April 22, 2021

What is Close Management Software: 3 Key Features to Look For

7-minute read

Close Management Software Overview

Maybe your financial close process is highly manual and you’ve heard about close management software, but you’re quite sure where to start. To understand the benefits and leading practices, let's start by reviewing what the monthly close process looks like without technology.

Traditional manual accounting is chaos—on a deadline. The month-end close often involves various people, technology, processes, and means of communication, all held together by manual processes. Accounting teams spend long days and late nights closing the books but have little capacity to focus on real-time analysis and insights.

 

What if you could unify, standardize, and automate some of those processes with technology? What if discrepancies, errors, one-offs, and unusual items 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 strategic initiatives or driving operational improvements?

The best close management software is designed to make this a reality.

How Do Accounting Teams Use Financial Close Software?

Many accounting teams leverage technology, like the ERP, order management systems, and inventory management systems, among others. These systems of record capture business transactions as they occur. Additional technology is often used to streamline consolidations and reporting processes. 

Close management software rests in the “middle” of the record-to-report process, where source data is manipulated in spreadsheets, workflows, and validations, key controls are manual, and information is stored in shared drives for email. 

Leading close management software solutions are transforming these processes and changing how Accounting works. Cloud technology, specifically, can be deployed rapidly, allowing accounting teams to reduce manual labor and address end-to-end processes, save audit time and provide higher quality assurance, and measure process and increase confidence.

Benefits of Financial Close Software

Reduces Manual Labor & Addresses End-to-End Processes

A month-end close checklist is comprised of many different close tasks. While some of the close tasks are independent of each other, many are related and must be completed in a specific sequence or with dependencies, because the various close tasks are carried out by multiple team members.

As an example, an accounts receivable manager may be responsible for ensuring that all customer billings are recorded. She may then tell the assistant controller to close the AR subledger.

Once the assistant controller closes the AR subledger, he then notifies the senior accountant that she can begin reporting on AR aging and the analysis of allowance for doubtful accounts. 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 accounting teams face is managing these related, dependent tasks or processes across disparate systems. There may be separate spreadsheets for each task that only address a portion of the process and there is no global visibility to where the team is in the process.

This means that the accounting team does not have a system to track the end-to-end process, is manually carrying out each individual task, and then communicating status—all of 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.

Saves Audit Time & Provides Higher Quality Assurance

Once the books are closed, accounting teams can spend a significant amount of time supporting the audit. Auditors require a great deal of information like GL or subledger details, account reconciliations, manual journal entries, evidence of controls and sign-offs, supporting documentation, and more.

Often, accounting teams go back and forth with their auditors on PBC requests and overdue items, debating what was provided and when, or which items are outstanding—a common point of contention.

Without an integrated platform in place, managing the PBC process can take a significant amount of time and effort. When supporting documentation is sent through email, there are also challenges with version control.

The right close management software will enable transparency and collaboration between accounting teams and their auditors.

Auditors should be able to access data with a self-service approach, with an auditor-specific role, which reduces client preparation time. When accountants’ complete items, the auditor can view evidence like signoffs and supporting documents from anywhere.

In addition to the relationship benefit, close management software saves an enormous amount of time. The right close management software will shift previously manual controls to automated controls, reducing the amount of substantive and detail testing required.

And when testing evidence is needed, chances are the documents and audit trail already exists, 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 becoming more 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 month end 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.

ROI of Close Management Software

Traditional manual processes take too long, introduce unnecessary risk, are 3.5x more costly, and they negatively impact morale. Simply put, they are not sustainable.

The good news is, close management software, like BlackLine, can modernize your accounting organization. Modern accounting saves time, reduces risk, and creates capacity to support your organizations strategic objectives.

Customers running BlackLine have automatically matched up to 99% of transactions, reduced time spent on reconciliations by 85%, and have an overall faster month end close of 70%.  

According to a recent independent study from Nucleus Research, BlackLine customers have realized a return on investment of $2.77 for every dollar spent, with a nine-month payback period and low total cost of ownership.

Automation, Visibility & Control

Leading companies globally, including 60% of the Fortune 50, chose BlackLine for financial close automation, visibility, and control. They have transformed their financial close processes and created capacity to better support their companies’ strategic objectives.

Ready to elevate the close management conversation at your organization? Read this definitive guide to finance transformation platforms and technology.

Katherine Becraft, Senior Manager of SAP Solutions Marketing

Digital Transformation