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Finance Productivity Hacks

We're doing some research for a Proformative webinar where we want to share the best productivity hacks for finance, accounting and related professionals. Please give me any and all suggestions which will benefit all Proformative users who see this thread, as well as inform a webinar where we will go into depth on time and effort saving “hacks” to make life better for all of us. Some of the ideas so far: - Stop sending reports out and see who asks for them - Have 2 monitors Add your own

Answers

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

What do you mean by hacks? I think that clarification will help spur the conversation.

Bryan Frey
Title: VP Finance/Corp Controller
Company:
(VP Finance/Corp Controller, ) |

Here's a hack I like when I come in to a company and try to get my arms around what matters: Stop sending reports. Yup, just stop sending reports that are of questionable value and see who squawks. If no one mentions its loss after 3 months, just write it off altogether. If they complain about what happened, well, then you have a conversation and you can turn it back on, but still ask them about its value. This clears the decks of many a "traditional" report that's actually useless.

J.G. Collins
Title: Managing Director
Company: The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy
(Managing Director, The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy) |

Some of those reports are compliance reports that are required to be maintained on by government agencies, for example, contemporaneous documentation for US tax purposes or regulators.

You may find that the "squawk" comes two or three years down the road.

Reports that are not required can often be identified in Zero Base Budgeting or a simple report review with senior management, compliance officers, and counsel.

Kristy Andrew
Title: Director, Budget and Finance
Company: Cordova School District
(Director, Budget and Finance, Cordova School District) |

This is a good one, and one that I ran into about a year ago. Our deputy clerk had been running, and having our superintendent sign, a weekly report of all our GL Transactions. It might have been necessary prior to me stepping into the position with a greater amount of tools at my disposal, but now it's obsolete and serves no purpose. Examining events like this is so important if you're looking to increase your efficiency!

Dan Ryan
Title: CFO
Company: Privately held
(CFO, Privately held) |

Also, related to that last hack, look at the distribution of reports across your organization and drop off people and mailing lists that don't have a need to know. Frequently people get added to reports and it adds no value to them and perhaps they really don't need to know. There is risk in over-dissemination of company data, so this is a way to reign it in. You may also find that those "casually need to know" folks make up your entire distribution! If that's the case, you have just found another report that you may not need to produce.

Jeff Taylor
Title: CFO
Company: Communications Co.
(CFO, Communications Co.) |

If you use Excel widely, give your people Excel courses. I don't care how smart your in-house Excel jockey is, he/she can always learn more. But for the rest, it can be a revelation and a major productivity boost. They are typically quick courses to take, can be done online (I know Proformative's Academy has a bunch), and are more interesting than technical accounting :). That is, people don't seem to resist them as much as other training.

J.G. Collins
Title: Managing Director
Company: The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy
(Managing Director, The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy) |

Excel functions can be learned largely by clicking the "?" or by a quick trip to YouTube.

If your staff is smart or imaginative, they can often simply ask themselves "I wonder if I can...." and then search through the web to find the desired function.

But the courses are helpful in that it lets the staff expand their horizons as to what is possible.

Kristy Andrew
Title: Director, Budget and Finance
Company: Cordova School District
(Director, Budget and Finance, Cordova School District) |

Collins, while I agree that there is a wide variety of help out there, you assume you, 1) have staff who are self-motivated and see the value in learning these things, and 2) have staff who aren't so overwhelmed that they feel they can spend a few extra minutes figuring things out.

Personally, I highly recommend employer-paid courses as they take the employee out of the office so the focus is on learning something new that can help them perform their job better. Additionally, (like you mentioned) many employees simply don't know the vast amount of functions available to them, so taking a course that covers a wide variety of what Excel (or whichever program) can do, can be invaluable and get them thinking about how to apply their learning to their duties.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Go the pub/bar with non finance colleagues and listen to what is going on business , you will learn a lot more than in meetings. Understand your business make the numbers real.

Bryan Fritz
Title: Taoist Finance Officer
Company: Business Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(Taoist Finance Officer, Business Consultant) |

Turn off the radio on your ride into work and start listening to audio books. I have about a 30 minute drive into work and I finish a book about every 3 weeks. That adds up to between 15 - 20 books a year. This little change goes a long way.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Bryan - I like this idea, as I listen to podcasts on my way into work. Would you mind giving a few book recommendations? Are you listening to fiction or non-fiction books?

Andy Jorgensen
Title: Principal
Company: Lighthouse Investments LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Principal, Lighthouse Investments LLC) |

Having just faced the dreaded annual audit. I was surprised to see how non-painful it went this time around. Our auditor (part of BDO) was using some new software that coordinated all the requests and stored all the documents online. No more missing exhibits and redoing requests because everything was in one place. The software they used was Suralink, but I think there's another one called Duvtail out there too. Insist on it for the next audit you have.

J.G. Collins
Title: Managing Director
Company: The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy
(Managing Director, The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy) |

To speed reporting of data into financial reports and models, we use the Index function on Excel to build our templates.

Since "dumps" of data from IT systems come into an Excel spreadsheet with the same rows and columns (either directly or after they have been parsed), we merely map the source data in our models using the Index function to fill in updated data into standardized models.

Index is a counterpart of what is likely more familiar to finance pros: "=Lookup", but we have found the "=Index" function to be much more efficient. It allows data collection and report writing to be pushed down to lower level staff so that managerial and executive time can be used for analysis and strategy. It also allows our models to be updated more quickly when (as occasionally happens) data dumps have been altered into a new format.

Basically, =Index looks up the cell and row number of a data dump and places that data in a report or model. If the data format of the dump does not change, one can "suck up" the data from the dump instantaneously to complete a report or a model.

PM me if you would like more.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Don't just publish information. Understand what you have prepared. Actually work with the data, understanding it at the lowest level. Don't just run a query and send in on.

Michael Sipos
Title: Enterprise Account Executive
Company: Trintech
LinkedIn Profile
(Enterprise Account Executive, Trintech) |

Maybe a better way to frame the question is what can be done to make your finance organization more efficient AND effective. There are many automation solutions available that provide these capabilities for Operational/Bank Reconciliations, G/L Reconciliations, Journal Entries, Financial Close, and Compliance.

The key is identifying your company's greatest pain points such as lack of workflow, lack of visibility, timeliness, accuracy, lack of standardization, etc. and then identifying what your optimal future state could/should look like. Once you have done that, then the real fun or effort begins.

You need to evaluate the process first, then identifying the best path forward including leveraging software to enable progress toward the desired outcome.

Kristy Andrew
Title: Director, Budget and Finance
Company: Cordova School District
(Director, Budget and Finance, Cordova School District) |

This biggest "hack" I've found is making use of automation. We automate approvals and distributions of financial data via electronic workflow. Thanks to this ability, not only are we more timely, but our information is more visible, and we are able to do more with a much smaller staff than other agencies of similar size.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

How about working with IT, your user groups and empower them to create reports they want and run those reports at will.

This will go a long way in easing the demands on the CFO staff, bringing ownership of the accounting/finance data to all members and drive productivity.

Pam Kyle
Title: Financial Coordinator
Company: TechKnowledgey, Inc.
(Financial Coordinator, TechKnowledgey, Inc.) |

Our IT services company uses Salesforce Enterprise with Google Drive for document creation/storage. It used to drive me crazy when sales engineers would create quotes in Google that weren't shared with me and/or weren't linked to the opportunity in Salesforce. What's worse, they all had their own version of a template and would sometimes use outdated ones. Using Conga Composer I created a solution that uses a quote template to create the editable quote in Google Docs (using a specified naming convention), files it in a specified Google Drive folder, and links it to the Salesforce opportunity, all with one button click. Saved me hours of followup time and made me look amazing to my boss & IT coworkers.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

I just posted a course on the Proformative learning platform, Top 10 Productivity Hacks for Finance, https://www.proformative.com/courses/corporate-finance-productivity-training-course

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