Most conventional financial reporting consists of information that is primarily
Internal to the business
Financial in its definition
Numeric in its nature
Historical in its focus.
But each of these attributes has an opposite type of information that is:
External to the business
Non-financial in its definition
Text in its nature
Future in its focus.
These opposite types of information are also important in our businesses. In the table below, we have set out where data pertaining to financial “actuals” lies in relation to these distinctions. Without wishing to belittle its importance, it represents only one-sixteenth of the cells in the table.
The object of a well-balanced and comprehensive executive dashboard project should surely be to harness and integrate much of the qualitative and future-oriented information that is available, and to look at the outside world and the competition as well as one’s own company. There is no harm in starting with historical financial actuals, providing that our vision does not stop there.
The all too often heard apology that “we’d like to improve the delivery of our management information but we are going to have to wait for the new ERP and Data Warehouse project to be implemented which is due to be completed in 3 years’ time” completely misses the point. At most, the 3 year project will contribute some of the financial and operating performance data. There is plenty of work to be done in the other areas in the meantime. Getting better insight from information that already exists and which can be used to help steer the business is surely a worthwhile objective.