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August 12, 2020 Finance

CFO Series: How to Fuel Better Business Decisions with Financial Data

By Jim Thurston

Today, every company is struggling for insights from their financial data. 

When critical financial data is cumbersome to obtain — or is non-existent — this only exacerbates the company’s stress and fails to give the CEO, COO, and CFO the information they need to make better decisions. This insight is vital to driving growth and profitability.

Let’s identify the financial data challenges and see what can be done to overcome them:

Assessing the Financial Data Hurdles

Do any of these financial data challenges sound familiar? We had a client that experienced problems with: 

  1. Poor Coding of Revenue: The client struggled to obtain insights on the types of revenue they were generating. What was recurring? What was one-time revenue?  Without proper coding at the transaction level, they were losing valuable insight.  
  2. Non-Integrated Systems: The billing system was not integrated with the general ledger and getting the information loaded into the general ledger was tedious.  
  3. Poor Expense Organization: The general ledger costs were not organized in a manner to align certain costs with revenues. As such, business line profitability was opaque at best.  
  4. Compilation time: A significant amount of time was spent simply compiling the data from various sources. Those sources sometimes or frequently didn’t tie resulting in frustration and most times, simply going with gut instincts.  
  5. Long close process: The accounting close took as many as 20 days and by that time the results were stale, and the following month had already repeated some of the same problems.  

Finding the Right Financial Data Fixes

The process is fairly simple and can unlock a wealth of insights and perspectives. “Knowing” and “listening” to the business discussions are critically important. The data and financial statements should mirror those discussions — or in the process of going through the exercise of asking, “what should we be doing?” 

By establishing the appropriate processes to collect data in your subsystems and in the general ledger chart of accounts, business units/dimensions, your organization can unlock valuable insights. Most importantly, you want to capture this data once at the point of original entry as these tasks are not time intensive but can capture a wealth of information. Some of the solutions we deployed for our clients were as follows:  

  1. Revenue Data: We developed the appropriate revenue coding to track recurring vs. non-recurring revenue types. The general ledger captured the summary totals for key line items while the BI environment allowed for further pivots into the revenue data.  
  2. Integrations: We established the necessary integrations between the subsystem and General ledger. The process was much more straight forward, and the company could trust the process. 
  3. COA + BUs: We evaluated and grouped the chart of accounts and established critical business units to better align revenue and expenses and used business units to create accountability for results. 
  4. Automated key reportingThrough BI reporting and creation of general ledger reports, we significantly reduced or eliminated compilation time. The business was able to use this time for analysis and avoid the frustrations of reports and information not agreeing.  
  5. Reduced close time We worked with the client’s accountants to focus on what needs to be done. Often, small and medium-sized business owners don’t know as much about accounting and can’t challenge their well-intentioned accountants. If your close is longer than 5-7 days, there are problems in your close process regardless of the size of your organization.  

By listening to the business and aligning it with all the financial data, valuable insights can be derived to help your business grow and prosper. It may seem like a lot, but there are straightforward approaches to the above solutions. I’ll be highlighting each in forthcoming articles in this series. 

But if you would like to discuss your financial data challenges now, feel free to reach out and chat with us about what we can do to help you grow!

This is part one of a new blog series designed to help companies of all shapes and sizes
promote growth with the help of financial data insights. Keep an eye out for the next installment on the BrainSell blog! 

Author Bio

Jim Thurston

Jim Thurston is the VP of Financial Process Management at BrainSell. He has 20 years of finance and accounting experience (CPA) and 14 years of real estate experience with two of the best-in-class, industry-leading S&P 500 companies in the United States.

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