I ask myself where my day has gone fairly frequently, but over the past few years, have accepted this as part of my role in Product Management.
As a product manager, I get pulled in multiple directions for all sorts of issues, from product engineering to support and sales and even solution delivery. We come to expect that there’s an element of diversity in every role these days, but this can sap your productivity and effectiveness if some of those activities are of low value.
For Accountants and Bookkeepers, time sapping efforts associated with mundane reporting, issue clarification and digging into details to have a better understanding of how the business is performing and functioning can be either very fulfilling or very frustrating. A lot depends on the tools and methods that are being used.
Distractions pervade every aspect of the Finance Function and one of the challenges that I frequently hear about are the delays caused by managing time consuming activities around manual data accounting processes.
Oftentimes these processing activities need to be undertaken with urgency, as part of the period end process. Invariably they involve a significant number of spreadsheets and sharing them across multiple business units.
At month end, the executive leadership and board press finance teams for the latest figures. These figures are generally presented as monthly management reports or management pack which includes Profit and Loss statements of account, cash flow and other performance measures and indicators such as customer additions and retention. The real value here is found in the final reporting, not in all the activities that lead up to it.
The ideal management pack
Back in 2006, AccountingWEB.co.uk – an independent online community for accounting and finance professionals in the UK, asked the question “What is the ideal management pack?” At the time, it was suggested that a typical monthly management pack should be between 10-20 pages and include an “executive summary” with key performance indicators (KPIs) accompanied by an action plan to address any problems identified in the pack.
Some dissenting voices suggested that the idea was to get a one-page summary report on the business – a target that would really embody ‘lean.’ It was also suggested that senior management wouldn’t read much more than headline figures in monthly reports, so the message seemed to be “less is better.”
The attention deficit that might have been present among the Executives can only be appropriately addressed by the finance team reducing the analysis work it does, to as few pertinent and meaningful numbers as possible. This will provide more value in describing the action plan to improve, accelerate or drive the business further forward. This type of reduction takes time; precious time that may be elusive when you’re still just trying to gather data.
Becoming commentators and coaches
The finance organization needs to stop purely playing scorekeeper and move into a role that is more closely identified as a commentator or coach. In order to switch roles and move into one of more value to the business, they’ll need to ensure they are minimizing effort expended on trifling matters and issues related to malformed business processes.
The best way to generate the monthly reporting pack with the highest possible precision and relevancy is to ensure the process for getting the data into the system is as operationally streamlined as possible. Invariably this means a high degree of automation either through interfaces or posting batch loading technologies.
At Winshuttle, we have had a successful history of supporting businesses in accelerating the period close and improving data quality in the process by using a template batch loading from Microsoft Excel for use with SAP.
In recent years we’ve found our customers enhancing their deployments further by implementing those same batch loading technologies with task flows and approval workflows to round out the end to end process with governance and a higher profile on who is involved and participating in a given process.
Being able to get more out of your day is really only possible if you are able to successfully offload the low value and trivial efforts associated with data gathering, review, approval and then final instantiation in the systems of record. With Winshuttle, we believe that you can reap significant time savings and substantially improve data quality, thereby avoiding the need for rework in subsequent periods.
Learn more by visiting Lean Data Management for SAP Financials
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