Saturday, June 29, 2002

Taking Care of Business. Schaum's Quick Guide to Business Finance: 201 Decision-Making Tools for Business, Finance, and Accounting Students is a reprint of "McGraw-Hill Pocket Guide to Business Finance: 201 Decision-Making Tools for Managers" with a single difference. The now out-or-print book came with a runtime version of MathCAD and formulas for using each of the tools, while this new version does not. Also, don't let the title fool you - this book is as useful to working professionals as it is to students.

The 201 tools contained in this small, highly useful book range from Acid Test (doing a quick ratio of financials) to Z-Scores. Each tool is listed alphabetically, its use explained, and instructions on how to use it is provided. What I particularly liked is the worked examples that accompany each tool.

As an IT consultant who specializes in service delivery this book is not one I would normally include in my professional library. I was introduced to it when a colleague and I were writing a white paper on recovery management. We were searching for a way to link business imperatives to justification for investment in recovery strategies. We found one piece of the puzzle in this book - the Altman Z-Score. This tool predicts whether or not a company is likely to enter into bankruptcy within one or two years. This led to the development of a copyrighted model that addressed survival level objectives, and also became a key part of the Tarrani-Zarate Information Technologies Management Model. All this from a single entry in a small book!

Aside from discovering a relatively obscure, but important, tool I also found other useful tools in this book. Because I am not a business consultant or financial expert the tools were like a cram course in financial management for non-financial people. For example, I was able to apply some of the tools to personal financial matters - the real costs of a loan become quickly apparent when you compute them. I was also able to employ some of the tools to conduct realistic cost/benefit analyses, examine trade-offs supporting approaches to projects, etc. In this respect this small book has significantly improved my professional skills and has inspired me to read other books on financial management.

I strongly recommend this book - collection of tools really - to anyone who deals with finance, anyone who has P&L responsibilities, and business and IT consultants. The latter group will find this book to be invaluable for developing proposals, deliverables and project plans that add value.

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