Accountants and Business Intelligence

Having read a very interesting article here about Accountants and the importance of Business Intelligence, I thought I would offer my views –

The writer, Peter Simons, is absolutely correct in his views that companies must continuously improve their management information (MI) in order to ensure more commercial and value added decisions can be made. However, I have taken from this article that Peter believes companies are not aware they are not doing this very well or in enough detail – I disagree.

From a recruitment point of view, having had 13 years recruiting accountants across the various parts of the South East and London itself for 3 years, I think this improvement and focus on MI is absolutely top of most companies agendas. There are a number of business analysis, commercial accounting, management information type roles continuously being recruited across a range of businesses – SMEs through to FTSE 100 and US listed companies.

In fact, although I now focus my attention in the Herts, Bucks and Beds area, I would say I have never spoken to more clients who are emphasising the development of this part of their business more. 
I recently met the EMEA Director of Planning for a large corporate (a very nice gentleman) who explained how he was the right hand to the CFO and his role was to liaise with the Group Financial Controller to ensure the figures were correct – i.e. the company took the approach of ensuring the day to day accounting was right before setting the strategic plans and making the management decisions. In recent times, the Group Financial Controller is the right hand to the CFO (and still is in many cases), but companies are now splitting the finance function down ‘technical/ transaction’ accounting and ‘commercial/ strategic’ accounting. The latter is winning the importance battle.

This leads me on to the 2nd point of this article, management information is critical for any business in this market to grow. Costs have been cut over the tough recession years and now listed companies have to report positive figures to their investors. How are they going to do this? In a word……Growth. These companies must increase revenue to increase profit and they are looking at either international expansion (new markets and/or new products), gaining market share or acquisition. What is imperative if they are to obtain any of these things? Good management information.

So although management information is critical, let’s not forget that if these companies do not get their financial reporting accurate and timely all this will be worthless. So management information may be seen as the path to the end of the rainbow but without getting the fundamentals right first and setting the foundations, no business can be built.

Again, from a recruitment point of view there have been a number of financial accounting, reporting and controls jobs around the area over the last few months so I believe companies have got the balance right. BIG 4 ACAs are always sought after for these types of roles in large corporates and, having had two offers in over the last 3 days for people with that background, I don’t think this is going to slow down yet.

So, Peter, your article is very accurate and correct in what companies need from a management information point of view but I wonder if your CIMA background has pushed you to slightly exaggerate the position UK PLC finds itself in with regard management information.

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