From a Labyrinth of Spreadsheets to Real Time Dashboards

spreadsheets to real time dashboards

Research by Thomson Reuters suggests that technological advances such as cloud computing and real-time data will have the biggest impact on the corporate finance and accounting function in the next ten years!

Fast growing Start-ups and mid-cap companies will be very familiar with this problem – at the initial stage, there is a lot of work done with spreadsheets. The main areas of interest are:

#Proformas – The business model is usually forecasted for a year on how it should perform by design. The idea is then to track the actual performance of each function in the business model against this design document and formulate early actions for corrections as necessary.

#Budgets – The more astute ones would budget on a quarterly basis to have a tight control on financial management. Sensitivity analysis on budgets are always yearned for when making decisions on staffing, IT spend etc.

#Accounting cycle closure – A monthly closure of the books after recording everything accurately is very important to ensure that financial data used is credible. While cloud-based accounting, applications provide the backbone for this, various reconciliations call for spreadsheets in active use.

#Management reports – Usually generated on demand and often someone in accounting is tasked with creating these on spreadsheets.

Very soon, the business leaders will realize that while spreadsheets are very versatile and often unavoidable, even within a robust technology infrastructure, getting real-time insights to drive the business in a competitive environment requires more than what they offer.  

(A few illustrations of the dashboard visualization and data sources used are also provided if you are interested in a closer scrutiny. The specimens pertain to a business in is the alternative lending industry.)

3 Steps to a Dynamic Dashboard

Based on our experience of enabling a fast-growing startup from inception to a mature phase, involving real-time dashboards, here are 3 steps to make the transition, for any business in a similar situation. 

From management reports to dashboard visualization.

 The corporate finance and accounting function need to work closely with the executive leadership to generate reports on demand. If you are struggling for resources or the right mix of talent, you must think of virtual teams that can engage remotely to boost your current capability. Across a few cycles of report generation and reviews, you will arrive at sufficient consolidation required for visualizing a dashboard.  (Illustration: Consolidated graphics for the lending business that form a real-time dashboard)

Mapping information flows from the data sources.

A fast-growing business means a dynamic environment even for the technology infrastructure, with applications making their way in and out. Having a clear mapping of data sources and information flows towards useful reports is very important at this stage. (Illustration: Summarized data table)

Implementation of a BI tool.

With the first two steps in place, someone with skills on any BI tool, like PowerBI can build the necessary integrations into the data sources and apply the necessary transformations to realize the dashboard that has been already visualized.

If you are one of those businesses that find yourself in the place where you are ready to take the journey from spreadsheets to dynamic dashboards, by optimizing technology you might already have or can easily procure, feel free to Get in touch with us that will review more specifics that will help you get started.

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