Eleven Principles of Effective Reporting

I was at the Professional Accountants in Business Committee (PAIB) of the International Federation of Accountants meeting last week.  The PAIB has a number of task forces providing help to PAIBs in areas like risk management and internal control, governance and ethics and performance management , but today I want to talk about a good practice guide on principles of business reporting that is under development.  An exposure draft of the report was issued last May with comments due last month.   While the comments will result in some changes to the guide, the eleven principles outlined in the exposure draft will remain intact.  The eleven principles are

  1. Committing to Effective Reporting Processes
  2. Determining Roles and Responsibilities
  3. Planning and Controlling the Reporting Process
  4. Engaging Stakeholders
  5. Defining the Reporting Content
  6. Selecting Frameworks and Standards
  7. Determining Reporting Processes
  8. Using Reporting Technology
  9. Analyzing and Interpreting Reported Information
  10. Obtaining Assurance and Providing for Accountability and Transparency
  11. Evaluating and Improving Reporting Processes

I can hear many of you saying; well those are all very obvious, tell me something I don’t know.  My answer to that is; if it is so obvious, why to so many of us and our companies violate these principles every day. 

How many of you are still producing critical reports via excel spreadsheets? Are you really using reporting technology appropriately?   How many of you have put together a project plan or a business case to improve reporting so critical decisions can be made with more accurate and timely information just to be told there are bigger priorities?  Is your company really committed to effective reporting processes?  When was the last time you actually asked the users of your reports what they really need?  Are you really engaging the stakeholders?

My point is that I think we can all use a reminder every now and then of what it really takes to do reporting – external and internal – right.  The eleven principles is a good place to start with that refresher.  If you are interested in this guide or any of the others that IFAC produces, they can be found at www.ifac.org . Check it out, you might be surprised at the quality of the resources available to you.

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