Part 6 of the Continuous Accounting blog series. You can access the full series here.
Change is uncomfortable. We all tend to resist change when we see it coming—and even more when we don’t. Many go to great lengths to avoid what is different, especially at work.
We have our routines down pat, we can practically perform accounting processes in our sleep (and often do, especially during the close), and we like that familiarity.
But what if making a carefully calculated pivot to the right technology could actually be safer?
The reality is that although change is uncomfortable, it can be more dangerous to live with outdated manual processes and the inherent risks of human behavior.
The Risk of Doing Nothing
New possibilities to create competitive advantage present themselves all the time. This may seem overwhelming, but technology can lead to opportunities for accountants to evolve and add an even higher level of value to their organization.
Automation streamlines the most routine, manual work, and opens the door to Continuous Accounting: an approach that ultimately results in better-utilized resources.
Continuous Accounting transforms the way accounting and finance teams work by embedding automation, control, and period-end tasks within daily activities. It frees up accountants to partner with the broader business, helping to drive more informed decisions for the organization.
Process automation provides one of the greatest opportunities for competitive advantage and waiting to adopt the right technology heightens the risk of being left behind—in your industry and in your profession.
If you decide to do nothing “for now,” but your competitors and peers choose to innovate, adopting automation and a Continuous Accounting model, they will quickly set themselves apart, becoming more efficient and controlled.
They will have access to the financial information needed to inform better decision-making and gain insight into bottlenecks.
Reducing the Resistance with Continuous Accounting
When you are performing most of your month-end close processes during a defined close window, it’s difficult to provide any meaningful financial data until after “pencils are down” – which is typically several days into the new month when the data is no longer relevant.
If you continue accounting the way it’s always been done, you’ll stay trapped in the never-ending cycle of feeling behind, always reporting on last month while the business has moved on to the next.
Leveraging technology allows accounting organizations to perform certain activities more real-time, increasing visibility to prevent surprises. By analyzing smaller subsets of data on a regular basis, you can identify irregularities in a timely manner, allowing the business to react appropriately and forecasts to be updated when needed.
“A big win with Continuous Accounting is automating certain areas. This means that rather than spending valuable time in the weeds of transactional data, you’re analyzing and reviewing exceptions,” says Molly Boyle, former Senior Manager of Corporate Accounting at Under Armour and now Senior Manager of Solutions Marketing at BlackLine.
Accounting in real time isn’t possible without the technology that can drive automation and visibility. When the manual processes are automated, your accounting team is freed to focus their time on reporting and analyzing data to identify trends or adjustments.
When you begin providing meaningful data to decision makers, and when you can do so in a timely fashion, your value to the organization increases substantially.
The End-Goal of Continuous Accounting
The goal of Continuous Accounting is to create a more synergistic organization where accounting and finance have a seat at the table. The most effective decisions are made when different departments make them together, with the real-time reporting data that tells the full story.
But a series of steps are required to take you from doing nothing to a fully Continuous Accounting approach. And it’s essential to start by defining the end-state so you know exactly what you want to work toward. You can then work backwards to break down and delegate the steps that will get you there.
These five steps provide a framework to get you started:
- Evaluate your existing processes first, to avoid automating bad processes.
- Thoroughly research the best finance automation solution to ensure that you implement the right technology.
- Focus on the benefits – instead of your fear of change.
- Start small with a stepwise approach that will prove the risk mitigating benefits of Continuous Accounting
- Begin to view industry advancements as improvements, so you can recognize the most beneficial opportunities.
Continuing to repeat these steps will shift your mindset and create a ripple effect in your organization. You’ll begin to see a reduction of risk, more timely data for business decisions, and a better utilized, more engaged accounting team.
And eventually, you will realize that the uncertainty and discomfort of change have become worth it – if not a little more manageable.
Driving Your Organization to the Next Level
It may seem like less effort to stay where you are. But waiting to implement a Continuous Accounting approach could come at a much greater cost, putting you at a disadvantage that may ultimately leave you reeling.
Change is inevitable for any company striving to create competitive advantage, and staying stagnant is far riskier than implementing new technology to improve old processes. For this reason, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable can drive your organization to the next level.
Read Part 7 to discover why it’s so important to empower your teams.