Visual Analytics

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.

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.

A good sketch is better than a long speech – 5 benefits of data visualisation tools

By Ian Yates,  Managing Director at Barcanet

“A good sketch is better than a long speech…” a quote often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte.

Companies are collecting, organising, storing, and analysing data from hundreds of sources, and the volume is increasing exponentially. But this data is only relevant if it can be used to drive outcomes and make timely business decisions. So it is essential to you can understand and evaluate the data quickly, and this is where data visualisation comes in.

FP&A Data Visualization: Don’t Skip ANY of These Questions!

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

Data visualization – or graphing, to use a more plebeian synonym – is one of the hottest buzzwords in FP&A today… right up there with “big data” and “predictive analytics”. It can certainly be an immensely powerful tool for helping your audience grasp your most important points. And it’s getting more powerful – in addition to good old Excel’s already-lengthy list of graphing capabilities, there’s an increasing number of excellent data visualization software products.

London FP&A Board: Are Fancy Visual Aids Worth the Investment?

By Neil Ainger, GTnews

Some time ago, the FP&A Board in London saw members debate whether fancy business intelligence (BI) software tools are a wise or even necessary investment. The general consenus was that boardroom members often don’t want to see complicated graphs, instead preferring to see the numbers in a flat 2D table.

“I’ve worked for a chief financial officer [CFO] who hated graphs,” said one senior FP&A professional. “As a finance person, he wanted numbers, not graphs. He even got his PA to print off a dynamic clickable dashboard I produced! A lot of a presentation depends upon who you are presenting to. I’ve certainly adapted my technique and tools depending upon who is listening.”

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