Driving strategic decisions

How to drive proactive strategic decisions for 2021 and start using your power right?

Losing speed, power, and strength are likely to be some of the experiences that (unfortunately) best describe the years of lockdown and remote work. Even using a word like turbulent to describe the past year seems almost an understatement. But none the less does it prove the importance of making sure you maintain control over the steering wheel.

Switching off reactive management mode and mapping your priorities

The first step in switching off reactive management mode, hitting the re-set button, and regaining momentum are to use your reflection on the past year. How you map out your priorities for the upcoming financial year is the most impacting task. Thus, you can ensure to constantly take the appropriate actions.

A smart move would be to start by looking at your data processes and ensuring they operate effectively.

Begin by asking yourself what the most prominent struggles were during the various lockdowns and what has changed.

  • What caused you the most trouble when making strategic decisions?
  • What barriers kept you from delivering the required insights?
  • What caused you delays and why?
  • Were you able to gain access to your data at the speed of your decision-making, or did you stall decisions?


The correct information brings knowledge…

…And knowledge is power. But do you know what the accurate information is, and if so, do (or did) you have access to it?

Covid-19 has made it fairly obvious who is losing power – the companies operating on obsolete locally installed systems. These systems make it difficult to be agile and stay up to speed. Especially, as many are now working remotely and handling tasks online.

On the other hand, the winners are companies with integrated systems and easily accessible through the cloud (like Konsolidator).

If you don’t count yourself in this group, surely the way you have organized your systems/workflows have proven to be a risky strategy. But fortunately, this also means you have a lot to gain just by changing how you operate. If you struggled when the speed of requirements and insights accelerated, you should change. It is evident that you need new systems to support new requirements.

Every process is either working or not.

By continuing the same path as before, it is difficult to be able to catch up. Competent finance professionals will acknowledge that cannot recover from the weaker spots in their workflows

So, make a list of how you can change by doing something different.

Admit what was/is broken so you can fix it (sooner rather than later).
Once you start assessing your workflows and reflecting on their performance, it will become obvious which areas need the most attention and where your urgencies lie. This insight is the key to taking back control and looking forward to scenario planning, forecasts, and minimizing your exposure to reoccurring risks.

Look at your systems
  • Can you connect remotely?
  • Are they interoperable?
  • Are they installed locally on your device, or can you access them from your web browser?
  • Do they allow you to get access to your data at the speed of your decisions?
  • In which business areas should you look for a replacement tool for your current?

Your data is the main driver for strategic decisions, so looking at your data will undoubtedly inform your next priorities.

One example is those tasks that rely on shared Excel spreadsheets – the remote working environment has probably given the death blow to those once and for all. Trying to work efficiently in shared spreadsheets has never really been ideal considering the far-reaching type of errors that are common to these Excel spreadsheets like:

  • Formular errors
  • Copy/paste errors
  • Deleting notes
  • Typos
  • …(feel free to add more yourself)

If you are a company for whom the Excel nightmare blew out in full force during these last couple of years, you need to re-think how you handle tasks. Going through the methods you need, and the systems you currently are using should be your priority if you want to prevent the challenges you have just experienced.

Otherwise, you will undoubtedly (continue) to spend valuable hours and days on time-draining tasks like administering spreadsheets, reconciling the numbers and calculations, and adjusting formulas, instead of on value-adding activities such as providing agile insights to your enterprise.

If you want to gain momentum and be more strategic, you have to be proactive, and that you can only do if you implement tools that help you ensure correct numbers and give you back time to analyze your numbers rather than being stuck in the production.


Can you be data-rich but knowledge-poor at the same time?

Now that we have covered where your data comes from and how you can work to improve your data flow, we will round off by taking a moment to look at your financial report as the last step in how to drive strategic decisions.

One thing is having access to data; another is knowing how to use it correctly. And therefore, yes, you can easily be data-rich and knowledge-poor at the same time.

Data, reports, and analysis are essential because you cannot make insights and financial statements without the raw numbers. Where you make a difference is when you share insights, make recommendations, and influence the management’s decisions, so they make better decisions and execute better.

But the value of your data lies in your ability to communicate them right. Hence a focus on how you present and communicate your data is critical.

The more data you get access to, the more data you will have the opportunity to present.

Figuring out exactly what to present is the real task. Otherwise, the risk of you (and management) drowning in the overload of data and losing sight of the key factors that should drive decisions is immense.

Defining what to communicate, therefore, becomes your most important task. Gathering all your data and sending it forward to management is easy to do. But this has got nothing to do with building valuable financial insights.

However, filtering and selecting the correct strategic data and presenting it is, precisely, what you want to be doing to ensure you effectively present and visualize the important message your data is telling you (and your management).

An old-fashioned Excel Spreadsheet can be impossible for outsiders or non-financial professionals to understand. To be sure your message comes across, present your data so it is digestible for everyone.

Here Power BI (or any other visualization tool) is your friend!

You have to move away from the classic column layouts in Excel and think more creatively about how you present your data to management. Presenting data to your management in large Excel files will not benefit anyone.

You need to present data in a way that easily communicates the story the data is telling you (for your financial group reporting, Konsolidator can help you do this).

By now, you have probably realized that being only a number cruncher sitting behind your screen is no longer enough. You must seek out and talk to people in your organization to gather valuable insight about the business. Especially for SMEs, it is essential to facilitate this change during uncertain times, where real-time insights for what to do and why to do them are crucial for business survival.

Start with the beginning and build a data flow that delivers accurate financial statements.

And remember, the output of your data is only as good as the input, so data structure comes before anything else.