Switching off reactive management mode and mapping out your 2021 priorities

19th Mar 2021
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Financial consolidation Konsolidator
Financial consolidation Konsolidator

Losing speed, power and strength are likely to be some of the experiences that (unfortunately) best describe the last 12 months of lockdown and remote work.

To use a word like turbulent to describe the past year seems almost to be an understatement.

But non the less does it prove the importance of making sure you take back the steering wheel, now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel!

In fact, this should be your main focus right now.

During the lockdown most companies were (with good reason) heavily focused on cash flow and just making it through to the other side.

Naturally questions like are we surviving or are we going under were the main focus, but as a consequence focus was taken off the more strategic work/projects.

Reactive management has been the core of most finance functions for almost a year.

Now it is time to restabilize and reset your priorities to ultimately get back up to speed and focus on proactive management.

Switching off reactive management mode and mapping out your 2021 priorities

Reflecting on the past 12 months, what went well and what didn’t to then take the appropriate actions needed is how you map out our priorities for 2021. It is the first step in switching off reactive management mode, hitting the re-set button and regaining momentum.

A smart move would be to start by looking at your data processes and making sure they are operating effectively.

Begin by asking yourself what the biggest struggles were during the lockdown.

What caused you the most troubles when strategic decisions were to be made?
What was the biggest barrier that kept you from delivering on the required insights?
What caused you delays and why?
Were you able to gain access to your data at the speed of your decision-making or did you stall decisions?

The right information brings knowledge. And knowledge is power. But do you know what the right information is, and if so, (did you) or do you have access to it?

It was fairly obvious who the big losers were during the lockdown – the companies that were operating on obsolete locally installed systems that made it difficult to be agile and keep up to speed as everyone was forced to work remotely and everything needed to be handled online.

The obvious winners were those who’s systems were already integrated and easily accessible through the cloud (like Konsolidator).

If you don’t count yourself in this group, surely the way you have organized your systems/workflows have proven to be a risky strategy, but fortunately this also means you have a lot to gain in 2021 just by changing the way you operate. If you struggled when requirements and speed in insights accelerated, it is evident that you need new systems to support new requirements.

Every process is either working or not

Smart finance professionals will acknowledge that they will never be able to catch up and recover from what, has for the past 12 months, proven to be the weaker spots in their workflows by continuing the same path as before.

So, make a list of how you can change by doing something different.

Admit what was/is broken so you can fix it (sooner rather than later).
Once you start assessing your workflows and reflecting on their performance it will become obvious which areas of your work needs the most attention and where your urgencies lie – and this is the key to taking back control in 2021 and being able to look forward, to doing scenario planning, forecasts and minimizing the risks you were exposed to during 2020.

Look at your systems.

Can you connect remotely?
Are they interoperable?
Are they installed locally on your device or are you able to access them from your web-browser?
Do they allow you to get access to your data at the speed of your decisions?
In which business areas should you look for a replacement tool for your current?

Your data is the main driver for strategic decisions, so looking at your data will undoubtedly inform your next priorities.

One example is those tasks that rely on shared Excel spreadsheets - the remote working environment has probably once and for all given the death blow to those. Trying to work efficiently in shared spreadsheets has never really been ideal considering the far-reaching type of errors that are common to this Excel spreadsheets like:

  • Formular errors
  • Copy/past errors
  • Deleting notes
  • Typos
  • … (feel free to add more yourself)

If you are a company, for whom the Excel nightmare was blown out in full force during these last 12 months a re-think of how tasks are handled, what methods are needed and what systems are used should be your priority if you want to prevent the challenges you have just experienced.

Otherwise, you will undoubtedly (continue) to spend valuable hours and days on time-draining tasks like administering spreadsheets, reconciling the numbers and calculations, and adjusting formulas, instead of on value-adding activities such as providing agile insights to your enterprise.

If you want to gain momentum and be more strategic you have to be proactive, and that you can only do if you implement tools that help you ensure correct numbers and give you back time to analyze your numbers rather than being stuck in the production.

Can you be data rich but knowledge poor at the same time?

Now that we have covered where your data comes from and how you can work to improve your data flow, we will round off by taking a moment to look at your financial report as the last step in how you drive strategic decisions in 2021.

One thing is having access to data, another thing is knowing how to use it right. And therefore yes, you can easily be data rich and at the same time knowledge poor.

Data, reports, and analysis are obviously important because you cannot make insights and financial statements without the raw numbers. Where you really make a difference is when you share insights, make recommendations, and influence the management’s decisions so they make better decisions and execute better.

But the value of your data lies in your ability to communicate them right. Hence a focus on how you present and communicate your data is key.

The more data you get access to, the more data you will have the option to present.
Figuring out exactly what to present is the real task. Otherwise, the risk of you (and management) drowning in the overload of data and losing sight of the key factors that should drive decisions is immense.

Defining what to communicate therefore becomes your most important task.

Gathering all your data and sending it forward to management is easy to do.

But this has got nothing to do with building valuable financial insights!

Filtering and selecting the right strategic data and presenting it is however exactly what you want to be doing to ensure you effectively present and visualize the important message your data is telling you (and your management).

An old-fashioned excel Spreadsheet can be impossible for outsiders or non-financial professionals to understand. To be sure your message comes across, present your data, so it is digestible for everyone.

Here Power BI (or any other visualization tool) is your friend!

You have to move away from the classic column layouts in Excel and think more creatively about the way you present your data to management. Presenting data to your management in large Excel files will not benefit anyone.

You need to present data in a way that easily communicates the story the data is telling you (for your financial group reporting Konsolidator can help you do this).

By now you have probably realized that being solely a number cruncher sitting behind your screen is no longer enough. You must seek out and talk to people in your organization to gather valuable insight about the business.  Especially for SMEs it is important to facilitate this change right now in uncertain times, where real-time insights for what to do and why to do them is crucial for business survival.

Start with the beginning and build a dataflow that delivers accurate financial statements.

And remember, the output of your data is only as good as the input, so data structure comes before anything else.