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building compelling visual reports and dashboards isn't as complex and time-consuming as you think

Creating compelling visuals seems like a bonus, not a necessity, when working with business managers or presenting to executives. Delivering accurate data takes priority over the way you present the data.

The problem is, without a clear visual it's more difficult to tell a story through the numbers. When your time is consumed checking the numbers and making last minute changes, you're caught in the weeds unable to see the big picture. You're asked for the 'why' behind the numbers, but you worked overtime just to get the data right. On top of that, creating dashboards in spreadsheets would take days or weeks of time you don't have.

Common challenges with dashboards

There's not enough time

There's not enough time to create compelling reports when you are manually consolidating and validating your data

Reports and dashboards don't build themselves. Especially if you're relying on spreadsheets to build out visual aids for data. Getting to the right numbers takes priority over the look.

Problems you deal with:

  • Cobbling spreadsheets together to get the latest version takes days or longer
  • Making sure you're working with the latest version can take detective work
  • Understanding changes and edits other business owners made can be tricky
  • Double-checking the model to make sure there are no errors or inconsistencies before your present

It's not easy to build quality reports

Meeting the needs of each different stakeholder can be challenging

When you're already crunched for time, deciding which KPIs and data points tell the best story can be difficult. You also have to build different versions for your different groups of stakeholders. When it comes down to it, you don't have the time or brainpower given the rest of the work you're doing.

You need to consider:

  • Which data points are the best to tell a story?
  • When it takes so long to get to the right data, how should you present it visually?
  • Last-minute updates always mean you're running around to deliver the final version on time
  • How will you answer the 'why' behind the numbers, which is a whole new exercise
  • Even if you have a dashboard, splicing and dicing the data adds hours of work

The data has to be correct and up-to-date

Finance teams sink so much time in manual processes that just getting the latest data is a challenge

At the end of the day, presenting inaccurate or outdated numbers could cost you your job. So, you focus more time on gathering and checking that you have the latest numbers instead of how the data will be presented. But without a clean visual, you end up getting more questions and more work.

Challenges you face include:

  • Data accuracy is the top priority, the rest is secondary
  • Last-minute requests and edits add to the complexity of delivering the right numbers
  • You may have the right data, but it might not be the latest data
  • You're working on a hard deadline, with ad hoc requests coming in last minute
  • The risk of presenting something inaccurate is too great

Imagine a planning process that makes it easy to create compelling visuals

You spend so much time manually consolidating and validating data that you have no time to build quality, relevant reports. And even if you have the time, spreadsheets don't make it easy to create visually appealing dashboards. When you spend more time on visuals, you can spend your time on strategic analysis and getting buy-in from stakeholders.

You need an active planning process that meets three criteria—It has to be collaborative, comprehensive, and continuous. With these three factors, you have participation from key stakeholders, the tools and information necessary to build complex dashboards quickly, and you have up-to-date models that can be refreshed in minutes. Benefits of active planning include:

Finance teams need a tool that improves collaboration with stakeholders


  • Engage finance and business owners across the organisation with ease of use
  • Empower adoption with self-service capabilities
  • Spend more time analysing your model instead of creating it
  • Always work with real-time data
  • Drag-and-drop report building features
  • Have confidence that everyone is working in the same model version
Finance teams need a tool that is comprehensive


  • Create dashboards that integrate your actuals and plan
  • Easily manage models and forecasts across all integrated data sources
  • Run flexible what-if analyses
  • Access audit trails to see what changed, when, and who did it
  • Easily account for multiple currencies, exchange rates, etc.
  • Get business insights from real-time data
  • Build board reports for senior management
Finance teams need a tool that lets them have financial plans that are continuous


  • Automate data consolidation from all sources
  • Export operational data from GL, payroll, purchasing, etc.
  • Collaborate with business partners
  • Course-correct with more agility
  • Run scenario plans in minutes
  • Update reports with one click
  • Use flexible modelling that lets you build on the fly and adjust dimensions as needed

When you have these three components, we call it "active planning"

With Workday Adaptive Planning, my role is much more strategic. My team and I spend more time helping drive decisions rather than building reports. It's a huge benefit to be able to really contribute to the success of the company.

Jason Bingham, Corporate VP Finance, ZAGG, Inc.

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