Part 3 of our Closing Virtually with a Distributed Workforce blog series. Read the full series here.
In many accounting and finance departments, manual work is a normal part of the day-to-day responsibilities: updating recs and checklists, manually copying and pasting data into the following month, and then updating it for the quarter-end close.
These tasks are tedious and significantly slow down the close, especially now that we’re navigating a quarter-end close with a distributed workforce. The good news is that working this way is no longer the only option for accountants.
Innovative technology is automating these repetitive tasks and workflows with rules-based logic. As a result, accounting teams can perform close tasks throughout the quarter, instead of waiting until the end of the period. This speeds up the close and allows teams to deliver accurate, real-time data, driving value for the entire business.
Here are four practical steps you and your teams can begin taking today to enable a virtual close that is achievable, collaborative, and continuous.
Review Quarter-End Processes
An effective goal for every accounting and finance team is to create a more balanced workload throughout the quarter, as opposed to pushing all of these processes into the crunch at the end. Work with your teams to identify which items are performed during critical close that can potentially be moved up earlier in the period.
Many routine journal entries can be prepared well in advance. Some accrual or impairment calculations can be started mid-period and fine-tuned at the end. Frequent reconciliations of key accounts such as cash, or those unusual journals for miscellaneous write offs, reduce the work required for a timely close.
Distribute Close Tasks Throughout the Quarter
Why wait for the end of the quarter when you can start today, little by little, to review and improve these processes? Take a few tasks and discuss earlier due dates for the quarter-end checklist.
Implement short milestone awards, create some team competition—make it a fun journey. The BlackLine platform provides automatic recurring journals, reconciliation reports for required adjustments, and miscellaneous write-offs while allowing flexibility in the task management solution to adjust due dates on items throughout the close.
Create Desk Top Procedures
Desk top procedures are an excellent way to add value to the Finance and Accounting team. Documented standard procedures promote cross-training, which means there’s no holdup in the process if a key employee is out sick, on vacation, a new trainee falls behind on the close, or if an employee leaves the company.
More importantly, desk top procedures promote evidence of policy and compliance for external auditors on complex accounts (policy process for reserves, complicated accruals, and entries).
Desk top procedure documents can be uploaded into BlackLine’s Task solution with a review frequency set to annual, and linked directly to your balance sheet account, account reconciliations, or journal entries.
Plan Your Transformation Vision
The days of paper-based and manual, time-consuming processes are over. BlackLine’s finance controls and automation platform streamlines and automates the many processes needed to get closer to a successful quarter-end close.
Making changes to automate month-end processes, such as bank account reconciliations and journal entries, saves time and minimizes accountant time and error. Think about people and processes today, and technology tomorrow as you start to build the foundation for your finance automation journey.
Read this ebook for a roadmap that will help you navigate the ever-changing, increasingly complex accounting and finance landscape.