Detroit submitted its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) early for the first time in more than a decade this year, thanks in part to GL Wand, a Microsoft Excel-based reporting tool.

GL Wand provides users with a direct link via Excel to financial information in Detroit’s Oracle ERP system, significantly reducing the preparation time for the report. The city submitted its fiscal year 2009-2010 CAFR two weeks early.

The city started using GL Wand in 2009. Detroit’s financial staff also used it to complete its 2008 and 2009 CAFRs within one fiscal year. The tool was created by Excel4apps.

“The ability to drill down directly from the CAFR to the supporting transaction detail has been a great analytical tool,” said Norman L. White, chief financial officer for Detroit, in a statement. He said it appears Detroit is now ahead of other cities on the technology that supports financial reporting.

Before using GL Wand, the city would manually run Oracle reports and then import the data into Excel. Now, those using the tool can pull data and transmit it directly to Detroit’s CAFR template, speeding up the entire process.

“The big difference [for Detroit] is the ability to have a predefined template that you can refresh for different time periods,” explained Chris Meyer, director Americas with Excel4apps. “The structure of the data doesn’t change too much. That is what accelerated the whole process for [Detroit] and allowed them to catch up.”

According to Excel4apps, other government users of GL Wand include Louisville, Ky.; Clark County, Wash.; Stanislaus County, Calif.; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

With many governments looking for ways to improve efficiency and streamline costs, the tool could be an effective solution for data reporting needs.

“It’s fairly inexpensive, but the deployment of it itself is too,” Meyer added. “The installation is only one hour and with the easy-to-use wizards, it’s a product end-users can actually use.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.