Modernizing Your Month-End Close
Today, CFOs are ready to push their businesses to be more competitive by adapting to a digital landscape to improve efficiencies and increase confidence in their month-end close process. The faster you close your books, the sooner you can move on to higher value-added tasks, such as data analysis and strategic planning for new opportunities your business wants to pursue. Successful change happens at the intersection of your people, process, policy, and technology. A holistic approach focused on all 4 of these components will lead to greater success and help drive a more efficient and effective operation. To effectively modernize your month-end close and build a transformation roadmap that delivers cost savings, reduces risks, enhances visibility, and improves resource optimization, teams must evaluate four main components: their people, process, policy, and technology.
According to Trintech’s 2022 Financial Close Benchmark survey, 74% of respondents identified “talent acquisition and retention” as the biggest risk to their business over the next 12 months. In addition, according to PwC’s “2022 Pulse Survey”, eight out of nine executives say they’re experiencing higher-than-normal turnover right now, so it’s no surprise that 81% of CFOs are concerned that high turnover and labor shortages will impact their company’s revenue growth.
Finance talent is more difficult to come by in today’s competitive landscape, so it is more critical than ever to empower your teams with processes and technology that help them do their jobs more efficiently. By leveraging automation within your month-end close process, you can refocus your teams’ time away from tedious tasks, like data entry or transaction matching, and empower them to play a strategic role within the organization. The appeal of automation attracts talent, retains talent, and enables your organization to stay ahead of the competition.
One way to establish a more efficient financial close is by standardizing your processes. Too often, organizations try to leverage automation before evaluating the processes they have in place and in turn, continue to enable inefficient processes that can increase their organization’s risk.
An effective process supports your control framework, audit testing and, once standardized across multiple entities & geographies, then allows for more advanced automation to drive further efficiencies.
Teams need to walk before they run – laying down the proper groundwork and evaluating processes ensures that when automation is deployed, it enables more efficient, reliable, and accurate reporting that creates a healthier month-end close process.
Legislation, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and future UK Sox legislation and accounting standards, demand a robust control framework to be defined, managed, monitored, and reported by finance operations. All businesses have inherent risks due to the industry, geographic locations, complexity of the process, or technical infrastructure. As you identify these risks, controls are built to help mitigate those risks, and this is where an effective policy helps. The policy defines those internal rules that ensure that internal operations are precise and avoid ambiguity on how to handle certain business practices.
However, it is often challenging to police the policy to ensure that the “rules” are adhered to. A complex policy will lead to process failure and control failure, ultimately creating the uncertainty that many CFOs have in their confidence in their numbers. This uncertainty then requires further manual controls that, in turn, create additional work and pressure on teams.
While a policy should not be determined by your technology; utilizing and understanding the technology capability can build a strong approach that can then be effectively managed and monitored. It should be the cornerstone to help develop a more effective policy, for example, a risk-based Balance Sheet reconciliation process or for manual Journal Entry process.
In combination with the capability of the technology, a truly effective policy leads to automated controls, reduced workload, and successful enforcement of those policies. Building a solid policy and creating rules will generate confidence in internal audits, external auditors, and finance leadership teams.
Technology should be leveraged to help digitize the manual work – but it is also important to make sure your F&A team understands the strategic direction of the organization and where technology fits in. Automation alone does not produce a high ROI — automation alongside process improvement and creating efficiency gains for your financial close, however, does. Implementing technology has become essential for today’s workforce: if organizations do not adapt, they will get left behind with inefficient, manual processes.
“The value that new leading technologies bring in far outweighs any risks especially when they’re properly implemented but organizations that don’t embrace digitalization will be left behind by those that use technology to their competitive advantage.” – Syril Mathai, GM – ServiceNow Practice at Trintech
Leveraging a holistic solution, F&A teams can enable automation across the month-end close process that allows for effective management and visibility into your organization’s financial health. Being intentional with the automation of processes and integration of trusted technology is the best way that organizations can reach a world-class month-end close.
Building the Foundation for Transformation
By aligning your people, process, policy, and technology, organizations are able to maximize their operational readiness, ensuring that the systems they have in place are efficient and able to adapt to the changing landscape.
With the right people, teams are adaptable and efficient; with the right processes, teams can ensure accurate and reliable reporting; with the right policy, teams will be confident in their processes; with the right technology, teams are proactive and able to leverage automation to help decrease time spent on reporting and increase time spent on value-added activities that support the organization.
Once you’ve built a solid foundation for your financial close process, it’s time to take a look at how implementing a risk-based approach to your processes will save you even more time while ensuring risk reduction, too.
Blog Series – 5 Best Practices to Modernizing Your Month-End Close
• Best Practice 2: Implement a Risk-Based Approach
• Best Practice 3: Standardize Processes across Entities and Geographies
• Best Practice 4: Optimize with Advanced Automation
• Best Practice 5: Build a Collaborative Ecosystem
Written by: Lauren McCrohan