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Financial data like revenue, profit, and cash is critical for a CEO to run their company. An HBS professor has famously observed that “The most important job of the CEO is to make sure the company never runs out of cash.”

If that’s true, why is it so hard for a CEO to see their financials in a system like QuickBooks?

And how can we change that?

1. CEOs Can’t Access The Company File

The majority of companies using QuickBooks are on the Desktop edition, not the Online edition (although the Online edition has a higher percentage growth rate).

For companies on the Desktop edition of QuickBooks, the technical barriers to a CEO accessing financial data are daunting. For example, it requires remote access and multi-user mode in QuickBooks. It’s possible, but difficult — here is our writeup on 3 ways to enable CEOs to access financials in QuickBooks.

2. An Interface Only An Accountant Could Love (Or Use)

Accountants love QuickBooks — it’s the most popular accounting software in the world, by a wide margin. However, it’s designed for accountants: lots of tables, double-entry, and the reports are a field of numbers. Data blizzard!

Fields of numbers are good for entering data. Not so good for understanding the big picture, though.

Which of these two software interfaces will be easier for a CEO to use?

Quickbooks(courtesy of CIAS)

…or this…

IS2 Dashboard

3. Plain Data vs. Analytics and Insight

A common refrain from CEOs is “show me the actionable insight.” Don’t just show me the raw data. Show me what it means so that I can do something.

QuickBooks reports and analytics reports may contain exactly the same raw data. But in a QuickBooks report, the meaning is hard for a human to see. Analytics reports are designed to show meaning at a glance.

For example:

How Much Owed

Yes, like in QuickBooks, there is a table of accounts receivable data.

But unlike QuickBooks right away a CEO can look at the chart and conclude two things:

1. This customer (Acme Inc) had been very delinquent in their payments up through July, when they got much better.

2. They are starting to get worse again.

This could mean a relationship issue with Acme — and since Acme is a big customer, it probably means the CEO should get on the phone with them to see what’s up.

That’s actionable insight.

Samuel Clemens
Sam is founder and chief of product & marketing for InsightSquared. Previously, Sam was VP Product at HubSpot, VP Product at BzzAgent, and on the founding team at Elance.com. His background also includes venture capital with Greylock Partners, the Algorithms group at Amazon.com, and management consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton. Sam has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Applied Math from Yale. In his off time he dives shipwrecks in the New England area.
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