With a rise in the frequency and volume of corporate disclosures to facilitate more transparent markets, financial compliance teams across companies and in multiple jurisdictions need solutions that will enable them to realize accuracy, control, and time enhancements in the reporting process. What makes this need an urgent one is a considerable shortening of reporting timeframes, accompanied by more complex financial and legal implications. Here’s what companies really need: Disclosure Management software.
Before we go on to describe Disclosure Management systems, let us understand some of the problems compliance teams face.
- Lack of Centralized Working: A manual reporting system often involves multiple people from different teams working with their version of a document. This propagates a disconnect between the people involved in creating the report where everyone is not always on the same page.
- Lack of Version Control and Document Management: Arising from a lack of centralization, different versions of the same document often mean that commits and updates to and from a repository aren’t possible. This is especially important when dealing with larger reports that have many sections with various interrelationships between each other.
- No Visibility and Control of Reports: Since versioning is absent, people in various reporting teams neither have the right clarity concerning who is working on which part of the document, nor the ability to dictate who can make changes to which sections of a report. This leaves a lot of room for error and misrepresentation that can be entirely accidental.
- No Linkages Between Facts: Reporting teams must produce reports that contain consistent facts and figures and the old system of manual reporting isn’t conducive to this. With the rise of Disclosure Management systems, numbers are interlinked in a way that any change in one place will reflect throughout the report.
Next, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of employing a Disclosure Management system for your business and what one should look out for when choosing one.
Disclosure Management Software – The Benefits
There are 3 major benefits of a good disclosure management system that we have briefly touched upon in one form or another already. These are:
- Collaboration: Perhaps the most important benefit of a Disclosure Management system is the workflow it affords its users by managing the editing and approval process between individuals and teams. Financial statements are typically broken down into sections and subsections with typically only one editor working on any one section at a time. When a section is completed, the software can notify other team members to keep them in the loop and proceed with the next step. It also facilitates comparison between versions at any point in time by highlighting changes.
- Streamlining the reporting process: Taking off from the previous point, one of the biggest upsides of a robust Disclosure Management solution is that it unifies multiple teams working on different parts of a document or report and organizes the entire exercise by providing full visibility to those working on it. This eliminates dissonance between individuals and brings everyone on the same page.
- Flexibility and speed: Source data can come from consolidations, BI systems, core financials, spreadsheets, and even manual entries. With a good Disclosure Management system by your side, a firm can, at any given time, refresh this disclosure data from the various source systems so that it can be combined along with a narrative to generate financial and regulatory statements efficiently.
- Compliance and control: Be it a grant of access to particular sections in a report or approvals for individual chapters, a good Disclosure Management software can enable you to maintain a spotless audit trail and allow for publication of your financial statements in XBRL.
Having seen some of the most important benefits of Disclosure Management systems, it’s time to understand how to assess them on their merits as there is a whole sea of them to choose from and the choices can sometimes be overwhelming.
How to Evaluate a Disclosure Management Solution
The process of choosing the right disclosure management solution begins with an inward assessment of pain points and gaps in the current system of reporting being used in the organization. A good starting point may be to gather all the individuals and teams involved in the reporting creation process and enquire about some of the typical bottlenecks in their workflows and what can be done to mitigate them. Conducting this exercise will also give key decision-makers in the organization a fair idea about what to look out for when purchasing a Disclosure Management solution eventually.
That said, there are 5 key aspects one should consider when evaluating prospective solutions:
- Assessing Potential Vendors: Engaging with all stakeholders responsible for creating a report like Finance, Actuarial, Procurement, IT, etc. is a good way to determine final requirements and proceed with full software and vendor due diligence. Evaluating existing client references and their final iXBRL reports is also a good way to gauge vendor competency. Vendors that provide sample tagged reports for your organization can make it much easier to assess the quality and make an informed decision.
- Integration of Source Systems: It is prudent to look for a solution that can easily hook into your existing ERP system or any other source system to pull data into the Disclosure Management system using APIs or online spreadsheets. This handshake between the ERP and Disclosure Management systems needs to be facilitated by the technical teams of the respective systems.
- Training: A vendor offering a reliable Disclosure Management solution will always offer training optionally as part of the package. It is important to spend time training your staff in the basics of the software as it will bolster the adoption rate across the entire business thereby reducing reliance on external resources in the future.
- Book a Demo: Most vendors offer the ability to book a live demonstration of their offering that can give you a better idea about how the solution works in the real world. This is a great way to understand whether a given solution is the right fit for your organization or not. Your vendor of choice may even provide access to a limited period free trial that can familiarize your team with the Disclosure Management solution and enable you to assess its real-world viability for your firm.
- Support: A good Disclosure Management solution from a vendor will offer multiple tiers of support at different price points to suit everyone’s needs. Choose the one that you feel best fits your organization’s needs. Good after-sales support is often tough to come by and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Let’s now take a look at some of the most important features you should consider when looking to purchase a disclosure management solution for your organization.
Must-have Features Of A Disclosure Management Solution
When looking for disclosure management software, you are typically looking for anything that will increase accuracy, efficiency, and control. Large business groups or organizations generally have a stronger desire for improved collaboration, and tools that integrate with multiple source systems. Whether you are looking for a tool to perform management, regulatory, or statutory disclosures, here are a few features that you should keep an eye out for:
- Cloud-based SaaS Offering: A Disclosure Management system that is hosted securely on the cloud provides many benefits to consumers including easier deployment, access to an always evolving suite of products, taxonomies that are updated periodically, seamless customer support, and much more.
- User Experience: Any software is only as good as it is easy to use. Look for solutions that offer rich built-in workflow features with a familiar user interface that allows users to seamlessly navigate the editing and approval processes as well as notify individuals and teams automatically when the preceding steps have been finished.
- Data Governance and Rights Management: Look for a Disclosure Management system that allows you to assign approvers to different sections of a report and prevent further changes to approved sections. This is extremely valuable to larger organizations along with the ability to assign users as contributors to specific sections or report elements thereby improving document integrity.
- Integrations: Choosing a Disclosure Management system that allows you to hook into your source system directly (ERP, data warehouse, BI system, etc.) is invaluable as it alleviates the activity of manually rekeying or copy-pasting data into reports. Additionally, a solution that allows you to export your report to a format of your choice (PDF, MS Office, XBRL, iXBRL, etc.) is a huge plus.
- Validations: Your Disclosure Management system of choice must come with a built-in validator to guarantee accuracy and mathematical consistency of facts and figures throughout your financial reports and to ensure a submission that passes without incident. The ability to automatically identify totals and subtotals and build validation rules accordingly is a bonus.
- Roll Forward and Version Compare: A good Disclosure Management system streamlines the process of copying figures from the prior year’s financial statements, copying validation rules to the new document and even carrying iXBRL tagging rules forward if relevant. This is one of the biggest time-savers for report creators and is an absolute must-have. As for version comparison, it makes last-minute adjustments to reports much easier and saves time required to review and re-review documents by only highlighting changes. This builds more confidence in the integrity of the document for auditors and board members alike.
With the right Disclosure Management software, the entire report creation process can become greatly simplified resulting in huge time and cost savings for any organization. With IRIS CARBON® you get all of the capabilities mentioned above in addition to a few more. Let’s explore them.
IRIS CARBON®’s Disclosure Management Capabilities
Streamline your report preparation with a disclosure management system like IRIS CARBON(R), a robust platform with intuitive features and unlimited support to make your last mile report preparation easy. Here are some of the highlights of the platform that make the entire process seamless for you:
- Smooth Collaboration: The IRIS CARBON® platform is a standard-setter when it comes to collaborating with multiple teams on one single document with full control and visibility.
- Smart Data Linking: Link your spreadsheet with the XBRL document and save time editing and reviewing so that any changes made in the spreadsheet reflect in your XBRL document too, and subsequently, in all other output formats – iXBRL, PDF, or Word.
- Version Control: Our single-source platform is cloud-based and ensures all users are always working on the latest version of the document at all times. A central repository stores all prior versions, enabling easy viewing, comparison, and restoration.
- Easy Audit & Review: The IRIS CARBON® platform enables you to seamlessly track, review and approve changes on your document and XBRL using progress dashboards, smart filters, and comment threads among other things.
- One Source, Many Outputs: With IRIS CARBON®, create outputs in multiple formats such as Word, PDF, HTML, XBRL/iXBRL from a single source document with relative ease.
- Unfettered Consulting & Training: Get help deciding the best reporting strategy for your organization based on your unique requirements. We hold customized workshops for our customers that help your internal teams gear up for all regulatory requirements.