“Reach Reporting helps our CFOs offer far more data insights than either Excel or QuickBooks provides and in a much shorter time. With access to features that let you examine multiple KPIs and metrics separately or combine them to see how they interact, we are able to draw deeper insights from our clients’ data and tell a story that they can see and understand.”
– Jody Grunden, CEO & Co-Founder of Summit CPA Group.
Modern data visualization tools are changing the way we do business as CFOs. Reviewing and presenting data is the lifeblood of the accounting profession. However, the best CFOs don’t just hand their clients a pile of financial statements and call it a day. Operating as a CPA or a CFO means taking the hard data and helping clients go beyond the what and into the why and how.
There’s no question that Excel and QuickBooks have enduring viability in accounting. The bookkeeping and spreadsheet functions available through these applications remain important to accountants worldwide. However, despite updates since they hit the market in the 1980s, both Excel and QuickBooks show their limitations when they’re used for data storytelling with a visual approach.
A growing selection of user-friendly data visualization tools that can improve the quality of your data storytelling, as well as dramatically boost the effectiveness and serviceability of those stories have emerged. Recently we sat down with Justin Hatch, CEO of Reach Reporting, and discussed some of the best ways CPA firms can up their CFO game with data visualization tools.
1. Enhance what you and the client can see
Your clients want data, but they’re afraid of it. Data visualizations bridge the gap between what clients want out of their financial data, and their unfamiliarity with and fears of the data they possess. Most clients know and understand what financial data looks like in Excel, QuickBooks, and other accounting software, but they often lack the experience and time necessary to draw operative insights from their financial statements, KPIs, and non-financial metrics. Data visualizations enhance what both you and your clients can “see” in the data. Modern tools like Reach Reporting can pull out hidden insights that even the most experienced CFOs could miss through accounting software reports and tables.
2. Gain more insights from client data
Legacy tools like Excel are limited in their ability to compare multiple metrics in a visualized format for better data insights. Additionally, when you need decidedly complex data analysis like multivariate adaptive regression splines (MARS) for forecasting, Excel works but is exceptionally slow when processing large datasets to produce a visualized result.
For its part, QuickBooks doesn’t allow combined financial statements at all. You can build those in Excel if you’re willing to spend the extra time necessary and reduce your ROI for client projects. Data visualization tools like Reach Reporting help our CFOs offer far more data insights than either Excel or QuickBooks will provide and in a much shorter time. You’ll access features that let you examine multiple KPIs and metrics separately or combine them to see how they interact, then draw deeper insights from your clients’ data.
3. Tell clearer and more actionable stories
Data visualization is not just for your clients’ benefit. As you review the changes in each client’s financial data, KPIs, and other metrics, the visual presentation of the data will help you spot patterns, interactions, and changes that are incredibly difficult to see in your mind’s eye through legacy accounting tools. Instead of talking only numbers Reach Reporting gives you a behind the curtain view of the non-financials that make up those numbers.
4. Earn the “wow” factor from clients
The quickest way to bore clients is to hand them yet another screenshot of your Excel dashboards. Entertaining clients is, of course, not your ultimate goal, but clients are human too. They learn more from their data when that data is presented in a “cute” and engaging way. Data visualizations keep your clients interested and even excited about financial statements, cash flow, and forecast meetings. And the clear presentation of your clients’ metrics makes it far easier for clients to understand the kind of trends, shifts, and interactions in their data that you need them to process.
5. Improve your ROI
Data visualization tools reduce your cost per client in several ways. At the beginning of a client relationship, data viz tools like Reach Reporting can save you hours during the onboarding process. The system is fully plug-and-play. All you need to do is connect the financial statements and the forecast, and everything you need is already there, populated into available templates. From there, you’ll just curate your dashboard to fit your clients’ needs.
Beyond onboarding, you’ll significantly reduce how much time you spend preparing data for presentation to clients each month. If you spend 20 hours trying to get numbers put together, you’re not going to be willing to spend too many hours doing the review. Conversely, if it’s just a push of a button, you’re going to be far more willing to spend 10 hours really diving into those numbers and making sure they make sense. It becomes a mutual win for you and your clients.
You Already Have the Skills You Need for Data Visualization
Every accounting tool can produce charts and graphs using spreadsheet data. But more complex data visualization often requires extensive knowledge of programming languages. What we love about data visualization tools, and Reach Reporting, in particular, are the built-in analysis functions that eliminate your need to learn more programming languages. The user-friendly, plug-and-play approach results in a short learning curve. You and your team can start gaining insights immediately.
What’s more, your time is well spent the first time you create a dashboard. If you decide to spend 10 hours one month, you won’t have to spend another 10 hours the next month recreating the dashboard. Everything is pulled forward, and all you need to do is upload the newest data to get your dashboards updated to show what’s changed. You and your clients get an additional level of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom every month.
Data visualization tools are the right place to start when you feel like you’re still in the Stone Age with your data reporting. While there are dozens of data visualization options on the market, we recommend Reach Reporting as an excellent launching point due to its distinctive approach in the niche accounting market. Now is the time to start upping your CFO game with data visualizations!
About Summit CPA Group
Summit CPA Group is a fully distributed accounting firm and leading provider of Virtual CFO Services in North America. In addition to providing VCFO coaching, CPA firm augmentation, Summit CPA Group is building a community of CPA firm owners who want to learn how to provide or enhance their existing VCFO service offerings. The CFO Community includes free monthly CPE webinars, a Slack network, The Virtual CFO Playbook – a course dedicated to teaching CPA firm owners how to build and scale Virtual CFO services, and more. Join the community today and start getting the support you need to grow your firm!
About Jody Grunden
Jody Grunden is the Co-Founder and CEO of Summit CPA Group, the leading provider of Virtual CFO Services for creative agencies as well as one of the largest Virtual CFO firms in North America. Summit’s team of CPAs and accountants provide professional Virtual CFO Services and 401(k) Audits for companies all over the United States .
Jody co-founded Summit CPA in 2002 and transitioned the company to a distributed accounting firm in 2013. Since 2002, Summit CPA has grown from a team of 2 people to approximately 40. The company has grown extremely fast, experiencing 3-year 150% growth consecutively over the past 3 years and being recognized by Inc. 5000.
Jody is passionate about changing the way people think about accounting. Author of Digital Dollars and Cents, he literally wrote the book on helping digital companies create a financial roadmap to success.