Best practices for the month-end close
Q. Why is the month-end close still so difficult for so many organizations?
A. Eighty-two percent of accountants describe the month-end close as a negative experience. That’s a crazy stat considering the month-end close is such a fundamental job for accountants. Unfortunately, most organizations suffer from lack of transparency and poor documentation. Often, team members have visibility only into their small piece of the close. Documents are shared haphazardly across a disorganized local network drive, and nobody has time to document procedures. The result is long hours in the office and frequent restatements, causing many accountants working in industry to report increased stress during the close, to the point where one-third state that the close impacts their personal relationships.
Q. What best practices can organizations implement?
A. Organizations can improve their close by implementing a collaborative close checklist that tracks who is responsible for what and by when. The next thing to do is standardize reconciliation templates and folder structure. This accelerates and streamlines reconciliations, review, training, and PBC requests. Finally, leaders of accounting teams should reevaluate the mix of talent on their accounting teams. As accounting and finance becomes increasingly driven by technology, it may be time to hire tech-savvy accountants who might not have the typical pedigree of a GAAP expert CPA.
Q. How can technology be applied to ease the problem?
A. Going “cloud” is essential for any accounting team that wants to ease the pain of the close. Place an Excel checklist in SharePoint or OneDrive where the whole team can work on it simultaneously and roll it forward each month. But Excel has limitations when it comes to tracking tasks. Better yet, use a close management software solution to track all your tasks, reconciliations, and review notes. Combine close management software with a cloud ERP and cloud document storage, and you have a full technology stack for the financial close that helps you close faster and more accurately.
Q. What are the benefits of a better streamlined close process?
A. In quantitative terms, teams that use technology to streamline their month-end process typically shave days off their close. Accounting and finance leaders that leverage cloud technology for the financial close have better insight into the close process, are more confident in the close, manage less-stressed employees, and onboard new employees faster. Those last items are becoming more important as the unemployment rate for accountants is under 2%, shifting the job market in favor of employees.
Want to uncover other best practices to improve your month-end close? Download The Definitive Guide to Effective Close Management at floqast.com/definitiveguide to learn more.
Mike Whitmire is the co-founder and CEO of FloQast. Previously he was the fifth accountant hired at Cornerstone OnDemand to help the company prepare for its IPO. He began his career in audit at Ernst & Young in Los Angeles. He holds a bachelor’s in accounting from Syracuse University.