Flash Reporting: Tips For Monitoring Your Business Daily

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Flast ReportCompanies use flash reports to see how the business is doing on a daily basis and to communicate key performance indicators (KPI’s) and progress against business objectives on a recurring basis to all levels of the business. The reports are intended to fill the gaps between more detailed monthly or quarterly business reports and provide management with a sense of how the business is performing and what the period-end may look like so corrective action can be taken beforehand if needed.

Where To Start

Your BI system is a great place to build a flash report from.  It is (or should be) flexible, user managed, and have all the key information required for the report.  By using your BI system for your flash, you should be able to easily make changes to the flash report as business needs change and evolve, without requiring extensive time commitments from the business community or IT.

Metrics To Highlight

Our clients often report basic sales information combined with key metrics that help them make sure that the business is running as expected day to day.  Simple metrics like number of orders placed yesterday or this week are basic indicators that help point out potential issues.  Other simple metrics like total sales volume or overall production volume help to insure that things are clicking along as expected.  Daily or frequent flash reporting often relies on the business users’ knowledge to know when these simple metrics are off.  For example, if someone on the supply chain side sees a fill rate for yesterday below the business fill rate target or the fill rate norm, trust me, they will know there’s a problem.  In fact they probably already know there’s a problem, but the flash will help them understand the impact of the fill rate issue.

Many of our customers also highlight on their flashes for C-level management key financial metrics that focus on the cash situation of the business like gross profit margin, days payable, cash balance and operating profit margin.  Plus, some of them publish metrics that are tied to safety and production productivity for the benefit of plant-level management.

While there really are no hard and fast rules, the implementation of flash reports comes down to whatever works best for YOUR business.  Your company’s metrics may or may not be important to other similar companies and will likely be very different from those companies operating in different industries.

Techniques That Work

Here’s a quick list of some tips and techniques that many of our customers have found valuable as they’ve launched their own flash reporting initiatives:

  • Get something out there!  Start simple; then add more metrics as you go.  Make your initial flash report practical, realizing that your business needs will change and so will your flashes.
  • Consider the same report for everyone, but filter it to show only what each user needs to see, e.g. CEO sees all divisions – division heads see just their division, regional managers see only their region, etc.  Again, this keeps things simple without affecting the value of the data being presented.
  • If you prefer to use multiple flash reports, keep in mind that the more report formats you have, the more effort it will be to change them.  And you WILL have to change them.
  • If your reports aren’t distributed automatically, determine what flash reports are going out today, who sends them, and where the information comes from.  These details can help you structure and publish new reports systematically.
  • If your flash reporting is a manual process today, figure out how much time is being spent on maintaining and distributing the reports.  We are often surprised by this – it could be 30 minutes to over an hour a day – equivalent to 175 hours a year or a full month’s worth of effort for a single person.  Breaking it down into terms like this can help you justify the value of flash report automation.
  • Consider key metrics that are not on your current flash but are easily obtained via your Business Intelligence (BI) system and include them – they’re free!
  • Consider adding links on your flash report back to your BI system to allow business users to dig deeper into the underlying details and analyze issues more easily.

Regardless of how automated you get with your flash reporting process, what’s important is that you identify and track your key metrics vs. goals on a scheduled basis and keep a constant (daily) feel on the pulse of the business.

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This post was written by Frank Bunker