A month-end close checklist is critical to ensuring a
smooth and successful close process. Its purpose is to provide visibility into
the status of each task, manage resources or deadlines, and reduce confusion as
turnover happens or roles and responsibilities change.

If you’re an accountant, you’ve probably been responsible
for a number of different checklists during your career. These range from a
printed list or Excel file on your hard drive to shared files managed by teams.

If you’re in a leadership position, you’ve probably faced
the common and ongoing challenge of aggregating the information contained in various
month-end checklists to inform meaningful decisions and drive process

What if you could take it to the next level and manage your checklist with technology? A unified platform goes beyond
Excel to enable automation, intelligent workflow, status visibility, a
comprehensive list of tasks, and real-time dashboards for up-to-the-minute

Consider these four best practices to improve your
month-end close checklist, and therefore your entire close process.

Choose a Meaningful Way to Organize Your Checklist

What this looks like will be different for every

You can organize your month-end checklist by balance sheet
account, functional group, or entity. If you implement a solution to automate
your list, you can also sort and filter by any number of characteristics that
are meaningful to you and your team.

Identify the
Most Essential Criteria

Identify the criteria that are consistently important to
know about every task and incorporate them into your checklist. For example:

  • Which area of the financial statements
    does it impact?
  • Who’s performing this task?
  • When does it need to be performed?

Regularly Evaluate
Roles & Responsibilities

Often, it takes a big change like an acquisition or
turnover to take stock of all the tasks that are being performed and who is
responsible for them. And beginning that process in the midst of a year-end or
transformation project can be especially challenging.

When everyone is using the same platform to manage their individual, team, and global processes, you have the information you need at your fingertips. And when processes are managed consistently, adapting to personnel changes or acquisitions becomes much less overwhelming. 

Whether your checklist is automated or manual, evaluating
roles and responsibilities on a regular basis can prepare your teams for
inevitable change. If you have a handle on who is responsible for what, and when
key tasks are being performed, re-allocating and re-assessing becomes a much
quicker exercise.

Avoid Having Too
Much Detail—Or Not Enough

Regardless of whether your checklist is on paper or
automated, finding the right balance regarding what level of detail to include
is important. The most effective checklists exclude specific details that will
change from month to month or require too much maintenance, but include enough
context about each item to ensure it could be understood by other teammates
without significant incremental explanation. 

In other words, if someone not currently responsible for a
task can’t come in and gain a high-level understanding of a it from the
checklist description, then it needs additional clarity or detail.

It’s also important to include enough items and individual
tasks to drive accountability, make decisions, and get a good pulse on status—without
requiring your teams to check a box or certify something every time they move a

Moving Beyond
the Manual

So many accounting and finance departments are
decentralized or in a constant state of change. Rather than having a
standardized checklist and dashboards where leadership can easily see where
things are, each accountant, entity, or location has a separate Excel file.

As a result, when someone joins or leaves the company, or
an acquisition or divestiture happens, it’s a manual scramble to re-assign or
re-assess responsibilities.

With a standardized approach, everyone can see what’s
assigned to them, there’s global visibility, and it’s easy to update, maintain,
and report on status and progress.

Excel is a powerful tool, but it’s not the best option for managing your month-end checklist. An automated solution turns an Excel file into a real-time dashboard that’s also integrated into the very processes its intended to track.

With automation, you can integrate your checklist and
tracking process into the same platform where you’re performing many of your
month-end close activities. Makes sense, right?

Think of it this way:

  • What if you could have a task that references a recurring month-end
    journal entry and is automatically marked as completed when the entry is done?
  • Or a task that references the certification of an account
    reconciliation and is completed when the rec has been reviewed?
  • What if other items could be automatically certified based on dependencies?

This is what an integrated platform delivers, and why technology
is such a differentiator when it comes to your month-end close checklist.

Learn more about how your organization can take your month-end close process to the next level with technology.

The post Best Practices for Managing Your Month-End Close Checklist appeared first on BlackLine Magazine.