Good management information (MI) should enable those in leadership positions to make positive decisions. It needs to be accurate, timely, relevant and consistent. MI is not just about different parts of a business telling each other things, it is about measuring performance and identifying potential risks.

There is a tendency for MI to be dull – impenetrable collections of figures which no one at C-level understands. The challenge is to instead convert it into a compelling narrative that will drive decision making. All CFOs and FDs need engagement from the other C-suite executives on the board; if there is a sense of collaboration rather than the MI being something created without their participation, the commitment will be stronger.

It’s all about moving board members past the childish behaviour of seizing on elements of the MI as ammunition to be used against other execs. You need to involve everyone by getting to the point, quickly, and therefore driving shared conclusions, quickly. As CFO or FD, it’s important to remove any potential barriers to understanding and engagement before you reach the boardroom.

Using the Planning Analytics tool to create stronger presentations, containing meaningful narratives, will ultimately empower the business as a whole. Here are our top tips for powerful MI.

Show, don’t tell

When it comes to C-level board members who may not have a detailed grasp on the meaning behind the numbers, less can be more. Use your presentations to show, rather than tell, them the overall picture for the organisation. Make things obvious and easy to grasp but be careful not to leave any wriggle room for disengagement by leaving out any vital information.

Contextualise

Add clarity to your MI through including comparisons. Your audience will want to see how you are performing against the rest of the market, the rest of the sector and your own results from last year. It’s the insight derived from these comparisons that will drive your MI.

From macro to micro and back

You can exploit the functionality of your boardroom dashboards to make it easier to illustrate exactly what you mean. Showing worked examples where you dive down to the granular level and then quickly pull back to the overall picture in just a few clicks allows for real-time what-if conversations among the board. No more are the days of having to go away, work something up and then deliver results at the next session.

Build understanding to increase engagement

Whatever system you use to handle your data, as an organisation it’s crucial to avoid the trap of ‘black box thinking’ – the assumption that the software is going to spit out all of the answers with no intervention from anyone else. When certain areas of the business misunderstand the impact the numbers are having on other business units, they will draw their own, incorrect, conclusions. There needs to be an understanding of the overall economics of the organisation to ensure engagement in the process when you tell everyone sitting round the board room table that they need to go away and look at what’s behind the numbers you’re presenting them with.

Avoid surprises

Be up front about what’s coming within the information. Get to the point and present the overarching narrative when you supply the MI, that way everyone in the room will be more engaged, on the same page and prepared to dig into any surprise numbers in order to better understand them. If you don’t prepare your audience for the story the numbers are going to tell, there’s a high chance that they’ll use any outliers as an opportunity to disengage with the process – demanding checks rather than striving for answers.

Appearance matters

Anything you can do to simplify your MI and rule out the possibility for any confusion is a positive step. This doesn’t just apply to the content but also the style. Use visualisation tools in Workspace to create consistent design and apply it to the whole presentation, make it easy for people to follow and absorb the data you’re presenting.

Harness the technology

With Planning Analytics, you can make technology work for you and take the stress out of preparing your monthly MI packs. No more rushing to complete the task in time for the board meeting. With the extra time available you can put thorough checks in place, look at the underlying trends to arm yourself with additional context and take the opportunity to engage people ahead of time – all part of your strategy to avoid surprises when the numbers are presented.

If you’re ready to take your MI to the next level whilst simplifying the task of preparing it, get in touch today to discover exactly how much of a difference Planning Analytics could make to this monthly process.

The great thing about working with Spitfire Analytics is their financial background.  We can just explain what we need in our own terms and they understand exactly what needs to be done.

- Phil Talbot, Finance Director, Robertson Group

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