In the first office job I ever had, one of the tasks I was given was to compile a list of what we had sold, how much we’d sold it for, what we paid for it and the profit made. This had to be done on bits of paper and all calculations done manually! It was that long ago! I had to submit this to the General Managermonthly. It looked good! Healthy profit each month! Good example of after the fact reporting!But, me tending to be a pain in the neck, it occurred to me that this wasn’t exactly a complete reporting method. There was no report on overhead such as wages, travel expenses, rent, electricity or any other overhead. On the quiet I started guessing at these and came up with an amended monthly account sheet which, for a while, I kept to myself. It soon became obvious to me that the company was going to go bust and I’d be out of a job if that happened. Sneaky sod that I can be, I quietly slipped these accounts to the Company Secretary who was only an occasional visitor.
He was startled! Within a week the Managing Director got fired! A week later I got fired! Three months later the company, after trading for 120 years, went into liquidation! That’s how good and effective after the fact reporting can be! Admittedly in this instance it was made far worse because of incomplete reporting!
Now that was the only time I’ve been involved in after the fact reporting. During the next five years I worked for two motor manufacturing companies in their Cost Account Departments and turned into a Management Accountant – although in those days we were known as Cost and Works Accountants. I was made redundant from both these jobs just weeks before the companies went bust! Both had been utilising after the facts reporting – as well as manufacturing cars that were so bad we were embarrassed by what we made! By that time I’d had enough of working in accounts offices and eventually turned into a construction professional!
Read more: 20 years on after Latham report
So that was my experience of the effect of after the fact reporting in wholesaling and manufacturing; on to construction projects and I’ve worked on over 100 of those! How did I slip so many in? Free-lancing.
In my earlier days at it I had little or nothing to do with any financial reporting. All I noticed was that many of the contractors I worked for didn’t have a site-based QS, nor was there any weekly reporting of progress; i.e. no Build Programme worth having! Those which didn’t seemed to have their projects permanently in trouble. Usually it wasn’t long before the company went to the wall! Those with the site-based QS’s and the regular check on workprogress, with a half-decent Build Programme to check against, seemed to manage their projects better and the companies survived.
Time moved on; my status in the industry went up and we got computers on site. When I arrived on a site it was as ”lord and master of all I surveyed”. If there wasn’t one I soon had a detailed Master Build Programme put together. Ran it off on a Plotter and stuck copies here there and everywhere. The lads loved it and took it as a challenge! They went hell-bent to complete their Tasks ahead of programme! More to the point, for the current discussion, is that the Quantity Surveyors also had a copy. This was up-dated at least weekly and it is here that everything on the money front changed!
Using Microsoft Project the QS’s could keep also keep constant track of the financial side of things! (Got to hold my hand up, here – never have learnt to do the money bit with MSP myself!) After the fact reporting went out of the window! Cash flow in and out was constantly no more than a week old!
Project suicide out of one window – Project success in another one!
Things have moved on even further, though! These days everyone can have a current copy of the Programme by using Genie Belt!!
But don’t worry, commercially confidential stuff like invoices and cash flow don’t show up on GenieBelt. Tact and discretion are the thing!