Connecting the last mile of finance at Workiva Amplify

Key takeaway: Connecting financial close and compliance can help to relieve congestion in the last mile of finance, saving days or even weeks in producing financial disclosures.

Workiva Amplify was a hands-on summit. The majority of sessions in this 17-parallel-tracks summit were hands-on sessions with Workiva, and they were packed. And the attendees were younger than other conferences I’ve participated in over the years — not counting Scouting jamborees. I’ve been to conferences with a lot of buzz, but a conference of auditors, financial managers and compliance professionals with so much energy — I haven’t experienced that before.

Energetic attendees at rock concert one evening
Energetic attendees at a concert one evening
Photo: Workiva

… some companies lock up the key members of the accounting staff on the entire floor of a hotel room for a week

Throughout the summit, attendees were reminded of connected reporting, connected sheets, connected data, and linking. To get a handle on what Workiva means by “connected,” I attended a Workiva hands-on session on 10-K reporting.

For their 10-K preparations, some companies lock up the key members of the accounting staff on the entire floor of a hotel room for a week as they make the final changes of this critical report. Senior execs run room to room to make sure that everyone is in sync, and that changes made in one part of the report are also captured in other parts of the report. It’s a nightmarish week, and it’s also repeated on a smaller scale each quarter with the 10-Q reports.

Hands on sessions were the most attended
Hands-on sessions were the most attended.
Photo: Workiva

In the the hands-on 10-K session, the instructor took us through how to create hyperlinks throughout the document, like between the table of contents and various headings — ho, hum – I can do that in Word, right? Now, here’s what I can’t do so easily in Word — connected data. There are data links throughout the 10-K, and if I change the source data, it changes anywhere that data is used – and it keeps a record of those changes. So, let’s say I find an ERP error in data entry in the accounts receivable of a measly $10million. I correct that, and then it ripples through to anywhere that piece of data is used –perhaps in 15 different spreadsheets (Workiva calls them “connected sheets”), the 10-K, and even the presentation to the board.

… removing humans from boring, trivial tasks with cheap, smart integrations

No more do senior managers and executives chase down dozens of people to make sure they incorporate the change, and no more having to take out an annual lease of a couple of floors of a mid-town hotel for their sequestered accountants.  Plus, with all of this connectedness, data transfer errors are greatly reduced, thus reducing the chance of a misstatement.  I later attended a SOX reporting hands-on session – same thing.  This connected data and reporting made me think of the promises of robotic process automation (RPA), though, in the case of Workiva, the data and documents are either in the Workiva system or are connected through APIs, rather than an RPA tool.  Still, the benefits — removing highly educated humans from boring, trivial data transfer and manipulation tasks with cheap, smart integrations between enterprise applications — are the same.

The last mile of finance is the most congested…. It’s this last mile that Workiva is helping to run smoother.

A good friend at Gartner with whom I worked on several research projects, John Van Decker, called reconciliation, close and disclosure at end of the fiscal year the “last mile of finance.”  Running parallel to reconciliation and close in this last mile are the SOX and financial statement audits.  It reminds me of the most horrendous last mile on the Capital Beltway around Washington, DC, where the express lanes dump into the regular lanes just a mile short of the American Legion bridge crossing the Potomac from Virginia to Maryland.  It’s this last mile that Workiva is helping to run smoother.

And Workiva is not alone on the last mile challenge.  At Amplify, Deloitte announced a new strategic partnership with Workiva.  Speaking with Deloitte representatives, I learned that they are investing in building a number of targeted Deloitte-branded solutions on Workiva’s platform that they believe will further speed up the close process.

I’ve puzzled for years on why more GRC vendors have not invested in developing solutions for the last mile of finance, but for now, Workiva’s capabilities to link SOX compliance and audit to reconciliation, close and disclosure reporting, along with connected sheets and connected reporting are a solely Workiva differentiator in the GRC market.  Workiva would do well to invest in expanding its GRC capabilities beyond its basic SOX and audit solutions, and a very basic ERM application. With a broader GRC portfolio, Workiva’s internal linking capabilities could enable better connections between risk management, compliance, audit, third party management, IT security and other GRC functions.  And the linking capabilities to enterprise financial and performance management solutions could advance integrated risk management.  For instance, connecting performance management and risk management by linking KPIs and KRIs could bring critical insights to decision making on both the planning and execution of strategic business initiatives. 

Note: Workiva did not pay for this article; nor did anyone else.  The opinions and observations in this article are mine alone and not necessarily the views of Workiva.

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Trip report: Risk Summit highlights digital transformation and a tech start-up called PwC

On 27 and 28 March 2019, at PwC’s Risk Summit in Boston, PwC senior leaders and consultants in the risk assurance and consulting practices shared with their clients and over three dozen industry analysts their vision of how digital technologies are transforming both risk management and business performance.

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Time to put technology at the forefront of your GRC strategy

Having just finished analyzing the data and writing the report on the triennial OCEG GRC technology strategy survey, I stepped into the family room to see that my wife was watching a recent episode of Amazon’s Grand Tour — the season 3 Mo’town Funk episode. Jeremy Clarkson was test driving this fantastic new McLaren Senna. 

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Adding another piece to the puzzle of its GRC strategy, SAI Global is buying BWise from Nasdaq

Key takeaways

1 – The acquisition of BWise gives SAI Global a much needed boost to its competitiveness in the financial services sector

2 – SAI Global needs to assure BWise and Compliance 360 customers of its viability and ongoing support for both GRC solutions

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3 critical success factors for strategic risk management and 5 questions corporate directors should ask

The announcement from PG&E that the California utility will file for bankruptcy reminded me of a question posed a few years ago by the head of GM’s risk committee: “How do we manage strategic risks?”

Key takeaways —

  1. People can and do die from poor strategic risk management
  2. Due to blind spots in the risk vision of executives and directors, risks can emerge that unbalance corporate strategies and create existential events
  3. The critical success factors for strategic risk management include encouraging and rewarding risk awareness, creating goodwill with stakeholders, and building a strategic risk response plan

NASA’s ARIA team produced this map of damage to Paradise, California, from the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Gatwick: attack of the drones

Authors – French Caldwell and Richard Stiennon

Key takeaways –

  1. Air transportation infrastructure is particularly vulnerable to non-lethal attacks by drones
  2. Regulatory controls alone will not stop drone attacks
  3. Attacks like the one at Gatwick this week are a serious reputational blow to the drone industry and rapidly growing drone control software and analytics vendor ecology
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When to treat family and friends like acquaintances

Key takeaway

Third party risk management is not just for suppliers, IT vendors and service providers.  In many cases, subsidiaries or other organizations within your enterprise, and even well-known business customers should be brought into the third party management program.

See the source image

The problems at Deutsche Bank and Danske Bank reminded me of an inquiry I had with a CISO at a large high tech equipment manufacturer.  We were discussing best practices in third party risk management.  I asked him  what types of companies he was monitoring and he told me they were subsidiaries.  He was putting these subsidiaries through the same hoops as he would any other third party vendor, classifying them into three risk categories, doing deep dives and continuous monitoring on the higher risk ones, and documenting certification and accreditation on all of them.

The Financial Times today recounted Deutsche’s current regulatory rows — money laundering by a former subsidiary Regula that it had acquired in the British Virgin Islands and Deutsche’s role as a corresponding bank processing over €160billion in suspicious payments for Danske Bank Estonia.  And of course Danske Bank Estonia was a subsidiary acquired by Danske.

Being “in the family,” it is apparent that Regula and Danske Bank Estonia did not get enough scrutiny by their parents.  Had they been treated as high risk third parties, the risks and lack of effective controls to prevent money laundering may have been discovered earlier, avoiding the heavy supervisory presence and regulatory investigations that the parents now enjoy.

Also, Danske Estonia’s use of Deutsche Bank instead of its own parent to transfer money out of Estonia could have helped to bypass parental scrutiny.  Should Deutsche have raised a red flag — like a neighbor who lets the neighbor kid smoke pot in her backyard?  Deutsche didn’t raise a red flag, instead stating they weren’t the ones responsible for validating the source of the funds — that was Danske’s problem. 

Yet, now it’s all come back on Deutsche, and the lesson learned for the rest of us — when a lot of money is on the line, treat your family and your friends as acquaintances.

Recommendations

1 — Bring high risk subsidiaries into your third party risk management program

2 — High risk customers should also be included in your third party risk management program






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