Business Intelligence projects can find where the bodies are buried

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So, you think you know your month-end process, but you might be surprised by what's really happening.

I recently delivered a monthly management reporting (BI) project at a client whose general ledger function is outsourced to a third party. Before the project, visibility into their own data was limited as they were only provided with a set of year to date reports and a trial balance 25 days after month-end.

As the visibility into the data increased during the course of the project, a number of business
process discoveries were made:

  • The CFO was very surprised to hear that transactions were still being posted to general ledger periods 6 weeks after that period was closed and reported to the board.
  • The financial accountant was very surprised to see suspense accounts she had never seen before being used all over the ledger.
  • Also remarkable was the discovery that accounts payable sub-ledger accounts were being created in the general ledger as part of a workaround…

Business processes at this client are changing as a result — and compliance to these processes can now be monitored.

Another client of mine was concerned when I informed him that for two accounts in his balance sheet, the balance being reported by his ERP was materially different from the sum of
all transactions for those accounts. Fortunately in this case, the numbers on the balance sheet were correct — the same could not have been said for the profit and loss report of three years ago.

These clients are not alone — issues such as these are routinely unearthed as part of a Business Intelligence project. If you catch them early enough, they can be remedied. If you don't — someone else will.

Though financial reports can give you a great view into how your business is performing financially, they can't provide insight into the business processes your organisation uses to get there. Learning the truth about these might give you that extra ROI you weren't expecting.

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