Given the nature of accounting, it should go as no surprise that data and reporting are key elements of a sound practice. For beginner accountants, paying special attention to efficient and scalable reporting structures is even more paramount.
Companies seek accounting reporting that provides valuable insights and drives strategic and tactical decision-making from risk management to process improvement, and beyond. But collecting and collating large amounts of data takes time, discipline, and a certain set of skills. Fortunately, many accountants – especially those with experience with data analytics – can achieve this skill set.
In this post, we dive into the seven tips for reporting data beginner accountants can leverage to ensure they’re enabling data-driven insights to their businesses and clients.
What is data reporting?
Data reporting has become an essential part of accounting operations. By combining various sources of information in one place, data reporting allows accountants to quickly obtain a clear overview of performance to help answer questions, identify patterns, and make better, data-driven decisions that will drive the company and its clients forward.
Data reporting that includes dashboarding can help to easily visualize historical trends and make predictions about future movements in data. This provides invaluable insights that can be used to make informed decisions that are in line with the company’s objectives. Finally, it enables organizations to identify opportunities for growth and areas where improvements need to be made.
In the past, accounting reports were static. Reports that, for instance, combined sources of information such as sales processes, marketing data, and manufacturing analytics were manually written or calculated and had limited value for strategic decision-making. Plus, they were difficult to reproduce in an efficient manner.
However, with the introduction of modern processes and procedures like dashboard reporting, cloud-based data storage, and automated processing, this has changed. Now, it’s possible for accountants and other non-technical users to generate powerful reports. This has led to data reporting becoming an incredibly powerful analytical tool to track and optimize the performance of any company.
With the right grounding and tools, beginner and advanced accountants, alike, can make an impact in accounting reports for firms and clients.
Basics of data reporting for accountants
For beginner accountants, diving into reporting data can be overwhelming. Let’s take a look at the basics of reporting and data, which will help offer a foundational understanding of datasets and analytics tools.
- What is the purpose of data reporting?
Data reporting is the practice of taking unprocessed information and transforming it into useful knowledge. Data analytics reports compile metrics, analytical conclusions, and ideas for action.
- What types of reports can data reporting build?
The information delivered in a data report can vary. Possible report types include reports on accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, sales, inventory, assets, liabilities, and more.
- How accessible is data reporting for non-technical users?
The introduction of real-time Business Intelligence (BI) reporting tools has revolutionized data reporting and made it accessible to all user types. It enables business users to act as data analysts and perform advanced analytics.
- Can data reporting offer flexibility to its end users?
Data reports and dashboards are adjustable and suitable for use across devices and platforms, which puts the power of data within reach for all users at all moments.
7 tips for reporting data
Now that you have a foundational understanding of data reporting, let’s dive into seven key tips that will help beginner accountants leverage the power of analytics.
1. Define the type of data report
It’s essential to define the type of data report being produced because the type of report dictates the accuracy, format, and content of the report. For example, an executive summary report should be concise and provide a high-level overview of key financial information, whereas a detailed analysis report should provide more extensive financial data.
By taking the time to define the type of report and the format for delivering the data, accountants can ensure their reports are accurate, comprehensive, and easy to interpret. Defining the type of report will help to maximize the value of your reports and ensure that stakeholders have the information they need to make informed decisions.
2. Know your target audience
Knowing the target audience for a report is essential for accountants in order to ensure that the report is effective.
Defining the target audience helps to set the tone and focus of the report while determining the structure and level of detail. It’s also vital to shape the report to the specific needs of the audience to ensure the reader is able to interpret the report correctly. This key step will ensure the end reader is able to make data-driven decisions based on the findings.
Understanding the target audience also helps accountants ensure that the report is presented in a format that is both easy to read and understand.
3. Use data from various sources
Drawing data from multiple data sources ensures that reports are comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date. Having access to multiple data sources provides accountants with the ability to look at the big picture, identify potential issues, and develop solutions.
Additionally, it allows them to identify potential trends and opportunities that may otherwise go unnoticed. By using data from a variety of sources, accountants can more effectively and efficiently present a detailed picture of financial performance. This allows them to provide more valuable and meaningful advice, which can help their clients and the firm make more informed decisions.
4. Define your KPIs
With business-critical decisions relying on accounting data, it’s important for beginner accountants to ensure that they are running reports that are meaningful and accurate. To do this, it’s essential for accountants to define key performance indicators (KPIs) for the reports they run.
Key Performance Indicators can help to identify areas of potential improvement, enabling accountants to make adjustments as needed. Additionally, KPIs provide a clear framework for accountants to report on, helping to ensure that their reports are comprehensive and accurate.
Defining KPIs for accounting reports is an important step in ensuring the success of any business.
5. Make the report actionable
For beginner accountants, it’s essential to make the reports they run actionable by business leadership. This is because reports provide a comprehensive summary of the financial status of a business, which can be used to make informed decisions and set realistic goals.
Actionable reports provide a clear and concise way to quickly identify issues and create effective solutions. They also provide an opportunity to adjust budget estimates, reallocate resources, and assess the performance of the business.
By making reports actionable, beginner accountants can accurately review the financial performance of the business, which will ultimately lead to higher-quality reporting and better decision-making.
6. Keep it simple
Keeping accounting reports simple is among the most important data reporting tips for beginner accountants as it helps them to easily understand and analyze financial data. With so many variables and room for error possible with complex reports, keeping reports simple ensures accuracy and impact.
Simple reports make it easy to understand the financial performance of an organization, which in turn helps the firm or business identify opportunities to improve the overall financial position.
Additionally, simple reports are easier to present to stakeholders in an understandable format and help the target audience understand the financial data better in an understandable format.
7. Keep final reports in a single location
Having a single location to store all final reports is of paramount importance for beginner accountants running reports.
By keeping all the data in one place, it reduces the chances of errors and inconsistencies due to multiple versions of the same report. It also makes it easier to track changes and updates since all the data is stored in a single source.
A single source of truth also increases the efficiency of data reporting since all the necessary information is available in one place, ensuring that all stakeholders are accessing the same information, which helps in producing accurate and consistent reports.
Benefits of CPE courses with Surgent
In order to make informed decisions, it’s essential to analyze the abundance of data available today. Surgent’s Data Analytics CPE courses provide comprehensive instructions on analytics tools, modern audit data analytics (ADA) trends, other applications of data analytics tools, and methodologies to aid CPAs, accounting firms, and other professionals in upgrading their audit processes and other data-based decisions.
From introductory lessons to specialized data analytics classes, Surgent has it all. To find out more about the Data Analytics packages, visit our Data Analytics for Accounting and Finance Professionals page.
For years, Excel has been a highly effective data analytics tool. Surgent offers a selection of Excel CPE courses to help professionals learn how to make the most of this useful tool.
Accountants and finance professionals seeking to stand out and maximize their capabilities can become advanced data experts with tools like Power BI and Power Query. For those looking for Excel CPE courses, please visit our Excel course page.
Additionally, many CPAs and businesses are diving into specialized data analytics programs such as Power BI, Power Pivot, and AI-enabled technology like MindBridge. Surgent is regularly crafting new courses as the educational goals for CPAs studying data analytics are growing wider.
Beginner accountants are often tasked with reporting that helps leaders make business decisions. These decisions are most successful when supported by proper data analysis.
Accountants in public and private practice need training if they wish to make the most of the data available to them – whether it’s analyzing how to best use existing data sets or how data analytics can be used in accounting.
As one of the leading companies in the area of professional development for accounting and finance professionals, Surgent offers 1,500-plus online CPE sessions, a collection of self-study courses, customized in-firm seminars and training, and preparation courses for several core qualifications and certifications. Visit surgentcpe.com to find the right continuing education or training for you.