So, what’s next?

Transitioning to the right ERP financial reporting system doesn’t have to be painful. Many of today’s best reporting systems are designed to integrate seamlessly with cloud ERP systems to give your clients the reporting functionality they need without disrupting their business operations. Tell your clients to research their options carefully. They may end up pleasantly surprised at how much easier their jobs can be — and they’ll be grateful to you as a result.

Ray Rebello

Ray Rebello

Ray Rebello is director of product marketing at cloud-based accounting and ERP software developer Acumatica.