The purpose of building financial reports is to gain insight into your company allowing you to make decisions in a timely manner – keeping you ahead of the game and not trying to catch up from behind. The problem is that sometimes reports become complex creatures and start to take on a life form of their own taking a long time to create. It’s very likely that one day you were on a report-building roll and created a report masterpiece for someone. Next thing you know, they want this report every month (and likely they want you to add more to it). That’s time consuming and probably not possible every month.
Think of the amount of work you put into creating a financial report as the input in the Law of Diminishing Returns: While at first, the more time you put in increases the benefits you see from the report, eventually you start to see diminishing returns because as the report takes longer to create, the data becomes stale and renders the report not as relevant.
Intacct not only gives you the power to create effective reports that guide business decisions, but most importantly makes creating reports in a timely manner easy. How does Intacct make report creation easy? Well let’s get to it! We’ve already reviewed the Financial Report Wizard, now this post will cover the second variable to successful financial reporting: timeliness. Intacct has built in to the system key features that make report creation in a timely, efficient manner attainable so let’s get started with two of them: Expanding Reports and Report Groups.
Expanding Report Columns:
When creating a Financial Report, on the Columns tab you have the option to “Expand By” dimensions, time periods, or dimension structures. What does “Expand By” mean? Sometimes a screenshot is a more effective way to describe a feature, so let’s take a look.
Report that is “Expanded By” Columns: The first report shows the P&L – Actual vs. Budget for the entire year in one column, while the second report is expanded by the months of the project. Best of all: the second report only took a few seconds longer than the first report to create.
Now that we’ve got that down – a question that has come up a lot recently is how to expand by custom periods. Unfortunately when you create a Custom Reporting Period in Intacct (right now), the Expand By Time Period disappears. (It’s a mystery to me as to why – but let’s get to the work around!).
It’s very likely that when running a Budget vs. Actual Report, you want to see how your project is doing against the budget for the entire duration of the project no matter whether that project is this year or next, whether it coincides with the company fiscal periods or not. Makes sense, right? Let’s say my company runs on a calendar year, the project however begins today, July 1, 2014 and will end on September 30, 2014. I want to see how the project is doing over this time period. The problem is that it’s not exactly optimal to create a column for each month of the project. What if the project gets extended (another month gets added to the budget)? Not only do you have to update each Project Budget vs. Actual Report with a new column every month, but you might have multitudes of projects causing the upkeep to be very time-consuming.
The problem is that it’s very likely there is someone in the organization waiting on this report from you. It’s difficult to make business decisions when report creation is delayed. By the time the appropriate project manager gets the report (maybe a week or two later) they may have already made decisions that it is now too late to correct. It’s a bit difficult making decisions blindly.
Expanding Columns Example:
- You receive Project A, which you then create in Accounts Receivable and enter in Project Start and End Dates. (Ex: You receive Project A for the months of July 2014 – September 2014).
- When you receive Project A, you also create a new budget (Project A Budget) allocating a certain amount each month for the lifespan of the project. Below is a screen capture of what that Budget will look like for 1 account:
- In this scenario, to keep things simple, we create a new budget for each Project. You could also create a single budget and update each time a new Project starts.
Once you’ve entered in the Project and the Budget for that Project you will create the Budget vs. Actual Report for the Project. The columns will look like the screen capture below. The main difference lies in the first Actual column where you’ll use Actual, Current Year (or Current Year to Date) and expand by the Budget Periods. Intacct then knows to expand your actuals column first by the calendar year and second by the months that have budget recorded to that specific project. (The only trick here is if you have a Project that spans more than one calendar year you would have to put in two columns: 1. Current Year and 2. Current Year (offset of 1 prior period or future if that is the case)). (Note that even if transactions are entered outside of the budget period but recorded to that Project, they will still show up in your report. For example if you record Project A having a budget spanning July 2014 – September 2014 but then transactions come through Intacct tagged to Project A in July 2015, they will still show on the report.)
Now, the last thing that we can set up is a report group. (Because why not go above and beyond since we’re already making life easier). What a report group does is it will group all the various Project reports together so you can run them with one click, resulting in one Excel spreadsheet with multiple sheets (one for each Project). Report Groups can be created by going to: Company > Report Groups. Once all reports are added to the group you can either Run or Schedule the report to run and even email to the Project Manager automatically (how efficient is that?!).
Now that you have reduced report building time, making it easy to keep a pulse on your company’s financial health and make business decisions ahead of time (and even managed to have Intacct automatically send your reports for you) all that’s left to do is decide what to do with all your free time!
Report Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org !