From XU Magazine, 
Issue 17

Financial reports for humans

Accounting is often described as ‘the language of business’. Unfortunately most people aren’t fluent in it. Martin Coulthard explains why, and how the Numerable web app offers a solution...
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Martin has been a tech entrepreneur for over 30 years, and has attended hundreds of SME board meetings. In each meeting the board looks at tabular financial reports, with the occasional graph. The Financial Director talks through them. Directors run their fingers down columns of numbers and try to work out what is going on, what caused it, and what actions need to be taken.

Many directors don’t fully understand the reports and are not engaged in discussions. Their eyes glaze over. So they miss key issues, and make important decisions with incomplete information.

Clearly something is broken with the way many SMEs review their finances.

Why people struggle with financial reports

Numbers - Humans cannot quickly or accurately pick out all the patterns, trends and changes in arrays of numbers. We just haven’t evolved that way.

Jargon - Accruals, amortisation, creditors, aged receivables. Just a few of the terms used in financial reports that can confuse people.

Structure - Each financial report contains a particular set of data, presented in sections with a defined structure, whose significance has to be learned.

Lack of Analysis and Advice - The producer of financial reports should be in the best position to add analysis and advice. But in SMEs this is often not done, with time pressure being given as the main reason.

Presentation - It is rare that financial reports and advice are presented in a structured, engaging way in SME board meetings.

If you’ve gone through the extended training of an accountant, then you can learn how to overcome most of these challenges. But most people running businesses haven’t, and critical information is left hidden in an impenetrable fog.


In 2016, Martin founded Numerable Software to develop a solution that lets people quickly create financial reports that everyone can understand.

The solution had to benefit both the consumers of the reports (people running businesses) and the producers (accountants and FDs).

The team came up with a new concept for presenting reports, that better matches the human ability to understand quantitative information, and has now developed it into the Numerable web app.

The app imports data from Xero and transforms into interactive plots supported by narrative. Advisors can add expert comments and create structured presentations. The novel user interface has 1-click charting and there is no configuration, making the app fast and easy to use.

Why leave it there?

Numerable is now on the Xero App Marketplace and is being launched at Xerocon London 2018.

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