Superior Client Delivery: Interactive Client Portal

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If you are a CPA, bookkeeper, or outsourced CFO, priority number one when closing the books for a client is to create an accurate, on-time financial package complete with statements, insights, and analysis.  That’s non-negotiable.  Where you do have flexibility is in how you deliver this information to the client.  Is it via PDF, spreadsheet, or direct access to the accounting system?  Here we make the case for a more modern and effective approach: delivering financials via a purpose-built, interactive client portal.

Legacy Method 1: Email the Client PDFs

For years, the tried and true delivery method has been to export data from your accounting system into Excel, render the statements data in a summarized readable format, create a few relevant charts and graphs, and then email your client PDFs of the spreadsheet and charts.  Why?  Because as the preparer, you have ultimate control over the content and format of the package.

This method hits the high notes but falls short in one major area — it exposes only the information you identify upfront before you send.  That means if the client wants to dive deeper into a certain number, for instance, to understand the specific transactions associated with a line item increase, then they are picking up the phone and calling you for details.  The flip side of this is that you can attempt to include vastly more detail in your PDFs, but it bloats the delivery and makes the package more difficult to manage and understand.

A PDF is also usually appropriate for one audience only — the C Suite.  Creating and sending multiple PDFs for various client employees, particularly for those who don’t have seniority to see full company detail, becomes instantly unwieldy.

Legacy Method 2: Email the Client Spreadsheets

An alternative to emailing PDFs is to send raw spreadsheets.  This works well for clients who are more financially savvy and know their way around Excel.  In this manner, you can include more detail on separate tabs within the delivery.  However, it also suffers from the same issues as PDFs as the detail is hard to structure in an intuitive manner and the package is still appropriate for only one top level audience.  Furthermore, Excel files often feel more raw and less polished, and firm branding is more difficult to make pervasive and native.

Legacy Method 3: Supply the Client with Accounting System Access

At first glance, adding client employees to your ERP instance may seem like a workable solution.  After all, these systems do a great job of summarizing financial data and then allowing for detailed discovery on demand.  However, there are five critical issues involved in this approach.

The first is that inviting non-accounting professionals into your accounting system is fraught with risk as they can inadvertently change your historical financials causing significant damage to your reporting. Second, these systems have a heavy learning curve associated with them and financial expertise is required to tease out the appropriate information. Third, all company data, including highly confidential information, is exposed when you allow users into your ERP, so this method would only be appropriate for C Suite level employees.  Fourth, there are often licensing limits with accounting software and putting additional user accounts into your ERP can come with significant incremental cost.  Finally, ERP systems are great at showing historical information, but poor at showing forward looking information, scenarios, or plans. Of course, these forward numbers are a critical component of your delivery.

Modern Method: Interactive Client Portal

There is a new approach that comes with significant advantages vs the alternatives — delivery via an interactive client portal.  The modern financial automation platform Telemetry allows you to not only automatically create comprehensive client reporting, but also to deliver it in the most high value, efficient manner possible.  Here’s what Telemetry can provide.

Summary with detail on demand
Through Telemetry Pro, the client receives a structured series of reports for overall understanding of key trends.  The UX then allows for drill-down from summary to detail at the client’s discretion.  This means clients are able to do self-paced discovery, giving them a far better financial comprehension.  It also means fewer calls into your firm for explanation.

Data always fresh
The day after you send PDFs or spreadsheets over email, that data is already out of date.  A client portal, on the other hand, always displays the most up-to-date financial information available.  Not only does the historical information update daily from your accounting software, but any adjustments to forecasts can be pushed out with just one click.

Client customization with flexible analyses
Unlike the other methods above, each client employee can select the analyses, charts, tables, and plans that they prefer to use to operate their business.  They can easily jump between scenarios to better understand upside and downside.  And they can share each one of them independently with any other employee.

Different views for different employees
Emailing PDFs and spreadsheets is a one-size-fits-all approach to sharing financial information.  Instead, with Telemetry, you have the option to customize the information in the delivery to each employee recipient.  A great example of this is segment P&Ls.  With Telemetry’s segment P&L engine, you can easily and scalably create a P&L for every key employee or team at your company.  Each of these can be shared individually with specific people so that they see all the information they need, but none of the information they shouldn’t.

Premium, branded look and feel
A client portal web destination like Telemetry can be firm-branded across the board.  It’s sleek, modern, and beautiful to use, a big step up from a vanilla PDF or spreadsheet.

Intelligence on what clients consume
Telemetry knows what your clients view and how often they return.  This allows the firm to lean in to the highest value services each client consumes, and, if required, intervene at the appropriate time to reduce client churn.

Superior security
Emailing documents is inherently risky — sharing confidential information is just one email forward away.  Telemetry, on the other hand, is a secure permissioned web destination requiring authentication to consume. Telemetry has also passed rigorous Soc2 Type II audits, meaning you can sleep well knowing your key financial data is safe.

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