Rolling Forecasting and Performance Reporting drive transparency and credibility
Adam Gingery, Chief Financial Officer at Western Wisconsin Health, compares most finance reports to a weather forecast on the evening news that recaps that day’s weather. What viewers really want, though, is tomorrow’s forecast and an informed prediction of the weekend ahead.
Like a good weather report, ideal financial reporting acknowledges what has occurred while looking forward. “Let’s talk about what’s changing financially and what that means for us 12-18 months from now,” Gingery says. “That’s where I envision the future, and that’s where I want to take conversations using Axiom.”
Western Wisconsin Health implemented Axiom™ Rolling Forecasting and Axiom™ Performance Reporting in January 2020 following an ERP upgrade. Gingery knew the power of the software because he used Axiom at a previous hospital, so adoption was quick for the veteran user and his staff.
Since implementation, Western Wisconsin Health is closing its monthly books 80% faster, going from 25 days to 5. Gingery also notes improved quality of decision-making and greater staff financial literacy.
“With this tool, I can be much more transparent and accountable to not only our managers and staff, but to our board of directors and auditors,” Gingery says. “I want to make sure that how I handle the books is clear and transparent to every stakeholder involved so that there are no surprises.”
Axiom built for success
Previously, Western Wisconsin Health used Excel for financial forecasting, which provided little analytical support. With the sunsetting of its general ledger system, Western Wisconsin needed to quickly find a new ERP. Gingery seized the opportunity to also implement Axiom Rolling Forecasting and Performance Reporting to perform analytics based on data in the ERP.
“Because I knew specifically that we’d be moving to Axiom software, when we built out our general ledger, I had dimensions already created,” Gingery says.
“We started implementing Axiom in January, and I was using it in the middle of February.”
Gingery plans to leverage Axiom to provide data insights and benchmarking to drive transparent decision-making throughout the organization while increasing the financial literacy of managers and staff, and he’s already making significant headway. He says the quality of decision-making has improved dramatically in the first few months since implementation because decisions are now being made from a position of confidence, intelligence, and knowledge. Closing the monthly books in just 5 days leaves ample time for preparing reports and better understanding Western Wisconsin’s financial outlook. With a little effort, Gingery sees no reason why the books can’t be closed in 2 days, a 92% improvement from the pre-implementation state.
The CFO sends monthly reports to every manager detailing performance in that manager’s area of responsibility. More recently, Gingery started including quizzes with the reports, asking questions that managers answer by digging into their dashboards.
“One could argue that if I improve the financial literacy across my management team, it invalidates my purpose of being here because everybody is more aware of what I’m doing,” Gingery says. “But I think it’s a lot easier to push financial initiatives if people understand their KPIs and how they impact the organization.”
Increasing financial literacy doesn’t equal blind adherence to the budget, however. Western Wisconsin Health is actively growing and improving market share, and sometimes overspending a budget to bring in better equipment or in-demand surgeons pays for itself in the long run. Increasing financial literacy helps managers understand the difference, backed up by reports that justify the additional expenses.
Understand the impact of decisions
Axiom Rolling Forecasting became operational just before the pandemic hit, which allowed the health system to model various scenarios, such as whether to furlough staff. “Fortunately, we did not have to lay off or furlough anyone, but we also knew the impact of those decisions if we needed to make them,” Gingery says. “We have to protect the organization in the best way that we can, and the best way to do that is to take care of our staff.”
Rolling forecasting helps executives quantify decisions and understand their impact. Gingery likens his role as CFO to being a lookout on a ship. It’s his job to point out an iceberg to the CEO and Board of Directors, but it’s their role to determine when, how, or if to change direction. Gingery’s job then is to quantify the potential impact of those decisions.
“Within Axiom, you establish credibility by demonstrating that when people have questions, we have the detail and the analytical support to back up the numbers. We’re definitely more transparent with the board for the same reasons.”
Axiom also helps with the audit process. Gingery can give auditors their own Axiom accounts and pre-populate work papers with the relevant information. In the first year, he estimates the process was 15% more efficient than in previous years and expects an additional 30%-40% efficiency gain in future years.
Overall, Gingery has worked with Axiom software for over a decade, and he underscores the importance of using organizational data to support decision-making in a transparent manner. “It’s important to monitor your KPIs. You put out these red, yellow, and green stoplight reports, and green is always good,” Gingery says. “But there is a part where it gets too green, and now it’s almost too favorable of a variance from what we have been running year over year. That deserves some question too, as far as whether it’s legitimate and sustainable. Prior to the analytical software we have with Axiom, we wouldn’t have known.”
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