If accountants could choose, most of us would not be bean counters. We’re actually trained as analysts and investigators – not just the ones that compile the spreadsheets, but the ones that consider all that information, understand the lessons it has to teach, and apply them to make our organisations better.
In the halcyon days of our education, maybe that’s what we thought we would be doing. Instead, too many of us spend our lives just chasing down the numbers, making one phone call after another to reluctant cost centre managers whose reports are always “nearly done”
Note the key words in that sentence: real-time, relevant, quick, accessible and easy to understand. If you really want cost centre managers to engage with the numbers, those are the requirements that need to be met. Fortunately, nowadays it’s not all that hard; and the rewards are immense.
One area that yields really quick benefits from real-time systems is expense management. Here I’m not talking about the purchasing and approvals process, but about managing the everyday budget expenses incurred in every cost centre. At the moment, this quite often happens in hindsight: Finance produces month-end figures and sends the reports to cost centre managers by about the middle of the next month, and then everyone scrambles to explain discrepancies.