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How can CFOs improve board reports?

22/11/13

One of the most important roles for chief finance officers (CFOs) is reporting back to the board, acting as the bridge between the financial department and the rest of a business to allow leading executives to make decisions on how to progress.

This is often done through the medium of a board report, but the ongoing debate over the best form for these offerings to take means it is difficult to say what the best approach is for CFOs keen to carry out this process as effectively as possible.

Writing in CFO World, Andrew Mosely, consulting director at business intelligence consultancy Metapraxis, said a wide variety of formats exist because "few conventions have been established" around the form.

"Ultimately, board reports need to contain highly relevant and insightful information and clearly analyse the issues to stimulate constructive dialogue amongst board members and stakeholders," he explained.

However, this could be easier said than done, particularly given that each industry will involve different data and require its own metrics to make sense of these figures.

According to Mr Mosely, there are certain commonalities CFOs should bear in mind when producing reports of this kind.

For instance, a logical structure will always help board members understand the information contained in a report, however complex or simple the actual data itself is.

"The choice of whether to portray information in the form of tables, charts or text should not be arbitrary, as different types of information are clearer and easier to understand when presented in certain formats," added Mr Mosely.

CFOs should attempt to gain an understanding of trends and turning points if they are to analyse the performance of their organisation in a forward-looking, positive way, he suggested.

Finally, he called on finance officers to introduce a "topic of the month", enabling coverage of a broad range of issues throughout the year without becoming bogged down in detail every time a report is presented.

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