These days, companies are under more pressure than ever to finish their month-end reports as quickly as possible. Smart CFOs understand the power of fast, accurate data to drive business decisions. But it’s easy for the finance team to get bogged down by manual processes, outdated systems, and a lack of communication across departments. These issues create frustration,
delays, and more opportunities for mistakes.
So how can you get your month-end reports done more efficiently, without sacrificing accuracy? Here are our top 4 tips.
1) Streamline month-end processes so everyone knows who needs to do what and when.
The timelines and deliverables associated with month-end reports should be clear to all involved. That means the protocols should be written down and widely shared via a company owned web/API based portal, SharePoint or even Google Docs, for the benefit of future employees as well as current ones. Relying on institutional memory can cause major problems when there’s turnover or expansion.
Start with documenting how the process works today, if that has not already been done. If you do have written protocols in place, make sure they match the current reality on the ground. (That will make the auditors happy, too!) You may find that simply communicating expectations makes the process run more smoothly, because people hadn’t understood how their work fit into the big picture. Ideally, key staff would be cross-trained so the entire closing process doesn’t get derailed due to an illness or a vacation.
Then, review the process and look for stress points. If there are bottlenecks, when and where do they happen? Perhaps people are waiting until the end of the month to complete tasks that can be handled earlier. Or maybe a manual sign-off process is causing unnecessary delays. A competent data workflow consultant can help you identify these issues and resolve them.
2. Stay away from Excel.
Too many departments are still using financial processes built around elaborate Excel spreadsheets. Excel has its uses, but you really shouldn’t be relying on it for your financial reporting. It’s clunky and outdated, but most of all it’s slow. It doesn’t support the real-time reporting that an agile 21st-century business needs.
And that’s assuming that the complicated maze of linked spreadsheets actually works. All too often, the only person who truly understands the underlying framework is whoever set it up –and that person may not even work at your company anymore.
Chasing down Excel errors can be very tedious and time-consuming for the people who inherited the convoluted system. It can also make the team adverse to change, because they are so worried about breaking what they have. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Replace all those spreadsheets with a straightforward integrated solution. Something that will allow you and your team to get the answers you need when you need them (now). Multidimensional databases are a great way to accomplish this. You can also work with your data team on connectivity to multiple sources at the same time and host all of that data into one database. This allows your data to be accessible across the board from everyone on the web or any mobile device.
3. Do trial balance and financial reporting in real time.
Sound impossible? It is, unless you have the right data processing tools in place. With a comprehensive tool, you get one cohesive version of the truth – not a million spreadsheets. There are now software solutions like BOARD that can directly connect data coming from different sources and departments, giving executives a clear and comprehensive view of the company’s finances. Imagine, there’s a hurricane in the Midwest, and your boss wants to know how the company supply chain will be affected. You can open up any smart device and tell him… right there.
4. Distribute and share the reports in real time, too.
When you have different tools collecting the same data, you get a mishmash of different reports. Executives may not know where to go to find the data they need to make well-informed strategic decisions. An all-in-one tool brings the data together in one place so everyone can access it – and trust that it is as up-to-the-minute as possible.
Following these tips can get the ball rolling and make your company competitive with the “big boys”, leverage the latest technology, and improve your team’s workflow. That’ll put your company in a great position to compete in 2018 and beyond!