Closing the books is hard. It often involves reviewing and analyzing vast amounts of data from disparate sources, straddling inconsistent processes and controls, and executing on a lengthy list of manual activities.
So many long days and late nights are spent cranking through the volume, only to get to the end of a checklist and hope everything is correct.
What if you could automate some of those processes with technology? What if discrepancies, errors, one-offs, and oddities were automatically brought to light, and you had time left to analyze and address them?
What if, instead of spending all those hours double-checking calculations, validating data, and handling it all by emailing, saving, and re-saving spreadsheets, you finally had time to focus the work you really love—like supporting business-changing strategy or driving operational improvements?
The best close management software is designed to make this a reality. But in a growing market, it can be difficult to decipher what differentiates leading solutions.
Here are three key areas to prioritize as you’re evaluating close management platforms.
Addresses End-to-End Processes
A close checklist is comprised of many different but related activities. As an example, a senior accountant might be responsible for part of the accounts receivable process. This could include producing a subledger aging report, recording manual journal entries, reconciling and substantiating balances, and analyzing variances.
Each represents an individual task but is also part of the end-to-end close process.
Without an integrated platform in place, one of the biggest challenges accountants face is managing these related tasks or processes across disparate systems. There may be separate spreadsheets for each task or point solutions that only address a portion of the process.
This leads to schlepping data between sources—often leading to even more Excel files and requiring manipulating, which can increase risk of error.
The right close management software solution addresses each of the individual components of an end-to-end process, connecting them within a single platform.
If a staff accountant handles prepaids, she can handle all of the items associated with that prepaid process from a centralized solution. She can great dependencies between the reconciliation she has to prepare and the associated amortization journal entry, for example. Unusual variances or new activity can be automatically flagged for further analysis.
Close management software combines these related activities and embeds them in a unified platform.
Saves Audit Time & Provides Higher Quality Assurance
Accounting teams have historically spent a significant amount of time going back and forth with their auditors on PBC lists and overdue items, debating what was provided and when, or which items are outstanding—a common point of contention.
In addition to helping you manage the PBC process, auditors love having supporting documents and other audit evidence in a centralized platform.
For auditors to be able to see everything in BlackLine—and to know that they can only access it when it’s complete—is enormously beneficial.
This reduces issues like version control and ambiguity over what’s ready for audit. It also improves the relationship between client and auditor, shifting interactions away from debates about who owes what item to discussions around complex accounting issues or changes in the business.
In my personal experience, I felt like BlackLine reduced the animosity between our accounting and finance teams and the auditors. As animosity over PBCs diminished, the auditors could be seen as advisors again, not requestors.
In addition to the relationship benefit, close management software saves an enormous amount of time. BlackLine can shift previously manual controls to automated, reducing the amount of substantive and detail testing required.
And when testing evidence is needed, chances are the documents and audit trail already exists in BlackLine, eliminating time drain and risks associated with copying, emailing, or saving files for auditors on flash drives.
Bottom line: close management software limits the amount of high-volume work required to complete the audit.
Measures Progress & Increases Confidence
Bringing your close process data into one platform allows accounting teams to measure effectiveness. With metrics and KPIs at your fingertips, it’s easy to drive accountability and determine whether you’re getting more or less efficient.
And when process improvement or transformation is a goal, information can drive decisions and conclusions, like where to begin or what’s working well.
Centralizing data in dashboards makes information simple to digest and easier to act on. Beyond addressing the effectiveness of the close, reporting can help instill confidence in financial results. Being able to report on measures like required adjustments and reconciling differences increases trust that a level of precision has been achieved.
Controllers can sleep better at night knowing they’re not relying on emails or verbal cues to ensure completeness and accuracy.
Ready to elevate the close management conversation at your organization? Read this definitive guide to finance transformation platforms and technology.