As the weather warms up and summer BBQs and swimming pools get closer to reality, people are transitioning into spending more time outside. A big part of this transition is spring cleaning- getting rid of the old junk lying around the house in order to make room for summer activities.
Spring is a great time for finance teams as well to take a step back and see what is working and what is not- which programs or solutions can be replaced, what can be improved, or what can be “cleaned up”. And most importantly, how to be more efficient for a less stressful summer with more time spent outdoors.
Cleaning Tip #1 Keeping Data Clean and Integrous
Before starting to use the data that was collected, there needs to be a process of ensuring that the data is correct, consistent, and usable. Data cleaning can identify errors or corruptions, and can prevent far bigger consequences later on. Some of the benefits include:
Catches inconsistencies and major errors that can happen at any point- even more so when multiple data sources are pulled into one dataset.
Allows the team to map different data functions, along with grasping the bigger picture of where the data is coming from and what it is intended to do.
All of these benefits lead to the end goal- less frustrated employees, more consistent data, and happier customers and stakeholders.
Cleaning Tip #2 Consolidate your Sources
Spring cleaning doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out or getting rid of old things. Through reorganizing and consolidating you can make a cluttered room look like new- without getting rid of a single item. The same is true with finance teams and data.
Consolidating is one of the most important actions for finance teams as data keeps piling up and only gets bigger and harder to analyze. With the tremendous amount of data that continues to grow in size every year, the only true way to consolidate is by making the switch from manual processes to automation solutions. Without automation, there are too many challenges that manual consolidation creates are:
Error prone- When working on multiple versions, it is too easy to use an outdated version or send the wrong one, creating scenarios for costly errors and wasted time.
Long cycles- Each budget or forecast entails many steps that are extremely time-consuming. This can limit teams from creating more frequent and detailed cycles simply because the previous ones take too long.
Losing data value- When the bottom line of a spreadsheet is copied into the manual consolidated version, it loses the essential data that explained the bottom-line results. As a result, consolidated spreadsheets contain less than 5% of the entire data that was used to produce them!
Cleaning Tip #3 Prioritize your tasks by tracking KPIs
A big part of progress is being able to measure what works and what doesn’t in order to improve. Integrating cash flow forecasts with real-time data and up-to-date budgets is a powerful tool that makes forecasting cash flow easier, more efficient, and shifts the focus to cash analytics. No matter what budgeting approach the organization adopts, it requires big data to ensure that the finance teams’ limited time is being used correctly.
Some examples of KPIs that can help prioritize tasks and drive company growth are:
Financing KPIs- Return on Assets (ROA) and Return on Investment (ROI) are 2 of the more popular ones, but financing KPIs can be more individual or industry based as well.
Income Related KPIs- Anything related to income such as Gross Profit Margin or Operating Expense Ratio.
Liquidity Related KPIs- AP Turnover, Cash Conversion Cycle, Quick Ratio (also known as Acid Test) and Working Capital are just a few of the Liquidity Related KPIs that can help the company prioritize.
Cleaning Tip #4 Use Integrations
Organization and efficiency is very difficult without being able to automatically combine all of the tools at the company’s disposal. Companies have so much data to deal with from so many different sources that finding a software that integrates all of these into one platform is a necessity if the finance team wants to make full use of the multitude of data available.
Whether it be payment platforms, marketing and sales integrations, or analytics taken from different sources, having one true source to combine all of the integrations into is key in being organized and efficient. A few examples of different useful integrations are:
Marketing Integrations- One of the most important analytical tools as this tells a company what is working and where to focus time and money on. Examples of important marketing integration platforms are Google Analytics and HubSpot.
Sales Integrations- up to date sales performance platforms are important not only for the sales team to track their progress but also for the finance team to use the data for improving funds and efficiency. A few examples are Salesforce and Hubspot once again.
Ecommerce integrations- If a business has an ecommerce aspect then integrating the system into the finance team is a must for the fastest and best results. Shopify and Square are a few examples of easily integrated Ecommerce systems that can provide incredible insights to an FP&A team.
Cleaning Tip #5 Conducting Automated Analyses
The last step in organization and efficiency is using all of the data to take action and drive company growth. This is done by combining past data with all of the current tools available in order to create the most accurate decisions.
A big part of this is forecasting and “what if” scenarios which are completed through FP&A tools that simulate possibilities based on previous data, the market situation and future circumstances. All of this is not possible without automation, as the sheer amount of data and scenarios that need to be analyzed are tremendous. Using automation will not only help with the amount of data but will also free up valuable time for finance teams to be able to spend more on analysis and company growth and less on manual entries.
The best FP&A “cleaning solutions”
After establishing the 5 tips for FP&A teams to clean up and organize their financial planning processes, the next step is how to go about implementing them. The common factor among them is technology, as all of these processes need automation or integration in order to take advantage of their benefits. Here are the top 3 FP&A solutions for cleaning and organizing your data this spring:
One of the leading FP&A solutions thanks to its complete Excel interface which creates an extremely quick implementation time and an impressive ROI. The large number of integrations creates a scenario where companies can get the most data possible and create efficient and detailed budgets and forecasts.
A complete planning platform with a native Excel interface and above average workflows. With great budgeting and forecasting tools and many integrations, Vena is a great solution for all different sized businesses.
A Corporate Performance Management platform that helps corporations make better business decisions as they scale and budgeting gets harder to tackle. With pre-built functionality, users can pre-populate data sets for easier forecasting.