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Monday, December 27, 2010

Three dashboard ideas for finance executives, a good read for those thinking of their organization’s strategy for the coming year…

On this holiday week I decided to dedicate this post to giving some thought to the challenges leaders of finance organizations face and to looking at them in terms of coming up with a short list of indicators that can be leveraged as they reflect on the ways to shape their team’s strategy in a way that maximizes their contribution and impact on the company this soon to come new year.

To keep things simple and avoid taking too much of your holiday time this post focuses on three dashboard ideas that align values and traits of high performance teams and that are built in response to governance and strategic challenges common to many financial organizations.

These dashboards can be easily implemented with Oracle Business Intelligence or other similar reporting tool. My recommendation is to have the first iteration of your dashboard be as simple and concise as possible and build upon it as your needs and processes evolve.

Discipline (IRR)

One of the organizational values that are hardest to measure is the discipline that your overall organization exhibits when making strategic decisions. Measuring the return on capital allocations is a process common in large conglomerates that isn’t always transparent or free of political maneuvering.

Deploying a simple dashboard that tracks the progress of large strategic projects in terms of both schedule and actual versus budgeted costs allows the office of the CFO to educate executives and managers in other areas on financial methodologies such as calculating the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of a project or estimating the Total Cost of Ownership of a piece of equipment.

Having a dashboard with Key Performance Indicators that measure the rate of return, and actual versus projected performance in terms of cost and schedule will help your organization bring more transparency to the process of deciding which projects will be funded and will help your counterparts in other areas of the business in improving their financial decision making skills.

­­­­­Efficiency (Time To Close)

One other function that usually resides with the finance organization is the process of closing the books and preparing financial and management reports. This process which is, for the most part, simple and repetitive is implemented and managed very differently from company to company. These differences are often a result of industry specific accounting and differences in management style.

The best way to save your staff late nights and weekends while delivering analysis and reports to your management faster might be as unorthodox and simple as breaking your closing process in the different tasks that compose it and tracking the time each of them takes to complete each month. You can start simply by writing the list on a white board and later on make the transition to a dashboard page that can be shared with all of your team.

By understanding which components of your closing process take the most effort from your team you gain great visibility and thinker with the processes to shorten your cycle time. There have been corporations that implement daily reconciliation of their accounts therefore gaining the ability to detect unusual account activity much faster than if they had to wait for the bank statements to arrive in the mail.

You can use the data in your closing cycle dashboard as a development opportunity for your staff by encouraging them to detect processes that exhibit a lot of variance from month to month and coming up with ways to proactively eliminate the causes of this variance.

Value Creation

With the economy signaling it is finally turning around towards recovery and finance and accounting staff job satisfaction at the lowest level in years it is time to identify top performers and give them opportunities to feel challenged and excel.

It is in the best interest of finance leaders to create opportunities for their staff to get out of the routine of their day to day work and go work in teams within other functional areas of the organization by providing them with internal consulting on financial management and compliance best practices. This aligns very closely with the first dashboard idea, your staff can provide training and consulting to teams working on strategic projects being tracked on the IRR/Projects dashboard.

The value created by these select members of your team can be tracked by the number of projects they are consulting for and the number of training and consulting hours they provide to other areas of your organization. This in turn can be used as a tool in the justification of any proactive compensation activity you might decide to undertake as you try to retain high performing employees in your team.


When planning your finance organization’s strategy for the year that is about to begin you can use the dashboard ideas in this article as tools that will allow you to communicate to your staff and to other functional areas and fellow executives what improvement is being made in the internal processes of your area and; most important, how is it that your team can be engaged as a partner in value creation.

Please send your feedback and comments to, I’ll be very interested to hear your opinion and any additional ideas that might be useful to others reading this article.