I am speaking next week at the annual national conference of the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) in Washington, DC. Since financial planning & analysis (FP&A) professionals are a key AFP constituency, I thought now would be a good time for an open letter to the FP&A folks.
There’s no question that a, if not the, principal role of the FP&A function is to produce meaningful information enabling enterprise managers to make fast, intelligent decisions. The ability to design reports achieving that is rare and valuable. It requires great communication skills, knowledge of the systems tools, and a deep understanding of the underlying enterprise. But is that enough? I say no, emphatically. A critical player in the design of great management reports is the managers who need those reports to do their jobs effectively. So, if your job involves producing management information, ask yourself:
- Do you devote sufficient time to teaching your user clients to read your reports? Remember that many of them are not financially skilled.
- Do you actively, aggressively seek feedback from those user clients, about what’s meaningful, useful, and comprehensible, and what isn’t? This is one area where silence is not golden.
- Do you actually make changes in response to that feedback about your reports?
In other words, are you making the effort to ensure that your clients are intelligent consumers of management information? Your career will thank you.
As an aside, I have developed a training course, “Reading the Management Income Statement: A Course for Non-Financial Managers,” available on Proformative, a popular site for senior finance professionals. It reflects the approach I describe in this post. If you or someone you know would like to enroll, use http://bit.ly/1wg2HvX and then click through to the course. I also offer three other courses on the Proformative site: “The Evolution of a Great Spreadsheet Report” (use http://bit.ly/QXFcJt), “Excel-ing When Your PowerPoint Is Loaded with Numbers” (use http://bit.ly/1keqViv), and “Designing a Great Management P&L” (use http://bit.ly/1u23GAq). If you take any of these courses, many thanks, and I would really appreciate your feedback.
“Painting with Numbers” is my effort to get people to focus on making numbers understandable. I welcome your feedback and your favorite examples. Follow me on twitter at @RandallBolten.