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I find many businesses I start to work with still manually input their sales and purchase ledger or detailed general journal transactions. With most accounts packages (even the smaller ones) having the ability to import transactions from spreadsheets or directly from another system, there is very little need to spend hours on manual inputting directly into your system.
Some of the reasons/excuses businesses don’t import their transactions:
- No one knows how to do the imports. Once a template has been established, most imports are very simple to do and require minimal training.
- They believe it’s quicker to input directly as they don’t need to look up the accounts seperately. Very simple formulae in a spreadsheet could help with this. It’s easier to see from a spreadsheet whether the totals are correct and reduces the time taken to drill down into multiple screens on each transaction.
- By the time they’ve set up the template, they could’ve input it already. This is usually true of the first time but when staff members get used to processing this way, they are able to get a handle on it’s further potential uses and like anything, the time taken to do this reduces.
There are many reasons why I believe businesses should consider importing their transactions, here are some:
- Most transactions within accounts are repetative on a daily, monthly or quarterly basis. By having import templates ready to edit not only acts as a checklist of which entries are needed but will (after the initial set up) save time and improve accuracy of the data.
- Having information on a spreadsheet allows quicker reviews and clarity on what’s being input without the need to ‘drill down’ into the transactions.
- Importing saves manual processing time allowing staff to do more value added activities. By having more detailed information in your accounts system it vastly improves the information you’re able to then get out of it for management reporting and budgeting.
- The quality of data will improve as you’re likely to have more fields completed if you import due to the copy/paste function within spreadsheets and having all fields on one line rather than different screens.
- The accuracy of the data improves due to the ability to set up checks within the template file that let you know if something is incorrect. Transposition errors are less likely.
- If you link your accounts system to another database e.g. CRM system or Project Management software, then it can remove duplication of the data entry. A lot of accounts systems now allow you to import or link directly to your banking software which is a huge benefit as often bank reconciliations can be done daily which helps monitor cashflow.
Some examples of what can be set up to import (system dependent) and be of value to your business:
- Detailed payroll journals (by department) – Payroll is often the largest cost to a business yet often the one most overlooked in terms of reporting. You can improve a potentially complicated journal by setting up a template to import to a higher level of detail.
- Bank Statement Imports – By importing your bank statements from the data downloaded from your online banking, you eradicate the all too common transposition errors or possible duplication if you have multiple transactions of the same value. Some accounts software now has the facility of ‘bank feeds’ which imports transactions directly for you on a daily basis e.g. Xero.
- Sales invoicing especially when periodic – For example one of my clients was a group of private schools which had complicated discount structure based on age of each child and sibling discounts. This processing went from several weeks of manual inputting each term (with a high chance of errors and lots of disputes/complaints) down to 3 hours and a far greater level of accuracy. Checks were put in place on the import preparation spreadsheet to ensure that family invoices were grouped together and that all children had been accounted for and the correct discounts applied.
- Prepayments & other month end general ledger journals – Full descriptions on each line with each value seperated and not grouped together. This provides clearer transactional analysis and helps greatly when it comes to budgetting and cashflow forecasting.
- Customer/Supplier Records – updating or adding. If you have a lot of fields to complete often they’re omited with manual entry, by using a spreadsheet to complete the data it is likely to contain more consistent information as you can copy/paste or fill down on certain fields.
- Budgets – Depending on your reporting software, this could streamline your management pack by utilising functionality already available in the system without the needfor further processing in spreadsheets.
If you’re still not convinced of the value to your business by utilising data imports, consider this:
Saving just 1 day of processing time per month for a £25k employee is a saving of approximately £1,580pa* to your business. Use the ‘saved’ time on producing more timely, informative management information and KPIs (which you can now get as the transactional level data is of better quality).
Better business information leads to better business decisions and ultimately to better business profits.
*Taking into account ER NI/Pension.
Profit is vital to every business, what is the point of being in business if you don’t make a profit?
So here are my tips on how to improve your profitability:
- Weed out loss making products, clients and departments – concentrate on high margin products and services
- Reduce Employment Costs – use Freelancers instead of Permanent Employees where appropriate
- Use Virtual Communication Technology – meetings can be held over the internet with Skype or other systems, it will cut traveling time and costs
- Use Social Media and Networking – marketing can be costly and the results can be hard to measure, use your contacts to generate leads and sales and always ask for referrals
- Increase Productivity – eliminate wasteful and unnecessary processes, I was told it used to take 17 people in the NHS to change a light bulb on a hospital ward (requisitions, approvals, payments, changing the bulb…) the solution to cut wasted processes was to keep a stock of bulbs on the ward
- Negotiate with suppliers – always look at ways to reduce cost including using alternative suppliers
- Understand your clients requirements – the client knows what he wants and what represents value, if you deliver value you will get more business
- Seek add on sales – what other products or services might be useful to your existing clients
- Keep an eye on your competitors – competitor analysis will enable you to understand differences in price, distribution, market and demand
- Find New Markets – use market research to expand into new areas
- Decrease Overheads – analyse all of your overheads including Rent, Rates, Utilities – could you sub-let part or your premises or reduce waste
- Reduce Stock Levels – can you turnover your stock more quickly or buy to order
- Improve your Cash Cycle – reduce slow payment by debtors, invoice promptly and settle disputes quickly
- Invest in Technology – automate processes with ERP systems
- Use Key Performance Indicators – KPI’s help you achieve your goals
At the heart of small and medium sized businesses up and down the UK lies Sage 50, the UK’s favourite accounting software. Like the Remington typewriter, it’s a great product, well designed and does what its designers intended very well.
Unfortunately, like the Remington typewriter, it is also designed with a 20th century mindset to fix a 20th century problem. And accountants and bookkeepers all over the country are using Sage 50 to make themselves indispensable to business owners in a way that holds their accounting back in the last century, reduces their effectiveness, reduces competitiveness and ultimately destroys value.
Here’s an example. Google “sage 50 year end” and you will see references to support with Year End, training on Year End, problems with Year End, questions about Year End, accountants asking each other for help with Sage year end processes. It is a process that is irreversible and therefore important to get right. A great deal of effort goes into getting it right. You might even need to get your accountant to do it for you.
But it is an utterly unnecessary process.
In the old days, when revenues and expenses were all kept on handwritten ledgers and added up throughout the year, they had to be written back to zero ready for the start of the financial year. The net total of all the year’s revenues and expenses was then added to retained profit. This was an important accounting procedure, and one that Sage 50 faithfully replicates.
Yet all transactions in an accounting system have a date. If you want to see a report for a date range, your accounting software should simply filter transactions outside that range (or, for a balance sheet or trial balance, treat the transaction appropriately according to the date of the report). More importantly, it should allow this to be done for whatever range is important for the business or period under review – regardless of whether it spans a year end – to identify performance, key trends, anomalies, and potential errors.
Precisely because of the Year End process in Sage 50, data for prior years has to be accessed in a very different way. But year ends are relevant only for statutory reporting and tax purposes. Customers, staff, and suppliers do not behave differently in a new financial year. Trends are no less relevant or important just because they span a financial year end.
So not only is it an unnecessary process – it also reduces accessibility and usefulness of information.
Of course, once the accounts are finalised for a year, it is important that the transactions are not changed thereafter. But for some companies that is important on a quarterly basis (so VAT returns are not out of sync) or even on a monthly basis (so that published monthly accounts are not adjusted). A simple restriction on all but the “Admin” user making changes before a certain date is all that is required. Not an irreversible process that permanently eliminates access to data.
That’s not all. Sage 50 costs £700 for two users, and whilst it is a powerful system it is, to all intents and purposes, closed to all outside the finance team or book-keeper. Business owners, managers, and forward-thinking accountants are waking up to the fact that with today’s cloud technology financial information can be accessed anywhere, instantaneously. Owners and managers want information now, not when the book-keeper is next in or when the accountants have examined the files at the end of the year. They are realising that it is possible to access scanned copies of supplier invoices just by clicking on their management reports and wondering why they are still telephoning their accountant and paying them to look up the information on Sage. They are wondering why they are paying over £700 for a 2-user licence to Sage 50 when solutions like Xero will allow access at different levels to many users within the company for less than half the cost.
It won’t be a quick death. Traditional accountants will resist this change. They will focus on the dangers of allowing too many people to change or view information without proper training; on the dangers of looking at information without the benefit of their annual adjustments or their considered interpretation; and on the risk of fraud without a full visible audit trail of any change made to any transaction anywhere in the system. These are all valid concerns. Accounting systems and good financial information are vital to the successful operation of any business.
Ultimately, however, our job as modern accountants – and as management accountants – is to properly evaluate the risks and benefits of precisely these kind of changes, and to help business owners get the benefits of the new technologies whilst at the same time ensuring that the information stored and produced is meaningful and secure. And the benefits of up to date, accurate information, accessible instantly and on the move, are huge.
Typewriter manufacturers may have correctly pointed out that with a word processor you could lose the entire document with an untrained accidental press of the wrong button. But ultimately the benefits far outweighed the risks. Sage 50 will go the same way.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are used by organisations to evaluate success and when you choose KPI’s you should follow the smart approach:
S pecific – a well defined goal that is clearly understood by everyone.
M easurable – can you track your progress towards the goal?
A greed – both employer and employee must agree on what the goals are.
R ealistic – can you achieve the goal with the resources provided?
T ime related – will there be enough time to complete the task?
Here are some examples of E Commerce KPI’s
Sales Key Performance Indicators:
- Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual sales
- Average order size (sometimes called average market basket)
- Average margin
- Conversion rate
- Shopping cart abandonment rate
- New customer orders versus returning customer sales
- Cost of goods sold
- Total available market relative to a retailer’s share of market
- Product affinity (which products are purchased together)
- Product relationship (which products are viewed consecutively)
- Inventory levels
- Competitive pricing
Marketing Key Performance Indicators:
- Site traffic
- Unique visitors versus returning visitors
- Time on site
- Page views per visit
- Traffic source
- Day part monitoring (when site visitors come)
- Newsletter subscribers
- Texting subscribers
- Chat sessions initiated
- Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest followers or fans
- Pay-per-click traffic volume
- Blog traffic
- Number and quality of product reviews
- Brand or display advertising click-through rates
- Affiliate performance rates
Customer Service Key Performance Indicators:
- Customer service email count
- Customer service phone call count
- Customer service chat count
- Average resolution time
- Concern classification
What do UK Businesses use?
What are your KPI’s and why did you choose them?
Having chosen your KPI’s this clip shows you how to create a dashboard in Excel