I worked on… establishing and refining local sales forecasting and reporting

Published:

Name: Abhik Das

ACMA, CGMA

Organisation: Cochlear

Job: manager, financial

planning and analysis

CIMA qualified: 2010

Start: 2011

End: ongoing

Location: Mumbai

I first heard about the institute as a graduate in commerce, when I moved from India to the UK to take a master’s degree at Manchester Business School. The CIMA qualification’s strategic focus, mixing theoretical material and realworld practicality, inspired me to take it.

In 2011, after completing the qualification while at a London media and leisure business called TVF, I joined the Mumbai office of Cochlear, a Sydney-based company making implantable hearing solutions. When I arrived as manager of the south Asian division’s FP&A function, sales reports and forecasts were produced only at national level and members of the sales team weren’t involved in this process.

The business required a routine view of its sales activities at a more local level and a budgeting process that would aid performance measurement at that level. My team started addressing these needs by designing a local weekly sales report. We then established a system of regular sales calls to collate weekly, monthly and quarterly estimates for each territory. This was crucial in providing status reports and managing HQ’s expectations. Drawing up the annual budget would become a bottom-up exercise for the first time. This process, which needed to start four months before year-end to give enough scope for all the territory forecasts to be reviewed, produced the budget against which performance was measured – and sales commissions paid – the following year.

The project had to surmount several hurdles to get to that point. One of these was securing universal support for the changes. This was difficult to start with, but everyone accepted these eventually as they came to appreciate their value. Another initial problem was that each sales report required two hours’ work every weekend. Today they take no more than 20 minutes to compile. Also, as the business developed apace, adapting the process to its ever-changing territorial structure often proved challenging.

The sales reports are now used widely in the organisation. They form the basis of territory-wide days-sales-outstanding calculations to track working capital, for instance, and are being refined to offer more detail on how particular products are performing. Forecasting has become a robust process that has accurately estimated actual results for two years in a row. More crucially, sales goals are set by individual sales people in a process that is motivational and transparent. Sales updates are presented to the entire organisation every month. As a result, all employees have a better idea of how well the business is performing – and of how their work can affect this.

My CIMA qualification equipped me to create and implement a process that has addressed my organisation’s specific requirements, yet has also been highly adaptable. It taught me how to convert financial data into information that non-financial managers can understand easily, too – the main lesson I’ve learnt from this project is that a business can’t perform successfully unless all the right people have all the right information.

The past four years have been an exciting experience for me, as I’ve helped to build the business in a complex and competitive market, set up effective processes, assemble a strong team and foster a positive culture. Having previously worked in largely financial accounting roles, I have been exposed to all facets of operational finance, which should help me to take up a leadership role in the future.

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