A checklist is a common way for anyone to prioritize, but for accounting professionals, it takes on a whole other meaning. To accountants at month-end, a checklist is the Holy Grail.
During the close, it’s probably one of the first documents opened when powering up your computer in the morning, and it’s likely the last file updated at the end of the day.
The purpose of the checklist is to compile all month-end close activities—journal entries, account reconciliations, adjustments, reclassifications, analyses—and classify them by critical criteria like owner, due date, and entity. And when looking for a completion status, it’s the single source of truth to give you that information.
Because of the significance of the month-end checklist for Accounting, companies often seek technology to ensure theirs is best-in-class.
But if the critical accounting work takes place within the activities of the financial close task list, then you’re only just scratching the surface with a streamlined checklist.
Let’s go over three reasons why a successful month-end close process is so much more than just a checklist—especially now, as F&A organizations are closing virtually with a distributed workforce.
It’s Okay to Be Unique
It would be nice if there was a month-end close checklist fit for all, but that’s hardly the case. The underlying guidelines and principles might be the same for most organizations, but different industries, sizes, organization structures, and business processes create complexities and dependencies that are unique to individual accounting teams.
Because of this, accounting teams seeking a leading solution should be cautious of vendors that offer ‘out-of-the-box’ close management software. Applications like these might provide basic workflow or visibility, but they fail to offer more advanced capabilities like dependencies or integration to solutions addressing the tasks themselves.
An integrated and dynamic financial close task list, one that is configurable to your team’s best practices and adaptable to changes—from acquisitions to changes in ownership—is only the beginning to achieving a best-in-class virtual month-end close process.
There’s More to a Checklist Than Meets the Eye
Moving away from keeping a close checklist in spreadsheets or on a shared drive is step one. But what about managing certification and approval workflow, segregation of duties, and version control? How are you overcoming the challenges of a virtual audit? And what about defining and documenting policies and procedures?
A centralized checklist with real-time visibility only solves a portion of control issues that are evident when your tasks aren’t integrated with the rest of the close process. Accountants find themselves still going back and forth to different close activities, with no real dependencies or understanding of the status until the entire account has been closed out and complete.
Without embedded integration between your close checklist and the underlying accounting work that goes along with it, you run the risk of financial close control deficiencies.
You’re Growing & So Is Your Checklist
As we all go through the different stages of this pandemic, the way we work will continue changing and evolving, and inevitably, your accounting team must adjust.
Is your virtual month-end close process scalable and adaptable? Is your checklist integrated with the underlying tasks—account reconciliations, journal entries, flux analyses, or high-volume matching exercises—so if you added new controls or dependencies it would be easy to adapt with maximized automation?
The short-term gains associated with a basic financial close checklist solution might be appealing, but it’s important to keep a long-term mindset. With a bit more effort and planning upfront, your team will only have to evaluate one solution for the financial close process.
BlackLine’s unified cloud platform delivers an end-to-end solution. With full integration of all accounting activities, our solutions go beyond just providing real-time visibility by maximized automation and minimizing risk.
Read this blog for four best practices to improve your month-end close checklist—and your entire close process.