How to utilise the Chart of Accounts to drive insights

Stranded on a deserted island and faced with a perilous decision, Robinson Crusoe listed his ‘State of Affairs’ in terms of Good and Evil. Assessing his life in this manner, enabled him to regain the feeling of control and ultimately make the decision to keep on going.
This is Daniel Defoe’s famous application of double-entry accounting; a ubiquitous principle first popularised by Venetian merchants in the 1400s.

The Venetians’ application of double-entry accounting was revolutionary in shaping their business activities. As each transaction is recorded against separate accounts, within a defined Chart of Accounts, merchants could itemise product sales and expenditure, analysing which products were profitable and which weren’t. Contrasted to the single-entry method used by others, where only a total profit figure could be calculated, it’s not hard to imagine why Venetian merchants were so successful.

Success wasn’t dependent on the volume or type of information accessible, it came from the unique approach of recording and analysing that information, which triggered better insights and smarter decisions, giving Venetians the upper hand.

In today’s world, a pattern emerges. Organisations, more so than ever, have access to a vast amount of data. In fact, with the help of search engine queries, smartphones, connected devices, and social media, more data has been created in the past few years than the whole previous history of human existence. However, only those organisations that have an effective process in place to analyse this data, will realise its full value by creating new insights and once again gain the competitive edge.

To establish an effective data analytics process, businesses must shift their mindset around how data is used. Data should be thought of as raw material that continually drives decisions, not something that is utilised as a once-off and then disposed of when its purpose is achieved.

Enabling this mindset must be the right people with the right tools at hand, and by utilising the Chart of Accounts, CFOs are perfectly placed to own this process. They house the domain knowledge and expertise to ask the right questions from financial information and are already responsible for maintaining control and reliability of financial data.

The Chart of Accounts acts as the foundation for capturing information and generating reports that drive performance insights; a central financial hub where data is pushed and pulled, empowering CFOs to generate insights that drive decisions and shape corporate strategy.

Analysing financial data to generate insights represents a transformation opportunity by shifting gears to the world of “Digital Finance”. Digital Finance is the next generation of Finance operating model, it combines disruptive technologies, data and processes to elevate and differentiate the capabilities of the Finance function.

On the Digital Finance transformation journey, CFOs can generate a quick-win by following these steps to effectively utilise their Chart of Accounts:

Step 1 – Analyse the information that influences and shapes business activities

Reviewing financial reports, surveying key stakeholders and analysing value drivers, all help disclose what information is valuable to the business.

Step 2 – Ensure the Chart of Accounts enables valuable information to be captured

Design of Chart of Account dimensions including account, entity, business unit, location, project and cost centre should be structured so important financial information is able to be captured at a sufficient level of detail. This allows data to be easily dissected and analysed in meaningful ways.

Step 3 – Refine how the business interacts with the Chart of Accounts and analyses its data

After information is captured within the Chart of Accounts, reviewing how users generate and analyse financial data and reports ensures information requirements are met while promoting faster and more accurate decisions. Knowing what is important to business decisions allows the volume and type of financial analysis to be refined.

Step 4 – Establish an evolving process

Establishing an iterative process that evolves along with the business model ensures data will act as a dynamic input to creating new forms of value.

By establishing this process and owning financial data analytics, Finance is more capable to provide a strategic view at the decision table, which is beneficial because, ultimately, the true value of Finance as trusted partners of the business is equivalent to the sum of the decisions it supports, makes and executes.

 


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