An experienced CFO shares his knowledge on the basics of organizing and presenting data.
Here are a few of what he calls the “deadly sins” of sharing financials:
Deadly Sin #1: Not right-justifying columns of numbers. This, he assures us, is not too obvious to mention.
Make sure your audience has a way to determine the unit of measure for every number in your reports.
Deadly Sin #2: Basing column width or row height on the length of the caption. The caption doesn’t matter. Numbers do.
Deadly Sin #3: Using visual effects for any reason other than clarifying, differentiating or adding meaning. The chief corollary of this rule is to avoid the “ransom note effect,” achieved by using a bunch of different typefaces and sizes.
Deadly Sin #4: Presenting unclear, imprecise or incorrect row and column headings.
You might review something several times without seeing that it can be read two ways. That’s why you need others with eagle eyes to critique it before you make it final.
Deadly Sin #5: Failing to include a title and timestamp (date and time) on printed spreadsheets.
— Adapted from Painting with Numbers, Randall Bolten, Wiley.