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Five Steps to Match Business Reports with Financials

By Lisa Woods (1066 words)
Posted in Accounting & Finance on May 16, 2012

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Sales, Marketing, Operations, Quality, IT, Human Resources…it does not matter what part of the world you are in, or your ranking in the corporate hierarchy.  We all do it…create reports that tell our story…a different story than is shown in Accounting’s month end data.  Why does this happen? Who is to blame..and who is right?


This dilemma has haunted me in every company and at every level I have worked.  It was not until I started leading companies that I figured out a solution; I’d like to share it with you.


First: take a deep breath, I am sure the topic evokes some angst in your veins…admitting you have a problem is the first step to getting to the solution.

It is not only your problem, it is a company wide issue that hinders growth.  It wastes everybody’s time, erodes work efficiencies and slows down any decision making process.  Nobody inside or outside of accounting likes this situation, so make a commitment on your part to change it.


Second: Make an effort to understand why Accounting is reporting the numbers their way, and where those numbers are coming from. 

Accounting has a process; it is a system of checks and balances, historical views vs. current data.  Everything they do gets put into buckets (cost centers) in the computer system.  It is called an enterprise system because it links all of the inputs and outputs that take place throughout the enterprise (your company).  Accountants do not take liberties with the data, but they do insist on consistency from the past to the present.  At some point in time these buckets were created in the system, and in most cases they never collaborated with you on what they should be; resulting in force fitting data into them.  Talk to your accounting group & IT group to get a functional understanding of the system and process.


Third: Make an effort to define the reports that you need to manage your area of the business. 

What are the cost centers you want to review, both existing and new ones.  You have to commit, you can’t change these on an ongoing basis, but you have this one shot to get things right, so define specifically what you want to see along with an explanation of it’s importance.  You should spend some time putting together your explanation so that your accounting group has the ability to make educated decisions when putting costs into buckets going forward.  The lack of dialog and sharing in the past has led to the disconnect you are facing today…so start your new relationship off right…as a collaboration.


Forth: Schedule a meeting with the accounting team to dig deep into all the numbers, both theirs and yours.  

By walking into it this discussion with an understanding from both parties that everyone was doing their job, just not working together, then both can commit to working together to clean it up.  This issue is a sore subject for everyone.  During this process you should make an effort to use existing cost centers, but make sure that the decision making process for entering data into those cost centers is accurate.  Keep in mind that you can change the names of current cost centers to make them more user friendly.  Once you go through each of them, define additional reports that are not accounted for and need additional cost centers, also define the transition process that needs to take place. Once the data is consistent, your reports should generate automatically saving you time and aggravation.


Fifth: Get your company’s leadership to buy-in on the changes. 

Migrating to a new reporting method is going to require some explanation for the shift in historical data to current.  As long as leadership, and all other parties agree to the change…there is no reason the change can’t occur.  Reports should be accurate, they should adapt as the company adapts.  Everyone should be using the same data, and understanding the meaning of the reports.


At the end of the day remember that everyone is just trying to do his or her job.  Nobody is doing anything wrong…however…they are all working very inefficiently.  You can change that by starting this five-step process in your company.  By working as a team, establishing goals, getting buying and cross training on the issue, you will see results.  Month end reports should be used to make decisions going forward, not cause angst about the past.


Take some time to understand different areas of your company.  In this case, the more you know about accounting, the better able you will be when communicating with them, and vise versa.  You can start this right here in our Accounting Community.


I hope you are able to test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your ideas and experiences.    Good luck!



Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.


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Comments (1)

Denis Robinson posted on: May 20, 2024

Overall, Lisa Woods provides a clear, actionable framework for aligning business reports with financial data. Her five-step process is practical and emphasizes the importance of collaboration, understanding, and leadership support. This approach not only aims to resolve current discrepancies but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and efficiency.

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