How does good quality Management Information (MI) aid decision making?

For an organisation that combines outsourced bookkeeping with management accounts, you would expect us to be “fans” of what good quality MI or what we would call management accounts, can do for a business. 
We have heard MI compared with the devices connected to a modern car being serviced – the type which gives the mechanic an immediate picture of a raft of key statistics. We are biased of course, but we believe that MI does more than that - it gives information that enables you to make decisions that you wouldn’t otherwise achieve. 
So how does it work?
MI is different for every business as each is unique. Different industries, routes to market, organisational structures, stage in the development of the business can all require different information. That being said, there are a number of measures that will exist in pretty much every MI, these are:
• A monthly profit and loss and balance sheet
• The gross margin percentage. This is the gross profit (sales less direct costs) divided by the sales value, excluding VAT
• Sales information, broken down by product/service and distribution channel, usually shown against target and in the context of the past year’s performance
• Detailed information about costs and overheads usually shown in the context of budgets
• Performance against a bespoke set of key performance indicators
What kind of decisions can this help you make?
Decisions that can enhance your profitability.
• Possibly for the first time you will have a true understanding of which products and services and routes to market are making you the most profit. On the back of this you are likely to change your business strategy to optimise your sales mix to generate the most profit. You might withdraw certain products or services or prioritise one route to market over another. 
• With products, services or distribution routes that are least profitable you can focus on costs in these areas, with the aim of reducing them and making them proportionate. A common issue for service related business is inadvertently over servicing, where you deliver a level of service that is not proportionate to the return that you make. Banks are a prime example of this whereas they now focus on customers serving themselves e.g. ATMs, online banking, online statements etc. You can even see the same dynamic with the likes of McDonalds and their large tablet like touch screens where you self order, cutting the number of staff required in the restaurant.
• Where the market will stand it, you can look to increase prices to bolster the worst performing products, services or distribution routes and improve the profitability of everything else. 
Smarter operational decisions
• Sales Managers or Directors love the information because it allows them to structure sales incentive schemes that are proportionate and drive the behaviours that bring the best possible business mix from a profit perspective. Gone are the days when hitting the target is enough, they can now hit the target with the most profitable products.
• Marketing Managers or Directors who can find themselves under increasing pressure to demonstrate return on investment and justify budgets, can direct their marketing to focus on generating leads for the most profitable products, services or distribution routes.
• Procurement Managers love the information as it can help enable them to manage stock levels smarter and reduce the possibility of getting stuck with stocks of unprofitable products.
• Finance Managers/Directors and MDs love the information for lots of reasons, but one of the most important, perhaps only behind understanding profitability and managing cashflow, is visibility of debtor days. This visibility can help allocate appropriate resource to following up outstanding amounts, reviews of payment terms and even ceasing doing business with particular customers if they cannot be persuaded to change their behaviours.
• All of this highlights the importance of ensuring that the right people in your business receive the precious MI. We feel it also justifies one of our favourite phrases – “Measure what you want to Improve”.
• IT Managers or Directors love this kind of information as it gives them a basis to prioritise their long “to do” lists for development. 
If this has sparked your interest and you would like information of this kind that could enhance your business then maybe we should talk?

Boost your Profitability by using quality Management Accounts

In our 25 years of experience we often take on clients with issues, often unknown, surrounding their management accounts.

If you’re serious about improving you profitability then naturally you’ll ensure that you receive promptly, every month, the key information, both financial and non financial, that you need to run your business effectively and efficiently.

This isn’t what your accountant gives you in their format or what you’ve inherited. It’s what you and your team or Board have determined that you need. You’ve really got to "own" it otherwise you risk not extracting the most benefit from the potentially precious information.

Some issues are obvious and easy to identify such as just no management accounts or they’re far too late or of poor quality. What tends not to be obvious or even admitted are personal user ‘difficulties’ around the table. These broadly fall into two categories. The first is a simple lack of understanding of what the numbers mean and what action consequently should be taken. The second is in accepting a sub standard form of reporting, perhaps assuming, probably wrongly, that it can’t be changed or that such would be too expensive. 

A sub optimal reporting scenario is a shame but it’s worse than that. It’s potentially costing serious money if management decisions are being delayed or prevented because of the lack of quality MI. The funny thing is that, in our experience, most issues mentioned are pretty straightforward to deal with and are well worth considering. 

Beware - it’s not a good idea to carry on with the same reporting that you inherit without reviewing as to whether or not it’s fit for your purpose. Circumstances may have changed over time so that the reporting needs adjusting but this won’t happen automatically. 

Of course this applies equally to charities where arguably it’s even more important to have the MI and understand it as Trustees are personally responsible. 

One of the most profitable developments in a reporting system is to split the single Profit & Loss report between different parts of the business such as in BookCheck where we report separately on each of Bookkeeping with Management Accounts and Payroll. They’re different businesses with different margins. If they’re mixed together in one, whilst you can still tell the sales performance, you don’t know which is improving its margin profitability and which is not – there’s no way of telling.

Perhaps the most difficult obstacles to overcome is for a user to admit a lack of understanding. To a certain extent that’s down to the service provider checking, asking, hinting or otherwise. But it’s mostly down to the individual getting real. 

Quality Management accounts should be a terrific basis for boosting the profitability and hence value of the business so our advice is - don’t waste the opportunity.