General Spreadsheet Requirements

Start with the Parser

The part of CFO Scoreboard that digests your Excel files is called the parser. Our parser is a super-smart, flexible little data engine, that will do its very best to interpret your spreadsheets. The parser is what gets your precious accounting figures into the CFO Scoreboard application, so the app can deliver those world-class insights that turn your business to gold.

But before all that can happen, you've got to provide files that the parser can understand. This article will explain the basics of what our parser is looking for.

Minimum Requirements

It's actually pretty basic. In order to have a chance of importing successfully, you need three ingredients:

  1. At least a couple of account names down the left side of your document*
  2. In the rows next to those account names, put in your accounting figures. These need to be real numbers, and zeroes don't count!
  3. Above each column of those figures, you need to have a "header" with a date that is properly formatted.

* An income statement needs at least something like Revenue and Expenses; a balance sheet needs at least something like Assets, Liabilities, and Equity.

That's it! So, technically, a pair of documents like this will import just fine:

You wouldn't get much in the way of optics from that data, but it could technically be imported.

So, that's the most basic idea of what the parser is looking for. But what else can it handle?

Our parser is extremely flexible

Obviously your chart of accounts is going to be more complex than the sample given above! Our parser was built to be incredibly versatile, and can adapt to a lot of different document structures. To get an idea of what that means, consider that we can directly import files from QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, Xero, and MYOB. Take a look at how different each of these are ...

... And this isn't even all of the formats that we support fully automatically!

The diversity is dizzying enough that we're not going to go exhaustively into the key technical capabilities for our parser. Suffice it to say, it will handle a lot of different patterns and formats. What is key is to avoid  common mistakes and provide documents that are overall consistent in their patterns.

Aside from the basics shown above, there's one more thing we'd always recommend adding, if you're preparing spreadsheets from scratch -- adding some hierarchy to your chart of accounts.

Adding Hierarchy

When we use the term "hierarchy", we mean structuring the chart of accounts more elaborately than a simple 1-dimensional list. Adding groups and sub-groups, and even sub-sub-groups, etc., will help you keep track of your accounts more easily, and will help CFO Scoreboard categorize them more quickly.

The two main benefits of having hierarchy within the document are:

  1. Easier imports
    CFO Scoreboard will look at your group names and use smart logic to automatically classify your accounts. If you're uploading for the first time, this will save you an extra 5 minutes -- or 20 minutes! -- depending on how large the chart of accounts is. It will also help you understand how to use CFO Scoreboard's classifications  in general, because it fills out most of them for you.
  2. Easier manipulation and viewing within CFOS
    Everything in the Trends area within CFO Scoreboard will become more logically organized and streamlined, if there's more hierarchy present in the document. This means you'll more easily see what's happening in the numbers, and/or pick up on data issues that could be caused by disagreements in historical data.

There are two main ways to add hierarchy:

1. Indented Hierarchy

If you look at a standard export from any desktop version of QuickBooks,  that is what we're talking about. Sub-accounts and sub-groups are indicated by moving the child items one column to the right. You can continue moving to the right as many columns as the hierarchy needs -- just insert more blank columns if you run out!

Since CFO Scoreboard doesn't care about the display width of columns, you can resize accordingly to make things much easier on the eyes. QB Desktop exports usually come pre-formatted in this fashion already:

When adding hierarchy of this type, it's helpful to make heavy use of keyboard shortcuts. Basically all you need are the arrow keys and Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V. Just grab sections of the chart of accounts and move them to the left, drilling down as necessary.

If your spreadsheet has "closing" group lines such as e.g  Total Current Assets then they should not be indented along with their group, similar to the way the hierarchy is shown above. However, if your spreadsheet doesn't have these "total" lines or if you'd like to not worry about them, then that's fine! They can be deleted entirely. As long as the rest of the indention is set up properly the "total" lines are not needed.

2. Flat Hierarchy

Sometimes when you start with "flat" chart of accounts, and it would be confusing or tedious to do a bunch of indention along the lines of the above. Luckily there's a simpler way. As long as you have opening lines like e.g Current Assets and then have closing lines like e.g Total Current Assets, CFO Scoreboard will be able to "understand" the hierarchy of your accounts -- even if they're not indented.

Remember, the opener has to say " X" and the closing line should say "Total X". As long as you follow that pattern, you can create as rich a hierarchy as you'd like, even nesting down several levels if appropriate.

Take a look at a typical export from the accounting system Xero to see exactly how this works:


Hopefully this has given you a much better idea of what CFO Scoreboard is looking for when it imports your files, and how wide the options really are!

Finally, if you need something more visual and straightforward to work with, just use this reference video to move forward with the templates provided:

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