This is the last article of a three-part series about using dashboards in presenting and communicating financial information. Initially we recommended an article about the planning that should precede the creation of dashboards. My second article demonstrated the use and versatility of Excel in creating dashboards as part of the financial reporting package prepared for executive management and the Board of Directors. In this article I want to talk about another type of dashboard, those that are built in to the accounting software and serve more than a presentation purpose but also provide management with a business intelligence tool for analysis and planning.
I will use as an example the suite of dashboards called the Visual Analyzer in the nonprofit accounting software we are most familiar with, Abila MIP Fund Accounting. The existence of built-in dashboards may not be the main reason for buying or subscribing to the software, but it sure is a useful value-added extra that will pay for itself.
Essentially the dashboards present a number of pre-defined views that display financial information in graphic and tabular form either as a snapshot or over time with the capability of varying the timeline and filtering the content to be presented. With the MIP Visual Analyzer the user can manipulate financial information, slicing and dicing it into meaningful categories and drilling down to transaction-level detail. It comes with multiple-preformatted dashboards covering four functional areas:
- General Ledger
- Budget Dashboard
- Analysis Dashboard
- Financial Management
- Financials Dashboard
- Trend Analysis Dashboard
- Cash Management Dashboard
- Net Assets Dashboard
- Accounts payable
- Open Payables Dashboard
- Payables Analysis Dashboard
- Accounts receivable
- Open Receivables Dashboard
- Receivable Analysis Dashboard
Download a PDF that shows each of the dashboards. Please note that because the underlying database contains demo data that has not been brought up to present, some of the information displayed on the dashboards will be skewed (e.g., AR aging). The software also includes the capability to build custom dashboards, the main criterion being the existence of underlying data, which could include non-financial data such as outcome measures.
Most of the charts displayed can be copied and pasted into the Word, Excel or PowerPoint. The underlying detail to the level desired can be printed or exported to Excel. Charts can be converted to the supporting tabular schedules. The information can be sliced by account segment (e.g., by program, funding source, FASB 117 restriction, etc.).
Most robust accounting software packages will have dashboards similar to these. Our experience is that only about one out of five accounting software users employ them to any extent. Using dashboards of this type add a whole new dimension to reporting and analyzing financial information, with a minimum of effort. Please contact us if you want more information or a personal demo.