Part 1 of our Closing Virtually with a Distributed Workforce blog series.
The financial close is an integral part of reporting timely and accurate financial statements. It enables executive teams to report accurate numbers and make strategic business decisions for organizational growth. These outcomes then trickle down to accountants, who are compiling and processing all the quarter-end data.
Accounting and finance organizations around the globe are now approaching their second virtual quarter-end close with a distributed workforce. For many, the question remains: is it possible to close with confidence during this crisis?
The short answer is yes, an accurate virtual close is possible. But achieving this begins with shifting your close processes to become more continuous.
What Is a Virtual Close?
A virtual close is the successful monitoring and execution of period-end financial close processes in a distributed environment.
A virtual close means accounting and finance teams can unify data and processes across disparate systems, and collaborate from home or anywhere they are with visibility into and reporting on all activities. It means they can close with confidence in uncertain times, and beyond.
Why Accounting Teams Need Virtual Close Processes
Consider your accounting team’s workload today, even with minimal automation. For many organizations, the current close continues to include very labor-intensive tasks that still rely on contrasting checklists, decentralized departments, lengthy emails, never-ending status meetings, journals, account reconciliations, closing tasks, and more.
Now, consider the hours spent on these activities, and how these could be better allocated to more value-added activities within your finance and accounting functions.
Equally important are bottlenecks in the process, such as:
- Delays in obtaining critical information from other departments in the business
- Multiple ERP systems and ERPs going down at inopportune times
- No visibility into the accounting close calendar and status
- Being understaffed
- Silos created throughout your finance and accounting teams
So where do we start? How can we enable a virtual close that is efficient and continuous, from wherever your teams are working?
A Virtual Close & Continuous Accounting
Consider Accounting’s primary goal: to deliver an accurate, real-time analysis of the organization’s overall financial performance. Yet many teams still struggle with decades-old processes and time-consuming manual tasks, which have become even more cumbersome with a distributed workforce.
Continuous Accounting delivers a quicker, more efficient, and unified virtual close process. This modern approach embeds automation, controls, and period-end tasks within day-to-day activities, allowing the rigid accounting calendar to more closely mirror the broader business. It transforms the way business processes work by emphasizing real-time processing and deep analysis.
The result is a more efficient close, more accurate financials, and a more effective organization. Plus, your accountants will finally have the time to respond to departmental requests, while dedicating more of a strategic focus on the organization’s business decisions.
Many accounting and finance teams who have started on a Continuous Accounting journey continue to capture, validate, and analyze their financial data in a more timely and efficient manner. As a result, they are recognizing a smoother, faster close with real-time visibility into the status of tasks and the overall financial landscape.
Spreading quarter-end closing tasks throughout the period leads to a more balanced workload for your team, improving accuracy and leaving more time for review. Your employees will experience less burnout and have more time to focus on what matters most, both professionally and personally.
Building Your Foundation for Virtual Close Transformation
If you’re not quite ready to launch a digital finance transformation at your organization, such as creating a virtual close process, you can begin building a foundation—and this will prove to be particularly critical as we continue to adjust to working and closing remotely.
Focus on your accountants and their month-end tasks, and ask yourself: which tasks are ready for automation? Which tasks can be performed earlier in the month?
Take a few tasks weekly, meet with your teams, involve them in the process, and offer opportunities to re-balance. When you are ready for full automation, you’ll already have a firm foundation in place.
Read Part 2 of this blog series to learn three essential ways to enable a smarter virtual close while also empowering your accountants.