What is flash report? Flash reports represent nothing more than a quick snapshot of critical company operating and financial data, which is then used to support the ongoing operations of the business. All types of flash reports are used in business, and they range from a printed circuit board manufacturing company evaluating its book-to-bill ratio on a weekly basis to Wal-Mart reporting daily sales activity during the holiday season to an auto manufacturer evaluating weekly finished goods inventory levels.
The goal with all flash reports remains the same in that critical business information is delivered to management for review much more frequently. As such, flash reports tend to have the following key attributes present:
- Flash reports tend to be much more frequent in timing. Unlike the production of financial statements (which occurs on a monthly basis), flash reports are often produced weekly and, in numerous cases, daily. In today’s competitive marketplace, management is demanding information be provided more frequently than ever to stay on top of rapidly changing markets.
- Flash reports are designed to capture critical operating and financial performance data of your business or the real information that can make or break your business. As a result, sales activities and/or volumes are almost always a part of a businesses’ flash reporting effort. Once management has a good handle on the top line, the bottom line should be relatively easy to calculate.
- Flash reports aren’t just limited to presenting financial data. Flash reports can be designed to capture all kinds of data, including retail store foot volume (or customer traffic levels), labor utilization rates, and the like. While the president of a division may want to know how sales are tracking this month, the manufacturing manager will want to keep a close eye on labor hours incurred in the production process.
- Flash reports obtain their base information from the same accounting and financial information system that produces periodic financial statements, budgets, and other reports. While the presentation of the information may be different, the source of the information should come from the same transactional basis (of your company).
- Flash reports are almost exclusively used for internal management needs and are rarely delivered to external parties. The information contained in flash reports is usually more detailed in nature, tends to contain far more confidential data than, say, audited financial statements, and are almost never audited.
- Flash reports are closely related to the budgeting process. For example: if a company is experiencing a short-term cash flow squeeze, management will need to have access to a rolling 13-week cash flow projection to properly evaluate cash inflows and outflows on a weekly basis. Each week, the rolling 13-week cash flow projection is provided to management for review in the form of a flash report, which is always being updated to look out 13 weeks.
Flash reports should act more to “reconfirm” your company’s performance RATHER THAN representing a report that offers “original” information. Granted, while a flash report that presents sales volumes for the first two weeks of February compared to the similar two-week period for the prior year is reporting new sales information, the format of the report and the presentation of the information in the report should be consistent. Thus, management should be able to quickly decipher the results and determine whether the company is performing within expectations and what to expect on the bottom-line for the entire month.