A great deal of input, time and resources are consumed to produce a company’s strategic plan. Evidently all of this will be to no avail, if the financial modeller doesn’t build a strategic plan, which accurately forecasts and delivers added value to the executives and relevant stakeholders. Sure a strong attention to detail is paramount to deliver a detailed strategic plan, however the value of the summarised executive Dashboard reports are often understated.
What are Dashboards?
A financial dashboard from the perspective of best practice financial modelling provides a visual snapshot, and overview of the specific financial key performance indicator with a company’s financial statements. The visual output can be delivered with a myriad of graphical forms; line and bar graphs, waterfall charts, pie charts, tornado charts or speedometer/tachometer charts.
Stakeholders of a strategic plan will readily understand the relationship between the various aspects of the financial statements, from a more visual and aesthetically pleasing perspective of a graph, compared to the more detail-oriented nature of financial spreadsheets.
How can a Dashboard be value-adding to a corporation?
A financial dashboard is a highly value-adding and powerful tool that can serve numerous functions. First it provides a high-level executive summary to management or stakeholders; without the need to sift and shuffle through pages of spreadsheets, or a large and sophisticated strategic financial planning model – impossible on a smartphone or challenging on a tablet.
Secondly, it represents an additional corporate governance tool, whereby the financial controller (et al) can effectively identify possible errors or unrealistic forecasts or strategic planning assumptions. Obviously this would never substitute or replace a detailed analysis or perusal by the executive.
Third, it can act as a sounding board for an executive who wants to understand the financial impact of a sensitivity or scenario analysis on the company’s strategic plan. The executive can rapidly understand the financial impact, such as halving the forecasted revenue growth, relative to the existing strategic financial plan thanks to dashboards.
Four, it provides an education tool for a company’s less financially savvy executives or stakeholders. The CEO or CFO can readily explain and illustrate the financial impact of the key assumptions from the strategic plan, to say the likes of the company’s legal counsel, VP Engineering or VP Human Resources.
Five, it can be leveraged by the company to visually communicate the goals of the strategic plan, across the broader company for staff presentations or external stakeholder meetings – particularly in PowerPoint presentations or pdf documents.
Finally, it can greatly enhance all stakeholder buy-in into the prime assumptions underpinning the company’s strategic plan, in terms of the majority of stakeholders agreeing to strive for a 5% percentage increase (year on year) in forecasted sales over the next 5 years – and realise $20 million in additional earnings
A final word on the value-added benefit of Dashboards in Strategic Planning?
The detailed financial modelling underpinning a strategic plan is unparalleled. However the addition of financial Dashboards can deliver immense added-value to the assumptions, which underpin the company’s forecasts and goals. As a visual snapshot of the detailed financial projections, the Dashboards provide stakeholders of the strategic plan with a high-level summary, act as a corporate governance tool, assist with what-if analysis, educate less financially astute users, provide a communicative tool, and improve overall stakeholder buy-in with forecasted assumptions and the overall strategic plan.