You’ve completed the latest management packs and everything is ready for tomorrow’s MANCO meeting. You’ve drawn the reports from Pastel, combined the data from a few different workbooks and spent a couple of days modeling the columns to fit the code of account groupings that management would like to see. Then a director asks,

“Could you also give us a cumulative analysis of costing for our biggest cost centre over a five-month period?”

You feel your nerves fray. The worksheet won’t be able to answer this new question. You’d have to rerun an accounting report and do the manual process all over again for that five-month period. This work is an all-nighter for sure - if you can even get it done in time!

Enter Automation

Automating reports could help you give management an at-a-glance view of any current performance while you escape the time drain and tedium of admin.

Using some of the smarter tools in Microsoft Excel around the PowerPivot feature, it’s possible to pull all your data into one Excel sheet - whether it comes from a database inside the company, a cloud-based CRM system or a flat file.

The data can automatically be organised according to the format in which the business wants it. From here you can refresh it at the touch of a button. It’s even possible to use visualisations to create dashboards that give you an updated picture of how things are going in the business, a specific department, or process.

Automation Engineer
Image Credit - WeKnowMemes

Enhanced Data Modeling

If you’ve ever used a VLOOKUP function, taking data from one worksheet and looking up a value in another worksheet, you’ve already done some data modeling by creating relationships from one piece of data to another. PowerPivot just does this on a much bigger scale.

It doesn’t mean your accounting package is bad. On the contrary, it’s likely to be a very powerful system. It simply needs an adapting tool for your reporting needs. Every business is so different that standard business systems could never present data in the exact format that everyone wants it in - there’s always a bit of modification required.

You can use what you’ve got right now to bring in files, create a repository of information, and link data. You don’t even have to talk to the IT people.

Keep Calm, Carry On With Microsoft Excel

As a lot of time is spent comparing financial statements, a good place to start would be to focus on building and automating the pair-down or income statement. It’s a relatively quick exercise so you could almost immediately start exploring the tool and look at areas that need improvement.

Different to what you’d expect from automating your reporting and building dashboards, the rapid arrival at a solution is inversely proportional to the amount of effort you’ve been putting into the manual process.

The biggest benefit of automation is the peace of mind you’ll get in gaining quick access to accurate information you can trust. All your dedication to accuracy can be replicated by building in checking mechanisms that you can go through to validate the numbers. For example, a typical one would be to check if the balance sheet is in balance.

If you’re doing manual work, you’re ready for this change. The technology is there and available for you to tap into. Just think twice about trying to do this yourself, even if you’re an Excel expert, as it would defeat the original purpose to free you up for more meaningful work.

By solving your biggest itch, you can get some time back in the day to think about financial issues that can drive the business forward.

Cover Image - Numbers And Finance | Ken Teegardin

This post is sponsored by e-magination InfoSolutions. e-magination InfoSolutions is an information management and consulting firm specialising in Business Intelligence and Information Management.

You can also read this transcript of a discussion from which the above article originates.

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