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Economic climates today are volatile, and while growth is occurring it’s slower than in previous decades, and marked with cautious optimism. Now, more than ever before, extra scrutiny is being placed on the decisions made by executives and how they impact business performance. The following 5 areas examine the typical points of scrutiny, the questions executives are facing, and provides some practical steps leaders can take to achieve better performance by identifying, addressing, and integrating the primary domains in their organization.

Finance, Accounting, and Company-Wide Planning

  • Do budgets and forecasts differ from actuals?
  • What is the impact of decision making on budgets and planning throughout the company?

Every company strives to budget and forecast accurately in any economic climate. Often the difference between survival and success can be found in how well, accurate, and quickly organizations financially plan and report. Accurate planning enables executives to make more informed responsible decisions as the business moves forward.

By tapping into enterprise planning solutions leaders can allow more people to easily participate in the planning cycle. This allows accountability for planning to be extended to individual business units and automates approval workflows at accounting and executive levels. Gone are the days when executives could afford to guess-stimate, or take shots in the dark. Leaders need to make better use of the ability to collect the corporate knowledge that is spread amongst the ranks, and puts it to use in the planning and forecasting process for more accurate planning and accountability.

Accelerate Accounting and Transform the Office of Finance

  • How long does it take for finance to complete accounting close process?

The longer this process takes, the less time your employees have to be working on other tasks, such as financial performance analysis. To transform the office of finance into the back bone of performance executives need to give finance and accounting the time and ability to provide higher value by focusing on activities like budgeting, reporting, and analyses. That is only possible when organizations learn to accelerate closing processes. By analyzing current closing processes and re-engineer them for more efficiency, organizations can typically shrink the process to four days or less.

  • Does the finance organization know where the company is headed, what will happen, when, and why, early enough to act and react to meet or exceed corporate objectives?

Transforming the office of finance means being able to provide predictable financial and operational performance analysis, along with timely, sustainable compliance and early insights into where the business is headed, relative to goals and forecasts. Transforming finance into the backbone of performance gives decision makers a clear view of what is happening and the ability quickly and precisely adjust plans, targets, and resource allocations across the organization. Executives are better able foresee problems, seize new opportunities, and act in time to keep the organization on course.

Simply put, accounting can be more productive and can do more each month if less of their time is spent in the close process. It may also be possible to reduce the size of the team that performs the close activities and reallocate resources to other finance functions.

Enterprise Reporting

  • How easy is it to understand profits by product type for a given time period?
  • How long does it take to get the numbers for a quarter, or year-to-date numbers?

For many organizations the answer to these questions is easily a few days or more. Decision makers need the ability gain high-level information as well as access to in-depth analysis and trends more quickly in volatile climates. Executives need the ability to pull a wide array of company information into presentation-ready formats quickly.

By using enterprise reporting, executives can access a broad spectrum of information. More importantly they can access it in a format they can use and understand quickly. With accurate information readily available, decision makers can make informed, responsible choices that take advantage of current opportunities in the market. Further, by analyzing trending information leaders can determine the overall health of business and identify potential issues before they occur.

Managing Strategy and Performance Indicators

  • Is there a method to establish benchmarks for current performance that identifies areas for improvement?
  • Does the organization strategy include a roadmap that demonstrates the impact on the business, guides and weights initiatives to ensure successful execution?

Scorecards are one of the key tools that can help executives manage strategy effectively and execute on objectives. Yet many scorecard projects fail or deliver less than desired results. Why? They are not set up efficiently or effectively. Used correctly scorecards are powerful tools to manage performance against strategy. But to perform this critical task there are some basic requirements. First, it is vital that executives contribute to setting up the metrics and targets; this is not just IT’s job. It’s also important to integrate scorecards into everyday processes and develop a strategy map to show the relationship among metrics.

An executive decision maker once said “I have lots of information, but very little intelligence”, having data is nice, but more often than not executives need to see it in a form factor that makes sense to the business user. They want to know which areas are excelling within the company as well as which areas are struggling without having to look at multiple scorecards, reports, or spreadsheets. Dashboards featuring the KPI’s specific to company goals and objectives can do just that. Dashboards can be integrated with enterprise reporting solutions enabling decision makers to drill into information to reveal the sources of the indicator and gain intelligence out of information. The combination of high-level visual intelligence provided with detailed analysis ability gives leaders everything they need to steer the business in the right direction.

Automated, Consolidated Financials

  • How costly is it to generate financial reports, both in time and dollars?
  • How confident are decision makers in the integrity of financial reports?
  • How many iterations does it take before reports are ready for The Street as well as investors?

Automating consolidation and financial reporting allows organizations to produce financial reports at the touch of a button, and reduces the amount of human intervention where errors occur. Financial reporting solutions make life much easier for everyone involved, and take the manual effort out of the process and dramatically impact process efficiency and regulatory compliance. This gives leaders the ability to focus on the contents of the reports and driving the business instead of data aggregation chores and haggling about reporting information validity. Organizations can utilize a reusable set of reports that can be run on demand, making them accessible to even the least technical of people.

Conclusion

Volatile economies can be periods of tremendous opportunity for leaders equipped with the right knowledge to take advantage of the moment. Understanding these elements of management can help organizations become more efficient and profitable especially in volatile economic climates. These practices ensure that reliable, accurate information is available and decisions are made by informed leaders to help steer business.

These areas outlined above can help just about any company become more efficient and profitable. Individually or together, they help ensure that reliable, accurate information is available to help leaders make key decisions that can have a profound impact.

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