I talked to her last week. She works for a manufacturer who sells products everywhere in Canada and the United States, sometimes directly, sometimes through distributors or agents.
She explained to me all the operations she has to do every month, every week and every day to prepare the reports to meet the sales team and senior management’s requests.
I know, it may not be the “finances lady”. It might be the “Excel black belt sales coordinator”, the “controller”, the marketing “whiz-kid” or even the business analyst specifically hired to produce reports…
This “finances lady” may be present in your enterprise in various versions, departments, divisions…
She’s a reliable, responsible and invaluable employee! She is one of the key elements that make things run smoothly in your enterprise.
You will find extraordinary opportunities for improvement at the heart of this key-employee’s activities. These improvements will not only reduce stress and errors related to critical data manipulation, they will also allow faster, more frequent and more profitable decisions.
By improving her daily work, you will make this key-resource happier and more efficient AND you will develop an agile decision-making process that will distinguish you from the competition.
The sales managers often depend on this key-resource to know the actual state of the situation. That is not insignificant!
Let’s take a moment to dive into her daily work and explore avenues for improvement.
Her technological tool belt: Outlook, your “ERP” and Excel!
Her mailbox is at the heart of the reports requests from the management team.
She knows Excel like the back of her hand. She spends much of her day combining more or less structured data from the accounting system or ERP or from the distributors, retailers, managers, etc.
She knows the ERP system by heart and, above all, its limitations.
Limitations are not acceptable… not for you, not for her
She knows that Excel, an extraordinary tool, can become slow and inefficient when you ask too much out of it.
She knows what the ERP system does not support today and will not support for many years… maybe will never support. And that is despite the migration and updates to come.
She lived it, the previous migration.
She lives in the real world, the world in which, TODAY, you have to:
- Combine Excel files, all different, from 15 different distributors, to provide information to the sales managers on what is really going on in the field.
- Spend hours every month to make sure the points of sales are filed under the proper territories, that the products are well identified in your system and traceable in the clients’ files, that the product categories are well structured…
- Produce a commission report by territory even if there is no notion of territory in the ERP and the sales aren’t detailed enough to produce the report.
- Prepare consolidated reports for the president to show the differences between the sales targets, fixed in an Excel grid at the beginning of the fiscal year, and the sales-to-date.
- Provide an ad hoc analysis for an important meeting the sales VP has set with a major client in 10 days.
- Consolidate 40 expense accounts (all Excel files!)
- Centralize reviewed forecast data provided by territories managers.
- Provide special analyses to assess the impact of a promotion, the effect of prices variation, the distribution gained during the launch of new products, etc.
She will be able to give you 50 more examples if you ask her…
But that’s not all. She also has many other essential tasks to do to ensure a good management of the day-to-day business.
Each mistake can have serious repercussions
She knows that an incorrect formula in an Excel file she provides each month to senior management can have serious repercussions.
These are “mission critical” analyses used for decision-making and are often presented to all the senior management team, partners or strategic clients.
You do not have to put pressure on her, she knows that mistakes are unacceptable.
Over the past few years, some errors have slipped in. You know it and she knows it too. You were upset, but understanding, you adjusted back then and so did she. She tighten her self-quality control.
But as your enterprise continues to grow, the demand and risk of error increase.
Improvement 1: Eliminate repetitive data manipulations in Excel
Excel is not a tool to assemble/integrate data. Implement a tool to automate data integration to eliminate any manipulation needed to prepare the reports and reduce the risk of errors.
You will avoid hours of manipulations each month.
In PAWA, there is a module called “Data Zone” in which a clerk can literally drag and drop files of all types to automatically integrate them in a centralized database to produce reports.
You have dozens of files from different distributors and sources? No problem: simply drag and drop them in the “data zone”.
Improvement 2: Simplify data mapping as much as possible
If you look at the repetitive tasks related to the data preparation, you will notice that a lot of time is spent:
- searching and linking products’ internal and external (clients or distributors) codes.
- searching and linking stores codes to representatives, distributors,…
- mapping dates with tax periods.
- mapping budget data with actual sales.
- reclassifying territories, representatives assignations,…
All these manipulations are often managed in Excel and done manually.
An integration solution will allow you to only focus on exception management and eliminate all unnecessary activities.
Improvement 3: Review your sales reports distribution strategy
Simplify standard reports, make them available at all times and allow managers to easily drilldown information themselves.
Go from an on-demand/published access mode for reports(reports sent by email or placed on the network) to a self-service access mode(accessible via a tool available at all times). This will significantly reduce the requests for the production of “custom” reports.
Take this opportunity to also simplify the reports.
If you make simple reports prepared according to the best practices available, your managers will be more efficient and they will thank you.
Moreover, a self-service access platform offers extraordinary drilldown possibilities that are almost impossible to deliver with an on-demand access mode (Ref.: sales data drill down strategy).
Improvement 4: Implement dashboards for frequently used scenarios
Make an inventory of all the business scenarios frequently used that require a long and difficult preparation… Example: business review with a store, retailer or distributor, monthly sales meeting, brand’s performance review, review of the impact of a promotion, etc.
Implement summary dashboards covering each of these scenarios
Improvement 5: Offer a truly powerful tool to your “finances lady”
By providing a well-structured data cube including all the required dimensions and scopes, you will unleash your data manager’s power.
- She will save a huge amount of time by avoiding all the data manipulation work.
- She will finally be able to make the many processes improvements previously set aside because of the lack of time.
- She will use her Excel skills in truly exceptional cases to prepare, within a few minutes, relevant ad hoc reports to answer critical questions.
- She will be equipped to help you to better manage the enterprise and seize new opportunities.
Tribute to a key-resource: her success = your success
At Dev-ID, the “finances lady” is called Nathalie.
She is a committed, reliable and dependable employee. She has been helping us make better decisions for years.
Each time we help her avoid low value added work, we significantly improve the whole enterprise’s efficiency.
Unlock the power of the “finances lady”
Do not ignore the extraordinary improvement opportunities you will find at the heart of the activities of this key-employee.
I have a lot of scenarios in mind and offering new tools to this employee did not only improve her efficiency, it also helped the president, many VP and sales managers make better decisions day after day.
That kind of impact has an undoubtedly direct effect on the “bottom-line”.