In a recent report, “Group Finance Reporting”, we highlighted the importance of performance management reporting in leading finance functions and illustrated the challenges around getting a single version of the truth in terms of accurate data.
Why are CFO reports important?
Financial reporting is the most efficient way to track how a business’s finances are being used and managed.
Whilst different reports contain specific types of financial information, all reports are essentially produced to provide an overview of a company's financial situation and overall performance.
CFO reports are often intended for internal use, such as planning for future goals or updating management with clear and concise financial trends. They are also used by external entities, such as lenders and investors, who may need insight into the company’s financial status.
This article continues the theme of reporting excellence and we highlight nine reports every CFO in a leading finance function should be presenting. Of course, specific metrics will apply from sector to sector, but the themes remain.
- Cash and cashflow forecast
- OKR reporting (objectives & key results)
- Risks reporting
- Sales forecast or pipeline
- Consolidated & segmented P&L, balance sheet and historic cash flow
- Product/sales mix & concentration
- Segmented gross margin/contribution
- Customer behaviour
- Internal productivity
1. Cash and cashflow forecast
Unless you’re sitting on large cash reserves that just keep growing, cash flow forecasting should be right at the top of your list! Reporting on, and discussing, cashflow; current cash position and future expected net cashflows, along with timing, is paramount. This should include a medium-term view and a short-term, say 60 or 90-day, view of cash.
Too few SMEs are doing this and even fewer are doing this properly. A medium-term forecast should absolutely be integrated with cashflow, P&L and balance sheet forecasts. The shorter 60 or 90-day forecast can be a one-sided cash-only view, but obviously needs to be reconciled to the opening balance sheet position.
2. OKR (objectives & key results) reporting
Some OKR (objectives & key results) reporting may be embedded in other reports but in our experience, this is very poorly reported. It doesn’t need to be in an OKR format but reporting on specific business objectives progress is paramount. Often specific project initiatives are set up to meet shorter term objectives and so reporting on these separately is often the best way to focus on them.
Less than 50% of FTSE100 companies align their reporting with their objectives; this number is much lower in SMEs and we can’t reiterate enough how important this is to support your strategy.
3. Risk reporting
Traditionally, this may not be an area that finance has owned. However, with the savvy CFO acting as chief steward and moving into the role of Chief Performance Officer, then ownership of risks around performance improvement should certainly be part of that remit. In most SMEs, financial risks are present and so it’s a natural extension for the modern CFO to report on these and wider risks.
A register containing business risks, likelihood rating, impact to the business rating, along with proposed mitigating response to the risk should be reported. Early awareness of risks is often enough to set the right plan in motion to weather the storm.
4. Sales forecast or customer pipeline
This reporting focuses on where future sales are coming from – in your business that could be your sales forecast or your customer pipeline.
While financial numbers on here are relevant and feed into your overall cashflow forecast, the important aspect of this is the number of customers, who they are (in a B2B world), probability of conversion, when they will materialise and the value.
5. Consolidated & segmented P&L, balance sheet and historic cash flow
The bread and butter of every CFO reporting period, de facto. Past performance, particularly segmented, is very useful to understand high performing business units, products, channels, sales persons etc. Understanding past performance while still looking forward can absolutely support management in making better, more informed decisions. However, the key to learning from the past is through segmentation.
We’ve seen limitations at both ends of the spectrum – dis-aggregated and aggregated information. It’s important to have both – a financial consolidated view top-down and the ability to drill into sufficient segmented detail to get a deeper understanding of what is working and what is not. Like all reporting, it’s all about applying smart changes to the business.
6. Product/sales mix & concentration
This is really a sub section of the consolidated and segmented P&L but going even deeper into product/sales mix & concentration will give you a lot more insight into what matters – how to grow your top line and what is working well with customers.
7. Segmented gross margin/contribution
This is a really important one when benchmarking different parts of the business – whether that is business units, locations, channels, sales team etc.
Understanding gross margin at a segmented level helps you first identify which parts of the business are providing greater contribution and when using it to benchmark, apply lessons from top performing parts to lower performing parts of the business, and thus raising the overall average across the business.
8. Customer behaviour
Customer-centric reporting is key to focusing on performance. In a B2B business that’s specific on customers and debt. In a B2C business that could be more focused on repeat orders or customer acquisition channels.
In both, it could be customer acquisition cost, churn, new customers, customer satisfaction or NPS score. The point is, your performance reporting should include some form of customer reporting to better understand your customer behaviour.
We once worked with a FTSE 250 company that couldn’t tell the global spend by customer. Don’t fall into this trap!
9. Internal productivity
There are many ways to measure productivity and they will differ by type of business and sector. Nonetheless, it’s something that should be reported on and monitored. Again, even within the business, benchmarking is a powerful way to learn more about successful and efficient processes, people and departments. Understanding this leads to better decisions and overall business improvements.
While the above covers the reporting themes we would expect to see in a leading finance function, it is also worth highlighting a few areas that separate the typical finance function from a leading one:
- ability to report on more than just financial numbers;
- mashing financial & non-financial metrics together to enrich the information;
- moving up the reporting maturity curve; and
- proportionately spending more time on understanding and decision-making rather than preparing the reports.
The purpose of all of the above is for the management team, C-suite or even the Board to make better, more informed strategic decisions.
Interestingly, there is a good mix of future looking and historic looking reporting, along with a mix of financial and non-financial reporting.
Group Finance Reporting EBook
In businesses where different departments use different systems for managing performance, it can be a challenge for Finance Directors to obtain a Single Version of the Truth (SVOT) or accurate and reliable data for group finance reporting.
In this practical guide we cover:
- Why inconsistencies occur and how to overcome them
- Problems with the reconciliation process
- How valid is your Sales figure?
- Further problems with Multiple currencies
- Will Excel solve the problem?
- The Holy Grail of management reporting
- Achieving SVOT with AccountsIQ
Download Group Finance Reporting EBook.
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