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Using Mind-maps to Explain Complex Utility Accounting Concepts

Russ Hissom's picture
Owner, Utility Accounting Education Specialists - utilityeducation.com

Russ is the owner of Utility Accounting Education Specialists a firm that provides power utilities consulting services and online/on-demand courses on accounting, finance, FERC best-practices,...

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  • Feb 3, 2021
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Written By Russ Hissom, CPA, Utility Accounting Education Specialists

Do you ever struggle to explain a technical topic to a non-technical audience? Using a “mind-map” can be an effective tool. 

 

The Zen of the mind map

A mind map is a pictorial diagram used to outline ideas based around a single concept or theme. Mind mapping can range from doodling ideas on paper to a more formal presentation of complex topics or projects with the use of any number of digital apps. 

Mind-mapping is used to clarify topics and themes and is a valuable tool in developing: 

  • Meeting presentations 

  • Articles 

  • Training classes 

  • Presentations to persuade participants  

  • Analysis of business processes 

  • Project planning, assignments, workplans and goals

Picture this. You would like to convey the essence of regulatory accounting to your finance team, management and oversight board (who regulates your utility rates) - clearly an audience of mixed financial backgrounds. This presentation is necessary in providing key information for these individuals to make decisions regarding:

  • Approval of the current utility budget

  • Need to finance strategic initiatives in your utility’s workforce management and move towards renewable power supply options in future rates for current expenditures

  • Need to increase utility rates

  • Political reality to hold down the amount of any increase in rates

The foundation for regulatory accounting is FASB ASC 980 - Regulated Operations for investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives and GASB 62 - Regulated Operations for public sector utilities. Both are similar accounting pronouncements. These statements are fairly technical in nature and it is easy for an audience who just needs to know high level information to get lost in the weeds in a presentation. Using traditional tools, like PowerPoint, written reports or an oral presentation runs the risk of sowing confusion, mis-understandings or putting the audience to sleep. 

A mind map is well suited for visually presenting a complex topic as described here, since it is hierarchical and shows relationships among the pieces of information presented. A mind map is based on a single concept drawn in the center of a page, which is then surrounded by groups of related concepts, images, thoughts and questions designed to clarify ideas. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out like the roots of a tree from those major ideas. 

The GASB 62 mind map

The following is a high level mind map of GASB 62 - Regulated Operations. This mind-map was developed in the app - MindNode (but there are other effective apps available and paper diagrams have been known to work also):

 

GASB 62 Mind Map

In our simplified example, one could point to a concept or idea and spur discussion that drills down beneath the surface of the presentation. Others could walk away from the presentation with a high level understanding of the issues and potential applications to their utility’s situation. The goal is to highlight the major business implications to give the audience opportunities to discuss potential financial impacts or strategies. 

Thank you for readying this article! Our goal with this presentation is to help make your business meetings more effective and productive. If you have follow-up questions don't hesitate to contact russ.hissom@puaes.com or review other source material at puaes.com. 

 

#mindmap #GASB62 #ASC980 #regulatoryaccounting #utilityaccounting #FERC

 

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Thank Russ for the Post!
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