Closing the books is hard. It often involves reviewing and
analyzing vast amounts of data from disparate sources, straddling inconsistent
processes and controls, and executing on a lengthy list of manual activities.

So many long days
and late nights are spent cranking through the volume, only to get to the end
of a checklist and hope everything is correct.

What if you
could automate some
of those processes
with technology? What if discrepancies, errors,
one-offs, and oddities 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 business-changing strategy or driving operational improvements?

The best close management software is designed to make this
a reality. But in a growing market, it can be difficult to decipher what
differentiates leading solutions.

Here are three key areas to prioritize as you’re evaluating
close management platforms.

Addresses End-to-End Processes

A close checklist is comprised of
many different but related activities. As an example, a senior accountant might
be responsible for part of the accounts receivable process. This could include
producing a subledger aging report, recording manual journal entries,
reconciling and substantiating balances, and analyzing variances.

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 accountants face is managing these related tasks or processes across disparate
systems. There may be separate spreadsheets for each task or point solutions that
only address a portion of the process.

This leads to schlepping data between sources—often leading to even more
Excel files and requiring manipulating, 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.

If a staff accountant handles
prepaids, she can handle all of the
items associated with that prepaid process from a centralized solution. She can
great dependencies between the
reconciliation she has to prepare and the associated amortization journal entry,
for example. Unusual
variances or new activity can be automatically flagged for further analysis.

Close management software combines
these related activities and embeds them in a unified platform.

Saves Audit Time
& Provides Higher Quality Assurance

Accounting
teams have historically spent a significant
amount of time going back and forth with their auditors on PBC lists and
overdue items, debating what
was provided and when, or which items are
outstanding—a common point of contention.

In
addition to helping you manage the PBC process, auditors love having supporting
documents and other audit evidence in a centralized platform.

For auditors to be able to see
everything in BlackLine—and to know that they can only access it when it’s
complete—is enormously beneficial.

This reduces issues like version
control and ambiguity over what’s ready for audit. It also improves the relationship between client and auditor, shifting interactions
away from debates about who owes what item to discussions around complex
accounting issues or changes in the business.

In my personal experience, I felt like BlackLine reduced the animosity between our accounting and finance teams and the auditors. As animosity over PBCs diminished, the auditors could be
seen as advisors again, not requestors.  

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

And when testing evidence is needed,
chances are the documents and audit trail already exists in BlackLine,
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 getting more or less
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 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. 

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


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