Whether it’s month-end, quarter-end, or year-end, Finance and Accounting have one universal goal: to provide a timely, flawless accounting close.

If your accounting department is like most, you face tight
deadlines, which often promote higher stress levels and very unmotivated
accountants. The idiom rings true: demands are always shifting downhill to Accounting
where we have less resources and less time to do all this work.

There continues to be more systems, more data, more
complexity, more regulations, and less time to manage it all. 

The good news is that with finance automation, you can
continually capture, validate, and analyze your data in a timely and precise
manner. Data integrity, along with real-time processing, can improve
manual processes, such as replacing Excel spreadsheets with automation. While
spreadsheets are a useful tool, they can be prone to errors and have no way to
track changes made—thus, slowing down our close.

Automation reduces
the need for manual data entry. As a result, finance and accounting
teams gain time back throughout the month to provide unprecedented value by
partnering with the business.

This means that
instead of fearing that their positions will be eliminated, accountants can
learn how to perform
higher-level roles
that provide strategic support and analysis for the
business. This can give them a seat at the table early in the month to
collaborate on closing items and become more proactive, rather than reactive accountants.

higher-level skills can also empower accountants, allowing them to feel more
valued while promoting the retention of good talent for the organization.

Building a Foundation for Finance Transformation

If you don’t yet have
automation in place, there are out-of-the-box tools to help you begin to
improve your processes. Once you decide to automate, your foundation will be

Here are a few suggestions
to help you get started:

  1. Close inactive (no activity, zero ending balance)
    accounts in your ERP system to clean up the trial balance
  2. Consolidate miscellaneous, small write-offs to
    one journal, and post earlier in the month
  3. Automate recurring journal entries
  4. Move time-consuming closing tasks performed in
    critical close to earlier in the month
  5. Spread large volume data analysis to weekly reviews

Next, follow these best practices before you begin implementing finance automation.

Communicate to the Team

Before implementing a finance automation platform, it’s critical
to get everyone in Finance and Accounting on board and emphasize the importance
of each team member to this project. By doing this, you’ll find your
accountants will feel personal ownership during the process and understand the
importance of the outcome. 

If you are dependent on business departments and regions
outside of Accounting, it is critical to develop business partnerships with
them early in the process.

Revamp Your Month End Checklist

Many organizations maintain their month-end close checklist
on various Excel spreadsheets, SharePoint, or another system. This makes it
difficult to know at any point in time what is still open, which is critical to
the close.

The goal is to consolidate and store your closing checklist
where it can be visible to everyone in your Finance and Accounting department.
For example, you can easily gather all of the month-end closing checklists that
are floating throughout your organization, and transition them to a shared
folder for global visibility.  

BlackLine’s Task Management
provides a consolidated process for all your month-end
checklists with real-time status and reporting at the click of a mouse.

Stay tuned
for the next blog in this series. We’ll explore four more best practices that
will enable your finance and accounting organization to achieve a more
efficient month-end close.

In the meantime, read
this ebook
to discover seven powerful ways to evolve your accounting

The post Essential Elements for a Smarter, Faster Financial Close appeared first on BlackLine Magazine.