Tag Archives: data

Chief Financial Officer

For the past tw0 years I have had the honor and privilege of being the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a nonprofit. The organization is a 501(c)7 with annual gross receipts under $50,000.

Image from http://myob.com.au/

I have learned a lot in these years about accounting, forecasting, budgeting, insurance, tax, credit, statistics, and reporting. In the beginning I relied heavily upon resources from preparing for my PHR and World at Works’s Accounting and Finance for the Human Resources Professional. I got to expand my experience in leadership, as the role was an Officer of the organization (reporting to the CEO and on the same level as the COO) as well as management as I had two “minions” that reported to me and assisted me with various items (one was keying data, the other with preparing taxes.)

In my tenure, I accomplished all of the goals I set those 26 months ago. Let me illustrate the situation when I started the role: 5 months before I took the role the former CFO was found to have (and admitted to) stealing funds from the organization. Due to on going investigations I can’t say much, but corporate counsel has stated I can share it was tens of thousands of dollars. The organization, being 100% volunteer run and operations financed 100% by donations this was a huge challenge to take on.

I am very happy to state that through my aforementioned skills (budgeting, etc) and working with a fantastic Executive team, I was able to repay nearly $10,000 in debt; build up a financial cushion of $10,000+; create reporting where previously there was none; documented the heck out of policies and procedures for a layman to understand and is also compliant with FASB standards. Repairing the trust of the organization donors was of paramount importance, to which I went to great lengths to improve transparency surrounding all financial matters. I reduced financial waste with the new procedures/policies saving the organization $1,000+ annually. My biggest accomplishment was playing forensic accountant and going through the previous three years of records to audit, amend taxes, and provide documentation towards the on going actions against the former CFO.

I am very proud of this accomplishment and experience. Like all good things, this is coming to an end. I have submitted my resignation. Being that it was a volunteer position (aka no pay) and it takes a lot of time (30-40 hour a week!) I feel I need to redirect my energy and time into that which pays me and being a more well rounded individual for better balance, grounding, and thus leave me able to offer more in what I do. I look forward to training my successor and ensuring that they are set up for success, so that the organization can also be successful.

SHRM certification

Congratulations on achieving your SHRM-CP.

Today I took advantage of the SHRM-CP tutorial to get the certification for free. I have to say that I actually like and see the validity of the competency based nature of this certification and how it will lend credence to Human Resources as a whole and a business partner.

I have largely staid out of the fray between the HRCI vs SHRM certification war. I’ve chosen to wait it out to see the offerings for comparison and see what the results are to organizations, professionals, and the profession as a whole over time. Without data it is hard to give an educated guess, and everyone has an opinion. 😉 I like my opinions to have weight.

It is early yet, since the certification was just offered for the first time three months ago, but it will be interesting to see when and which roles will require or prefer this certification. It will be interesting to see if it will be placed in relation to the HRCI certifications.

The part I enjoyed the most was the competency check lists. I answered as truthfully as possible, so that it could be a useful tool to me. I was pleasantly surprised that both my professional (paid) and volunteer experience places me predominantly in the Exec category.

Beaushene SHRM-CP competency chart

Beaushene SHRM-CP chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

The process took less than an hour, and was free. Can’t beat that! I really liked the situations and questions offered. Again, in the vein of being honest, I chose the best choice 7 of 9 times, the second best choice once, and one of the “what the heck, totally the wrong choice” once.

For one that does not currently have an HRCI or IPMA-HR to take the test is $300, which is $100 cheaper than the HRCI PHR. Being so new, it may not be eligible for tuition or expense reimbursement from organizations yet. To be fair, it has been five years since I took the PHR, so I cannot legitimately compare the SHRM-CP scenario quesitons to those of the PHR.

If an organization does reimburse you, why not go for both? Until the dust clears – which may be five to ten years from now, it is best to hedge ones bets. 😉 But if one is paying out of pocket, I would go for the HRCI certification simply due to its history and being well known.

Good luck which ever you decide. May the odds be in your favor!

Data as snake oil

Lumosity.com

Lumosity Image

In studying for the Quantitative Methods test offered by World at Work, a module is dedicated to spotting when data is presented in a misleading way. The five things it suggests looking for are:

  • railroad tracks that distort intervals
  • graphs showing nominal data, that should be listed alphabetically
  • graphs that show data with no absolute zero (such as temperature scale)
  • graphs where part of the scale is lopped off, giving a false impression  of trends (you can’t see the y-axis zero point.)

A great example of this is the program Lumosity, which uses games to improve your brain in various skills such as remembering names to faces, calculating math in your head, observation, and the word at the tip of your tongue situation. I had seen a commercial for it and being one always looking to improve, decided to try the free version out.

The free version limits both the types of games that are available (maybe 9 out of dozens) and the number of games you perform daily (3 vs. 5.) I don’t recall there being any evaluation to provide a base point in the various skills that was not game related.

I participated on a nearly daily basis (missing 3 days sporadically) in the month of January. After a month I had three types of measurements provided to me through the (free version of the) program – a point value for playing the games (you get points regardless of how you perform), a series of horizontal bar charts that indicated a score in various skills, and a graph plotting the “brain performance index.”

The site provides some white-washed “science behind” it all, that throwing names of doctors at universities did not assuage my desire to understand – instead it made me look at it more askance for not providing the real science behind it. Building neurons is great, but there was no actual proof that the games built said neurons. Sure there are images of brain scans and a bar chart, but they aren’t labeled in a manner that inspired validation.

The three methods of measuring how one improved in using the service felt like examples of bad data to me. The first, where one got points for playing and showing up is reminiscent of an elementary school field day where everyone got a ribbon – even if they were in 15th place (out of 15 kids.)

The breakdown of cognitive behavior bar chart did not show which game had changed which score and by how much. You had to keep your own excel document to chart after each game which score changed and how – which defeats the purpose. I think instead this chart is just to make one feel as if they are making progress in the areas they specified one wanted to work upon when signing up for the program.

The BPI chart showed change in the total score over time – for the past 4 weeks only. It is possible that the paid version you could see the full history and zoom in and out to see trends. The fact that there was no real explanation as to what this score was (as the total was not the total of the bar charts) or how it was derived did not sit well with me.

Finally, there were no points to evaluate in a separate format performance improvement – it only had the games. This makes me feel as if there is a huge bias, in addition to all the hand waving and “ignore the man behind the curtain” that was going on. I was feeling more energized and productive while using the program, but in the two weeks since stopping I still feel the same so I believe it was due to other factors which I began at the same time (like studying for the W@W T3 test and refreshing my French skills.)

It’s pretty clear that I’ve stopped using Lumosity as I feel it’s just another time waster that is trying to milk one for money. I have better ways to spend my time and money, with better ROI. I do appreciate the refresher and skills the T3: Quantitative Methods module on identifying false representation of data to help me feel better about making the decision to stop using Lumosity. The first thing learned in T3 is – use data to make sound decisions. 😉

Morale of the story – use your brain and look closely. Data and representing data can be manipulated – beware of the snake oil!

Big Data

http://venturebeat.com/2012/10/17/big-data-startup-splice-machine-breathes-new-life-into-sql-pulls-in-4m/

Photo credit Venture Beat

I’ve been so excited to see that data is a big deal, being discussed much more, and is even considered a trend and the thing in 2013. Being an analytic person, I love data and love sharing both that love and HOW data can be helpful. Data driven decisions, in my humble experience, end up better. It shows progress, profit, areas for improvement/innovation, and helps one reach goals.

Think about the SMART principal – specifically the M part for measure. That is your data. You need to know where you start to know how far you’ve come or have yet to go. You need to know where you are going!

But all that excitement aside, I have two concerns related to The Year of Data.

The first is that having data is one thing, but processing it to be useful is key. Having data is like all the dirt in my backyard. I have lots of dirt, but until it is worked and done so in a specific way, it won’t be a garden or produce vegetables magically.

The second is that data lies. Data can tell you anything you want it to depending on how you manipulate and display it.

So, the questions I pose are these – what are we doing with all this big data? What measures will be discussed to ensure that it is useful and as impartial as possible?