Effective Month End Reporting
In this article, we examine end of month business reports in detail and cover their importance to the business and the process for their management.
1. Why are end of month reports so important?
There was a time when month-end business reporting was basically an accounting summary that captured the organisation’s financial position. Today, however, month end business reports are comprehensive management tools that capture the key data that allows leaders to make effective decisions. In turn, this allows the business to meet its strategic objectives and goals, and to travel in the right direction. Month end is the norm, but there are other accounting periods.
2. How to prepare for the month end
Each company will have its own preferred approach to producing month end business reports. Some business leaders like to have a fairly weighty report with deep analysis and others prefer a lighter touch with a few key measurables. The nature of the business and its industry will also be a factor here (for example, the needs of a blue-chip financial organisation in a regulated industry will be different from an e-commerce SME.) A good rule of thumb, however, is to prepare a report which can be digested by readers in about an hour.
This means picking a set of reporting measurables that are essential and which will not overwhelm the reader and cause ‘analysis paralysis’. For large and complex organisations, a single dashboard with supporting functional-level dashboards can be a good way to split up data and to ensure that different groups only receive the information which really matters to their role and span of decision-making control. The actual preparation of month end will involve each department collecting and submitting agreed data sets which track progress against key, strategic deliverables. In most modern organisations, this will be done by inputting the latest figures into a software package such as QuickScore, which takes this raw data and automatically processes it into a reporting template.
3. Selecting the data you need
The critical thing to remember is that a balanced approach to data collection must be taken. Remember, month end reporting is about far more than just financial measures! Rather, it is a holistic view of how the entire organisation is doing against its broader objectives, ideally structured using a best-in-class methodology such as the Balanced Scorecard. It must include progress measures against the strategic objectives, goals and initiatives of the business plan.
4. Remaining strategic
Any organisation that focuses purely on financials will be missing a vital opportunity to examine progress on key issues such as customer service, sales, key projects, cultural factors such as training and upskilling, regulatory and compliance efforts, branding development, digital transformation initiatives and any other aspect which has been deemed of strategic importance. Yes, the financials may well be looking good initially – but their success is directly linked to the underpinning strategic activity. Yes, business leaders must examine financials within business reports carefully. But they must also keep a clear, balanced view of what is progressing (or otherwise) according to the business plan across the entire organisation – and this view must be continuous and with the opportunity to make adjustments to focus, resources and time accordingly.
5. Building the report
Happily, the days of onerously pulling together vast reams of data using manual processes and various disparate sources are long gone. Today’s automated systems mean that the process for creating reports can be streamlined – with the resulting data sets optimised for accuracy and presented in attractive, compelling ways that business leaders value. Balanced Scorecard Software such as QuickScore linked to the Balanced Scorecard methodology ensure that the strategic element of reporting is maximised. The system can provide business reports and measurement dashboards which present progress against objectives, KPIs and initiatives. QuickScore also allows month-end business reports to be presented in a variety of ways, with a highly readable and intuitive dashboard functionality for presenting data and the ability for readers to drill-down into real-time data sets to see goal progress over time and to view supporting contextual information. Other features include access to trend data, the ability to see spreadsheet or graph dataset presentations according to preference and the chance to add and see comments on particular metrics and trends.
6. Distributing and giving access to the report
Business leaders and functional managers must be given timely access to month end reporting, especially if they are to attend progress meetings and to be adequately informed and ready to input in a meaningful way. There is nothing more frustrating than a business review meeting where the attendees simply haven’t had the chance to see and digest data beforehand, and where effective and timely decision-making is compromised. Again, however, modern business reporting systems such as QuickScore allow end of month business report distribution lists to be created and managed, so that recipients receive alerts when access to their report is available. Sensitive data can be protected with user passwords, and the software doesn’t even need to be physically installed. Instead, it is securely hosted in the Cloud so that users can view it remotely and on any internet-enabled digital device.
7. The review meeting
The review meeting should have a clear and fixed agenda and a defined attendee list (kept as minimal as possible for effectiveness – remember the famous Jeff Bezos ‘two pizza’ meeting rule if necessary, where the meeting attendee list should never exceed a number that could be fed by two pizzas!) Because of the nature and importance of the meeting, it should be booked into diaries for a year in advance, and rooms booked accordingly. The report must be circulated well in advance and according to a schedule. The review meeting is critical and must be chaired expertly – with the agenda followed, time kept to, and clear actions and owners assigned and circulated afterwards as part of the minutes.
8. Post review actions
Every action must have an owner, an expected outcome or update, a delivery date and a process for reporting back to the management group. Where possible, avoid playing email ping-pong and encourage owners to report back in person at an appropriate gathering, or at a time reserved for updates in the month end reporting meeting. Remember too that updates and comments can be added to data sets and reports in QuickScore as a means of providing an update trail and visibility on progress in real-time to business decision-makers. This allows updates to be offered and shared effectively at any time, rather than forcing business leaders to wait for an appointed time in busy calendars!
Ready to find out more about QuickScore – or how the Balanced Scorecard methodology could help your business? Contact the team at Intrafocus today to find out more.