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VIEWPOINT: The all year Annual Report

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“The financial year-end comes and goes, so now the financial department knuckles down to its yearly wrap-up while the other departments compile their results.”

Use the annual report as a management tool and ease the year-end pain

The second of South Africa’s bi-annual reporting ‘silly seasons’ ends in early October. Like me, hundreds of weary people around South Africa involved in accounting, sustainability, investor relations, corporate governance and graphic design are now catching up on sleep and their work backlogs.

Yet, it really needn’t be like this

JSE-listed companies must issue their audited annual reports within three months of their financial year-ends. If they miss the due date they can claim a further three months by circulating provisional results, but this is costly and doesn’t reflect well on corporate reputations.

Certain giant corporations employ full-time teams that work on this key document all year, but in most cases the annual report is the responsibility of the company secretary, financial director, or corporate affairs/investor relations. Par for the course is that about two months before the fiscal year-end, individuals tasked with it start up the information-gathering process, but are often sidetracked by other demanding responsibilities. Those in the company that supply source data, such as health and safety, operations and HR, are equally focused on day-to-day business, particularly as many regard the annual report as an irritation that distracts from ‘real’ work.

The financial year-end comes and goes, so now the financial department knuckles down to its yearly wrap-up while the other departments compile their results. All too soon it is 60 days to the deadline and the annual panic breaks out. The midnight oil burns furiously over the next few weeks as exhausted staffers and consultants wrestle results, strategies and risks into the annual report format. Finally, the annual report is done, but to what effect? Have they produced a concise and focused insight into company performance, or has the lack of time and planning delivered a meandering information dump, held together by graphic design and pictures?

What a wasted opportunity …

Yes, an annual information dump is a waste of management time and resources – yet such an opportunity lost. Experts from around the world have refined the IR -integrated reporting framework and guidelines such as the GRI into handy management tools that are tightly aligned with JSE requirements. Embrace King III, IR and GRI and embed these into risk, strategy, environmental statistics, monthly management reports and board packs for a seamless flow-through of annual report data.

Your company will gain on so many levels. End the pain of the year-end report and enable a shift to integrated thinking throughout the year to reveal new opportunities, reduce costs and refine your value proposition.

Author: Clive Lotter is an Integrated Reporting Consultant and writer of Annual Reports for listed companies.