Financial Reporting 101: What is it (and Why Does it Matter)?


Finance Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Finance pros

Thursday, August 18, 2022

In this comprehensive guide, we look at financial reporting, why it’s so important and how you can improve the process within your organization.

Article 11 Minutes
Financial Reporting 101: What is it (and Why Does it Matter)?

Numbers are vital for so many business functions. They help to paint a picture and reveal truths; they allow you to make better decisions and give invaluable insights, particularly when it comes to financial figures.

Organizations and their finance teams need to leverage data and numbers to paint important pictures and tell helpful stories. They need to use numbers to their advantage to better understand the company’s current performance and position.

One of the biggest tools in their arsenal is financial reporting. The process of gathering and reporting critical financial information will reveal a company’s performance over time. This is why having the most accurate and up-to-date information is key and why it’s vital to have a strong financial reporting process in place.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down what financial reporting is and the challenges companies are facing. We’ll also look at how to improve your reporting process and the role ERP plays in this. That way, you’ll be left in no doubt about the importance of financial reporting to your business.

What is financial reporting?

Financial reporting is the process of documenting and reporting your company’s financial activities over a set period of time, for example quarterly or yearly. These financial reports are used for a number of different reasons, such as organizing your accounting data and reporting on the company’s current financial status. The results are presented to stakeholders as well as the public.

Why is financial reporting important?

Financial reporting is key to understanding how well your business is performing from a financial perspective. While this is one of the top reasons for getting this process right, it isn’t the only one.

These reports are also crucial for managers , investors and stakeholders as they help them to assess whether the business is financially stable. It’s a way of showcasing financial integrity and giving complete transparency where needed.

It’s also worth mentioning that these are required by law for tax purposes and can simplify the process, reducing the risk of an error when filing taxes and saving your finance team a lot of time and effort. By accurately reporting on your finances, your team can ensure the business is compliant with all relevant rules and regulations and that it’s meeting the governmental requirements.

What’s more, analyzing and understanding financial reports can help the relevant parties to make better financial decisions, mitigate risks and ensure only sound economic decisions are made wherever possible. These reports give businesses and management important insights into their current assets and liabilities.

7 benefits of financial reporting

Another way to understand why financial reporting is so important is to look in more detail at how it benefits your business. To do this, we’ve pulled together a few real-world examples below:

1. Real-time tracking

By ensuring up-to-date, accurate reporting wherever possible, managers and senior teams will have access to centralized, real-time financial insights. This can be crucial for making quick decisions that could potentially have a significant impact on the business. It also makes it possible to recognize any potential roadblocks and reduce the risk of making a costly mistake.

2. Identifying trends and making better decisions

Looking back at financial data makes it much easier to identify past and present trends. These might be times when profit has increased, or perhaps spending has gone up. You might also be able to notice important patterns in the wider market. This can help you make much better financial decisions moving forward.

3. Managing debt more effectively

Debt can be a major roadblock in any business; it can slow or even cripple your success and growth. Financial reporting can improve debt management by helping to track your current assets and liabilities. These insights allow the finance team to gauge liquidity and manage the company’s debts accordingly.

4. Managing liabilities

Following on from this, managing liabilities such as loans and credit cards is important for the ongoing financial health of the business.

Financial reporting can help you organize and manage existing liabilities more effectively and can also highlight if you need to reduce these before making any other loan or financial applications.

5. Improving financial efficiency

By using financial reporting software, finance and accounting teams can ensure the most accurate and robust data and reporting process. This not only improves financial efficiency over time but also helps with compliance. As mentioned earlier, this is essential for managing your taxes, following the law and keeping your business active.

6. Maintaining transparency

Whether it's stakeholders, employees, customers or the general public, financial reporting can help your business to remain transparent with all relevant parties. This helps to ensure that all stakeholders and investors are treated fairly and share prices are maintained.

It can also be a very helpful way to demonstrate to employees and the public how your company is growing and its potential for the future. This could even contribute to an increase in staff productivity and employee retention rates.

7. Improving communication and business success

By giving unlimited access to essential financial insights and data, your organization can improve internal communication across departments. This gives your teams the ability to quickly spot and respond to challenges or trends. This in turn can help your business to be more efficient, innovative and productive.

What is included in financial reports?

Despite referring to a financial report as if it were one thing, there are actually serval different aspects required to make these possible. The key components included in financial reporting are:

  • The income statement: An income statement shows the financial performance of your business by summarizing sales, expenses and profits over a set time. This document will include the sales figures at the top and the final profit or loss at the bottom.
  • The balance sheet: A balance sheet is used to assess the liquidity of your business and whether it can pay off all its debts. This is done by presenting a list of the assets, liabilities and shareholders’ equity, typically on the last day of the set period (given on the accompanying income statement).
  • The statement of cash flows: This document gives an overview of all the cash flows associated with your business operations, financing and investment activities. It shows how money is used within the business and helps to support the income statement.
  • The statement of retained earnings: Lastly, you have the statement of retained earnings which can sometimes be left out of the reporting package. But when included, this document itemizes all changes to your organization’s retained earnings during that set period.

4 financial reporting challenges

We’ve spoken so much about the need for accurate and up-to-date information, but this doesn’t just happen automatically. The volume and complexity of financial information mean that finance professionals face a unique set of challenges they must overcome, including:

Centralizing the process

Lack of centralization for financial reporting processes is a massive challenge for many organizations. Using tools that lack a dynamic approach can decrease the accuracy, not to mention it can be tricky to manage versioning when multiple people are working with the same financial data and statements. Centralization is crucial to restrict manipulations and reduce the risk of errors.


Lack of centralization can also impact collaboration, another key challenge to finance teams. In order to pull, analyze and report on the right data, all teams across the company must work together.

A lack of collaboration among teams doesn’t allow for a detailed analysis and can make it much harder to understand and interpret the information in reports and any discrepancies that are identified.

Evolving regulations

Accounting teams must stay up-to-date with all data collection regulations, as well as any changes to laws around financial reporting. They must ensure that the latest regulatory changes required by local or governmental authorities are being rigorously applied.

Finding the right tools

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software plays a central role in the finance function, but these systems can be complex and challenging. However, some of the off-the-shelf reporting tools also associated with most enterprise software are inflexible or ineffective. As such, finding the right purpose-built reporting tools can be a real challenge.

How to improve your financial reporting process

If any of the challenges above sound familiar, we have good news. There are some simple steps that all finance professionals can follow to improve their reporting process instantly:

1. Identify time-consuming tasks

One of the first things you need to do is review your current financial reporting process and see what your team spends most of their time doing, so you can identify any time-consuming tasks. You can then decide which of these tasks can be automated, reducing the need to do labor-intensive tasks manually.

2. Standardize internal workflows

A lack of standardization is a big problem for businesses and their financial reporting process, so it’s best to tackle this head-on. To do this, when creating financial reports, you must ensure that your team uses the same:

  • Data source
  • Calculations
  • Formatting
  • Templates

This will help to create more accurate reports and reduce the risk of an error.

3. Automate repetitive tasks

As well as time-consuming tasks, it’s also a good idea to identify and automate repetitive tasks. Even if these tasks aren’t hugely time-consuming, automating repetitive tasks and frequent requests will free up your employee’s time to focus on more important responsibilities. Plus, this further increases accuracy and reduces the risk of errors.

4. Choose the right centralizing tools

A central data system can save your team countless hours dealing with source systems, plus it reduces security risks and increases productivity. Pulling information manually takes hours, and creating hundreds of different documents and spreadsheets is unmanageable. For this reason, it’s crucial to do some research and get the best possible tools in place to centralize your processes.

5. Develop a strategy that empowers leaders

You must ensure that all leaders have access to the right data at the right time, as well as the right tools to utilize this. By empowering leaders across the company and creating a data-driven culture, they’ll be able to make better financial decisions.

Not only this, but they’ll also be more connected to their department’s performance and expense metrics and how they contribute to larger business goals. This can make them more productive, passionate and better leaders.

The impact of ERP on financial reporting

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software has become an integral tool for many businesses as they recognize the need to centralize their databases. And when it comes to financial reporting, ERP can be a very powerful tool.

These solutions allow businesses to streamline their reporting process and create meaningful, comprehensive and customizable financial reports. They help to transform data and analysis into actionable insights that leaders can use to make better and more informed financial decisions.

The results speak for themselves. A recent report from Insights For Professionals found that over two-thirds (67%) of those using ERP for financial reporting gained increased visibility into their data. A further 50% said it allowed them to optimize the reporting process. Not only this, but one in five (20%) were able to eliminate departmental silos using ERP software.

However, while ERP systems offer important information that helps organizations to make smarter financial decisions, implementing these systems in your business is only the first step. If you want to get the most from these tools and see ERP have a real impact on your financial reporting process, regular maintenance and ERP auditing are absolutely essential. This way, you can ensure these systems are up-to-date and that they continue to deliver results.

Final thoughts

This guide proves why financial reporting is crucial for understanding how your business is performing financially and how you can use these detailed insights to ensure informed financial decisions.

But getting a strong, centralized reporting process in place doesn’t happen overnight. This requires you to invest in the right tools, such as ERP, and ensure that your finance teams do all they can to make it a smooth and collaborative process.

If this is something that you know your organization needs to work on this year, use our guide to build on your knowledge of financial reporting and understand the challenges you might face.

Finance Insights for Professionals

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