Fluent annual financial statements process at Brabant Water

Drinking water company Brabant Water wanted to improve the quality of their annual financial statements. The implementation of a Disclosure Management solution accelerates the process, ensures accurate version control and provides an automated audit trail. This increases the quality and reliability of the figures.

Adinda te Veldhuis en Henk de Boer
Adinda te Veldhuis en Henk de Boer

Henk de Boer, Head of Financial Economic Affairs at Brabant Water, tells us: “Last year was the first time I got involved in the annual reporting process. Version management needed a lot of attention and was prone to error. The final straw was the moment I put our latest version next to the test copy from the printer’s office and noticed that a modification had accidentally not been included.” With 800 employees, Brabant Water provides drinking water to 2.4 million inhabitants and companies in Noord-Brabant, a province in The Netherlands.

“We wanted to be able to focus on the content of the financial statements, instead of on version control,” tells Adinda te Veldhuis, consultant Accounting and internal control systems at Brabant Water. “Our first priority was to increase the quality of the annual financial statements. We wanted to avoid situations in which the auditor and our department would be using different versions,” tells Henk.

Improving the process

In the long run, Brabant Water is also striving to reduce the time it takes to prepare the annual financial statements. “The possibilities provided by the Disclosure Management solution enable you to apply changes to the process,” Wesley Schulte of Finext says. As Performance Management consultant he has been closely involved with the implementation of SAP Disclosure Management at Brabant Water.

“We wanted to be able to focus on the content of the financial statements instead of on version control.”

The new system supports people to take responsibility. “If you plan the design of the solution carefully, you can place the responsibility for the comments in the financial statements much lower in the organization. In the past, these comments were all written by the person who was ultimately responsible. Now, entry is possible at the source and, therefore, the responsibility can be placed at the source,” tells Henk.

“Moreover, the new tool provides the audit trail which you normally have to supply manually. It automates a part of my job, as a result I can focus more on the quality,” tells Adinda. “For the auditor it is much better if the audit trail has been recorded thoroughly,” Naida Sadžak of Finext, also closely involved in the project, says. Having been an auditor herself, she is able to look for improvements to the processes from an auditor’s perspective.

In addition to improving the quality, the improved version management also has a large impact on the workload pressure. “Now we present version 96 with a ‘big smile’,” says Adinda. “In the near future we will significantly reduce the number of versions, at the moment we are still gradually improving. Every text modification creates a new version.” “Further standardization of the process can bring even more improvements, which will lead to a drop in the number of cross checks,” Naida says.

Teamwork within the organization

The Executive Management at Brabant Water is very pleased with the new reporting process. “The management is positively surprised. Now, they can see all changes in the report at a glance,” Henk says. Moreover, also the auditor indicates in his reports that big improvements were made with respect to version control. “We can now focus on the statements, as a result of which the internal control will be at a higher level.”

“If you plan the design of the solution carefully, you can place the responsibility for the comments in the financial statements much lower in the organization.”

The annual financial statements bring different worlds together; Finance, Communication and IT. “We often see the separate departments working as islands while creating the annual financial statements,” Naida says. “By providing one product using one process, you involve the other parties more.” “Bringing together the small islands is an added value of the new solution,” says Adinda. “It is important to first set a baseline, in order to determine who performs which roll in the current process.”

Brabant Water team
Naida Sadzak, Henk de Boer, Adinda te Veldhuis and Wesley Schulte

More than just tooling

Brabant Water wants to add even more steps in the annual financial statements to the solution, for example by exploiting the workflows in the Disclosure Management tool. “Everybody is collaborating on one final document, in which each individual can work on their own chapter of the financial statements simultaneously,” tells Wesley. “By using the built-in workflow properly all stakeholders can collaborate even better in the process.” “A Disclosure Management solution is more than just tooling,” Henk says. “We did buy it for that purpose, but in the end it is a means to improve the process.”

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