“Never take your eyes off the cash flow, because it is the life blood of business”

-Richard Branson

Putting aside whether any of us will ever fly into the cosmos on one of Virgin Galactic’s shuttles (or not!) – there’s no denying that Richard Branson knows a thing or two about business – so why is it that so many Finance teams across the world still seem to spend more time running & compiling financial reports, than they do actually analysing and planning (that is, keeping an eye on cash flow)?

If Cash is King and Data is the new Gold – wouldn’t it be better to strike it rich than sifting through the dirt “ad nauseam” each month?

Spreadsheets – A staple tool in Finance Departments

It can be a mammoth effort for the Finance team just to get the information they need – before they can ever start to answer any questions. Spreadsheets have become unwieldy that populating and managing them has become a resource-intensive process.

Ever since the days of Dot-Matrix Printers running off invoices overnight, there has been a huge demand for a focused, insightful, interactive summary of an organisations’ Fiscal Month/Quarter/Year Position. It has been the pipedream of many an FD/CFO to have easy access to the answers to the Six-W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why & How).

Unfortunately, the reality of this task often requires a gargantuan effort on the part of the Finance team at each period-close, as they scramble to assemble dozens and dozens of disparate reports, CSV files, emails and pumping them all into a complicated, formula-laden, labour-intensive (and most of all – temperamental!) Excel Workbook that tries to distil the raw data down into a Board Pack / Committee Paper / Slide Deck.

Why is a modern Finance Dashboard important?

The ideal Finance Dashboard is designed to make it easier to consolidate financial metrics in a natural way and offers drill down capabilities – enabling total visibility and insights over expenditure, income and cash flow. Subsequently, it makes it easy to track the overall business finance progress against its set budgets and forecasts over time.

Whilst it’s been well-established for many years what the Finance Dashboard should be – delivering on that vision was the rue of many Financial Analysts. This is where the Modern Finance Dashboard comes into play, and this how we envisioned it at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH).

Modern ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) & Financial / Accounting Systems are extremely complicated beasts – with many inter-linked and inter-dependent elements that need to come together to build a view of an organisations’ Fiscal Position. The below is a basic overview of a typical organisation:

Value Delivered for the Finance department at DBTH

Data-driven and built on top of an Analytical, Dimensional Model (OLAP), one of the key capabilities of the Modern Finance Dashboard is to change dynamically, showing the summary of financial performance by Month / Quarter / Year, while showing trends, patterns, and projections in comparison with historical data from previous years. It eliminates the need for a multi-day effort to collect, clean, sanitise and amalgamate the organisations’ data, empowering the Finance team to spend more time analysing the period-close position and being pro-active in their planning efforts.

As well as saving heaps of time and effort (not to mention, mitigating the risk of human-error) – a modern cube-based approach to building a financial model also provides the below benefits:

  • It is a single source of truth about the business’ Fiscal Position, collecting Finance information from diverse/disparate data sources “automagically”.

  • Ability to drill-down, drill-up and drill-across interactively, opening up a whole world of analytical inquisition.

  • At-a-glance Measures, Metrics and KPIs developed and broken down by corelated business areas.

  • Centralised, agreed formulation of Metrics, KPIs and business logic centralised in one place.

  • Enables What-If scenarios / analysis (e.g Current Vs Revised Budget, Average Vs Run-Rate Forecasts etc.)

As well as being a foundational centrepiece for the business, a cube-based approach also enables the ability to interact and create Paginated Reports (SSRS / Power BI) as well as Power Pivot / Power Chart Reports in Excel, using an SSAS connection with no code experience needed (handy for those reports / submissions you can’t move entirely into the interactive world of reporting!).

Georgia Loukou
Georgia LoukouDevelopment Team Lead
Nathan Rees
Nathan ReesAssociate BI Manager

Mock-up Power BI Finance Dashboard at DBTH

**The figures are only for display purposes and do not correspond to real data from any Trust, due to confidentiality**

Mock-up Power BI Cashflow Dashboard at DBTH

**The figures are only for display purposes and do not correspond to real data from any Trust, due to confidentiality**

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