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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

Combine data and narrative for better insights

Toby Hatch
Senior Product Marketing Director for Enterprise Performance Management (EPM)

According to Al Marciante, senior director of product management at Oracle, the benefits of combining good quality, system-of-record corporate data with rich narrative text in external reporting can be a significant differentiator for companies.

Marciante sees value in collaborative reporting, especially now when remote working has become standard for most companies. It’s key to collaborate easily and share qualitative and quantitative data among stakeholders seamlessly. This ensures everyone has the same insights across finance and operations.

90 percent of companies agree that expanding qualitative commentary is critical, yet most spend all their time gathering data and have no time to create narrative or do extensive analysis. Without this narrative reporting accompanying the data, significant facts can be ignored or obscured.

Narrative reporting effectively explains corporate value and can impact perception of management quality. If you could combine the system-of-record data with descriptive text by tapping into the wisdom of smart people at your company, corporate reporting could be vastly improved. Never has it been more critical to give internal, and especially external, stakeholders confidence in the numbers and share narrative forecasts.

The process of collecting the narrative text and formatting the reports can also be greatly improved. Marciante describes it this way:

“Does this process sound familiar? Someone creates a folder and starts to dump relevant data and text files into it. Someone, possibly other than the gatherer of relevant files, then has to put it all together into a report. Formatting of the report may be the same from period to period, or it may not. Directional words describing values (like positive or negative variance) may be consistent from one period to the next, or may not. Finally, reviews are often done by emailing the draft report around asking for comments. This method does not enforce security. Not all reviewers should have access to all parts of the report—not to mention that emailing sensitive data can be dangerous, and there is no good way of tracking who has reviewed it for process or audit purposes.”

This method, as it is described above, does not enforce standards.  And, if values change during the review period, it’s a nightmare to ensure all instances of changed data have been found, updated, and reviewers notified.

Marciante said that 50 percent of companies are not confident with their existing tools. Given the above description, it’s no wonder.

But there’s good news. The narrative reporting capabilities in Oracle Cloud EPM can address these issues. It helps you combine corporate data with rich, narrative text. Some of the features include: automatic formatting of data from many sources (spreadsheets, text documents, presentations, etc.), defined fields that are linked and update automatically, workflow for review, the ability to review a snapshot of the entire report at any time, and security for all parts of the report.

Marciante cites the success of Investec, which achieved the following benefits from their project:

  • A central information store with strong controls over the process
  • Process flow that enables a reliable and trusted source of information
  • Ability to refer to prior periods instantly to check, compare and answer questions
  • Assurance that an accurate record is made for sign off and approval

The bottom line is that Investec now has all its critical reporting in one place, with the ability to compare previous monthly or quarterly reports to tell an accurate—and consistent—story to management, stakeholders and regulators.

Another customer, Montefiore, leverages narrative reporting as part of their complete close process.

Learn more about the narrative reporting capabilities in Oracle Cloud EPM.

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