Improving Data Accuracy for Performance Reporting

Addressing the most common data challenges in higher ed
By: | Issue: July, 2017
June 6, 2017

College and university leaders manage large datasets that are compiled across people, departments and systems. Producing quality performance reports, institutional effectiveness measures, and academic data can be a challenge in today’s environment. In addition to maintaining reliable and accurate data, higher ed leaders are continually asked to do more work, with more depth—but without additional resources. 

This pre-recorded webcast took an in-depth look at practical solutions to the most common data challenges in higher education, including the potential risk for errors, inaccuracies and lost data, as well as strategies to improve reporting accuracy by combining financial and operations data for performance reporting.

Michael Cox

Senior Product Marketing Manager


Moderator: Let’s start by discussing a common conundrum of finance teams: the push of higher demand for work output combined with the pull of more high-value work needed from finance. It’s a good thing that leaders need a higher focus on supporting decision-making, but it’s a consistent challenge to find enough time to do that quality analysis.

The biggest reason why is non-value-added time spent on processes. Time is being spent on data review, version control, collecting data and other tasks driven by manual processes. The next dot for many FPA teams is the opportunity to shift time from non-value processes related to analysis. In fact, almost 7 in 10 teams reported wasting more than nine hours per month on non-value-added tasks, and almost one-third of teams wasted more than 20 hours per month on those tasks. We’re spending too much time on non-value-added tasks and missing the opportunity to do what matters: spending time on that analysis.

If we don’t focus time on analysis, decisions will still be made and they’ll probably be based on gut feel rather than actual data. One-quarter of decision-makers do not use financial analysis as a part of their decision-making process. And almost 6 in 10 selectively use financial analysis before making a decision just to support their own decisions.

The good news is that you have a tremendous opportunity to help the organization make data-driven decisions. The appetite for analysis is dependent on connecting the dots between the financial and operational data to support that decision-making. And that’s exactly what CFOs are looking for. Your challenge is finding a way to combine that financial and operational data in a way that streamlines the process, that ensures accuracy, and that builds a business narrative based on the analysis.

We help our customers work smartly through our collaborative work management platform, Wdesk, and the solutions we’ve build on top of it. When we talk about work, we’re talking about your processes, reporting and ongoing collaboration related to your data. That involves the creation, collaboration, connecting and sharing of data, narrative, presentations and disclosures across the life cycle of your processes. When we talk about smart, we’re describing how Wdesk provides a differentiated user experience across data, dashboards, links, history, audit trails and many other capabilities.

So you might be wondering, “How does Wdesk offer a better way to do reporting?” Well, our customers tell us this: It drives collaboration whether on small teams or enterprisewide initiatives. It gives them control over their data. The data that exist outside of Wdesk, whether structured or unstructured, or financial or non-financial, are easily brought into the platform, which creates a single source of truth for everyone who’s involved in your process.

Wdesk provides a rich history and audit trail that’s automatically created and saved any time a change is shared. Everything that happens in Wdesk leaves a record, which gives you version control, and everyone has access to the latest version.

Wdesk eliminates checkout systems, email trails and handwritten notes. It has simultaneous control collaboration, which means that everyone has the right information at the right time. There’s also data consistency, because data within Wdesk, whether native or imported, are connected across the platform. When any change occurs, users can trust that the numbers and narrative are automatically updated without additional and manual work.

And finally, our customers have a solution-specific approach that gives them flexibility to manage enterprise-level data and reporting that supports more informed decision-making.

Michael Cox: Wdesk is a cloud-based platform that powers all of our applications, which seamlessly work together to help you streamline any reporting process. And everything can be customized for your own reporting needs.

Editing a document is as simple as clicking and typing. You can easily change the font, size, color, alignment—just as you would with many other applications. The outline is how we organize content, and the document can be broken up into sections based on your workflow and desired organization. You can easily navigate to different sections of very large docs, just by clicking through. You can also have subsections to create your organization scheme, and the outline allows me to see what’s happening in the document at any given time.

Imagine if I had 100 different sections in a document—that could mean I have 100 different people working on the document at the same time. You might be wondering, “How’s it possible to control and manage that kind of collaboration?” Well, we control that through our document’s properties, in our advanced permissions editor. We have four different types of permissioning: an owner, editor, viewer and no access.

Wdesk offers a handful of ways teams can communicate within the platform, including tasking, commenting and digital review. Wdesk offers you control and locks section-level permissioning, allowing collaboration through multiple people working in the same document at the same time in their own sections.

The workbook is typically the source of your data. In Wdesk we have very powerful functionality called “linking.” It’s not like the linking you might have tried before in other applications—it’s unique to Wdesk. Linking is extremely powerful in keeping data consistent and offering one true source for a given set of data. 

We also offer a cool feature called black line. I used to be in charge of the executive management report, which week by week we would send out after gathering data from cash flow, invoicing, sales and expense reporting—and that’s a lot of data to update in a report. In Wdesk, you can quickly run a black line and identify a spot that you have not updated, or get a side-by-side comparison between two numbers.

With all the tools that we talked about and more, you can structure your own individual workflows.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit