Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Dreaded Statement of Cash Flows

How you can automatically generate an actual Statement of Cash Flows regardless of what ERP software you use

Those who have experienced the manual preparation of a Statement of Cash Flows using beginning and period end Balance Sheets plus a periodic Income Statement know that this can be a chore and can cause a little confusion along the way with figuring out how to place the different numbers in the designated sections of this statement.

Fundamentally, the preparation of a Statement of Cash Flows is not that complicated and you would expect all accounting and ERP software vendors to provide a working template with each installation. Many of the software solutions targeted at the small to medium size companies not only do not provide such a template but are not capable of programing this statement and as such, a Statement of Cash Flows is not available to users of these software packages. The result is that a Statement of Cash Flows is not produced in many small and even medium size organizations.

Many companies that are required to submit a periodic Statement of Cash Flows, either because they are SEC filers or their lender asks for it, must produce this statement manually for each required period.

I’ve talked to several ERP software vendors and their typical response was that their GL software was not designed to automatically produce a Statement of Cash Flows because there is no way to tag each GL account with the proper treatment for this statement (i.e., how to use each specific GL account activity or changing balance in the compilation of this statement). This confirms that users of these vendors’ software have to perform this chore manually; that is, if they care to do it at all.

I’ve devised a way to automatically produce an accurate and complete Statement of Cash Flows, in each required period, regardless of what ERP software is used and whether or not its GL can accommodate this statement. To do that I use Budget Maestro from Centage Corporation which is a planning, budgeting and analysis software, primarily designed for small and medium companies in a variety of industries, where actual and budgeted financial statements and various reports can be generated in almost real time from available actual accounting and operations data and existing budget and forecasting data.

Budget Maestro was designed to produce all three major financial statements: An Income Statement, a Balance Sheet and a Statement of Cash Flows for every period included in every version of the budget implemented at the company and consolidated across all business entities that make up the organization.

As such, these financial statements are also available in a special version of the data known as Actual Plan. Here, actual accounting data (e.g., period-end Trial Balance) populate this Actual Plan through an export from the ERP GL or via a direct link available for several of the more popular SMB ERP software.

If you transfer your closed period (e.g., month) GL account balances into the Actual Plan in Budget Maestro (something you really need to do to be able to perform analysis of Budget vs. Actual), you will automatically gain access to all three financial statements (plus many other reports you can set up in the system). The actual Statement of Cash Flows will automatically be generated and available to publish. It will be complete and accurate and you will have the choice between using the Direct Method or the Indirect Method.

The secret to accomplishing this in Budget Maestro is careful planning of the chart of accounts and reporting format. This should closely match the setup of your actual GL and its reporting hierarchy. From that point on it is only a matter of periodically performing the data transfer and updating Budget Maestro with any changes to the chart of accounts as they occur in the ERP GL.

Existing and new users of Budget Maestro now have a viable and practical option to generate an actual period Statement of  Cash Flows. This should no longer be a mystery to many accounting and finance managers and depriving company executives of vital information about the financial performance of their organizations should no longer exist.  Furthermore, by using Budget Maestro as an all-encompassing budget solution, The Benefits of an All-Encompassing Budget, company managements can finally gain real insight into the future financial health of their organizations.

The Benefits of an All-Encompassing Budget

Why using inadequate tools and approximating the balance of forecasted Balance Sheet accounts is a bad approach for budgeting

I recently had a discussion with a colleague who is a partner in a local management consulting firm about organizations’ attitude toward the planning and budgeting process and the benefits they reap from these activities. I expressed my views on how a proper budget should be prepared and why it is vital to budget the entire chart of accounts with the benefit of obtaining a complete set of future period financial statements. I further explained that all accounts that contribute to creating the Balance Sheet must have their balances updated throughout the budget period, performed through increases and decreases (debit and credits) which are derived from the forecast of revenue and expense accounts (Income Statement accounts).

The argument against doing this was (according to this person) that you can use a spreadsheet to forecast the ending balances of all critical Balance Sheet accounts using simple assumptions and the data from forecasted revenue and expense accounts. He recognized that this would be a rough approximation of  account balances but argued that since most budgets are not accurate anyway and companies almost never hit their revenue and expense targets, even if there was a way to accurately and completely forecast the Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows, they would be inaccurate due to the inaccuracy of the revenue and expense account balances all due to bad assumptions, inaccurate budget data supplied by the various reporting entities and other reasons.

The reason I bring up this subject is that I have heard these arguments before from finance executives and professionals who were tasked with preparing their companies’ annual budgets but not given the appropriate tools to do so, added to old traditions, misconceptions and workloads only allowing these people to repeat traditional processes without taking the initiative to look for more advanced ways to obtain meaningful and useful results.

If you accept the fact that budgets are never accurate and therefore no additional effort should be put into forecasting what really matters (e.g., cash account balances, other assets and liability account balances, etc.) than you are left with repeating the same budget process chores year after year with little or no benefit to the company. With this attitude, how can we expect company managements to make solid business decisions, let alone have insight into the future financial health of their organizations?

It is true that advanced software solutions such as Budget Maestro by Centage Corporation can produce inaccurate budget period Balance Sheets as compared with the actual accounting Balance Sheets. Of course, the forecasted P&L will also be different than the actual period P&L. But these forecasted Balance Sheets and Statements of Cash Flows are always going to be accurate and true to their corresponding forecasted Income Statements through the built-in logic and automated journal entries that ensure that each Balance Sheet account’s balance is correct.

If you are approximating or grossly estimating the balances of your forecasted Balance Sheet accounts through use of spreadsheets or purpose designed Planning and Budgeting software solutions that behave like spreadsheets (e.g., require user supplied formals and links and with no built-in business logic and automated journal entries) your errors are likely to be compounded by the errors in the forecast of revenue and expenses.  Essentially, what you get is an inaccurate P&L forecast driving a flawed Balance Sheet forecast causing its account balances to be removed from reality; that is if the Balance Sheet is forecasted at all.

In contrast, if you use a solution that ensures your forecasted Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows are systematically complete and accurate by the nature of the system logic and automated forecasted transaction processing, you can focus on good planning and budgeting with built-in tools and business logic that will allow your P&L forecast to be complete and reasonably accurate; as accurate as your assumptions. The accuracy and completeness of your forecasted Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows will follow and match the accuracy of the Income Statement.

That is a giant leap from traditional budgeting approaches, those based on tradition, bad habits and inferior tools. I think it is time to evaluate the new alternatives.