FP&A Professional, Are You Choosing the RIGHT Graph for your Story?

Randall Bolten, longtime Silicon Valley CFO, author of "Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You” and adjunct professor at U.C. Berkeley Extension.

There are so many ways to graph information, and many of them are not just labor-intensive, but cognitively ineffective – area charts, especially the particularly evil pie chart (more on that some other time!), frequently fall into that category. But even if you’ve chosen one of the more effective ways of graphing information, also remember that graphs work best when you’re trying to make a single, critically important point.  One of the highest arts, if you want to be an FP&A star, is choosing the chart type that makes that one point most effectively.

RANDALL BOLTEN grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of a CIA intelligence officer and a history professor. He is passionate about the importance of presenting financials and other numerical information in a cogent and effective way, and in his current life is the author of Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).

He is a seasoned financial executive, with many years directing the financial and other operations of high-technology companies. His experience includes nearly twenty years as a chief financial officer of software companies.

He has held the CFO position at public companies BroadVision and Phoenix Technologies, and at private companies including Arcot Systems, BioCAD, and Teknekron. Before his CFO positions, he held senior financial management positions at Oracle and Tandem Computers.

He received his AB from Princeton University, headed west to earn an MBA at Stanford University, and ended up staying in Silicon Valley. 

In addition to writing Painting with Numbers, he currently operates Lucidity, a consulting and executive coaching practice focused on organizing and presenting complex financial information. He divides his work time between Glenbrook, NV and Washington, DC, and maintains an office in Menlo Park, CA.

 

RANDALL BOLTEN grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of a CIA intelligence officer and a history professor. He is passionate about the importance of presenting financials and other numerical information in a cogent and effective way, and in his current life is the author of Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).

He is a seasoned financial executive, with many years directing the financial and other operations of high-technology companies. His experience includes nearly twenty years as a chief financial officer of software companies.

He has held the CFO position at public companies BroadVision and Phoenix Technologies, and at private companies including Arcot Systems, BioCAD, and Teknekron. Before his CFO positions, he held senior financial management positions at Oracle and Tandem Computers.

He received his AB from Princeton University, headed west to earn an MBA at Stanford University, and ended up staying in Silicon Valley. 

In addition to writing Painting with Numbers, he currently operates Lucidity, a consulting and executive coaching practice focused on organizing and presenting complex financial information. He divides his work time between Glenbrook, NV and Washington, DC, and maintains an office in Menlo Park, CA.

Beware of FP&A System Demonstrations

by Michael Coveney, co-author of "Budgeting, Planning, and Forecasting in Uncertain Times"

Too often software evaluations are restricted to features and functions. It’s like evaluating a car by looking at individual components such as the wheels, the engine, the seats …. but without seeing if they all work together to meet your needs for your circumstances. A small electric car may be fine for some people but no good if you need to travel to the arctic or move heavy equipment. So next time you are tempted to view a demonstration, make sure you’re prepared with questions that will help you to assess the true business value of the solution in your ‘real world’. 

Is your Planning System a ‘Measurement system’ or a ‘Management system’?

by Michael Coveney, co-author of "Budgeting, Planning, and Forecasting in Uncertain Times"

In short, performance management systems encompass performance measurement systems, but not the other way around. To achieve effective performance management, systems must possess sophisticated process control capabilities that constantly track organizational activities and invoke user involvement as required.

So do you have one? Is your planning system a ‘measurement system’ or a ‘management system’?

Visual FP&A: Is Graphing the Right Choice?

Randall Bolten, longtime Silicon Valley CFO, author of "Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You” and adjunct professor at U.C. Berkeley Extension

In this article, we address an important question: Which is the most effective way to impart your key information – a table or a graph? 

Ultimately, when considering how information should be presented, the only criterion any FP&A professional should consider is how well that information will be understood by his/her audience. It’s not about your skill using the software tools, or about how “pretty” the information is, nor even what some in your audience claim about their cognitive preferences. (e.g., “I’m a visual person.”) And the first, and perhaps the most important, question to ask yourself is whether your information really lends itself to data visualization.

RANDALL BOLTEN grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of a CIA intelligence officer and a history professor. He is passionate about the importance of presenting financials and other numerical information in a cogent and effective way, and in his current life is the author of Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).

He is a seasoned financial executive, with many years directing the financial and other operations of high-technology companies. His experience includes nearly twenty years as a chief financial officer of software companies.

He has held the CFO position at public companies BroadVision and Phoenix Technologies, and at private companies including Arcot Systems, BioCAD, and Teknekron. Before his CFO positions, he held senior financial management positions at Oracle and Tandem Computers.

He received his AB from Princeton University, headed west to earn an MBA at Stanford University, and ended up staying in Silicon Valley. 

In addition to writing Painting with Numbers, he currently operates Lucidity, a consulting and executive coaching practice focused on organizing and presenting complex financial information. He divides his work time between Glenbrook, NV and Washington, DC, and maintains an office in Menlo Park, CA.

7 Reasons Why Good Financial Business Partnering Starts with Cash Flow

By Michael J. Huthwaite, Founder and CEO of FinanceSeer LLC 

Does your organization view Finance as a business partner, one who provides value-added insight that helps grow the business?  Or does the business tend to perceive Finance as the constant “deal-breakers”, who routinely throw up hurdles and are quick to say “no” anytime a business expert has a new idea or growth initiative?

As Finance leaders, we need to do a better job of leading efforts to educate the business on the importance and simplicity of Cash Flow.  In a world where we are being told to be better “ storytellers ”, we must realize that Cash Flow is a fact, not fiction.  Let’s lead with the simple truth.        

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