This is part 1 of our How to Close Your Books Faster Series. Read part 2, “Who Is Responsible for Financial Automation and How to Identify Stakeholders.”

Closing your books is a meticulous process—one that has troubled finance teams for years. Modern finance teams can juggle anywhere up to 15 systems, on top of compliance standards. Because the process deals so heavily with matching records, two-thirds of finance teams still rely on spreadsheets to complete month-end reconciliations and only 20% of them are satisfied with their closing process, according to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). 

This manual process leaves room for error and an unfit use of resources. So, what can you do to help finance teams work more efficiently? The exact solution will be determined by your org structure, but here are four steps to get the gears in motion, while delivering value to your enterprise.

Step 1: Identify Your Current Process

What does it look like for your finance team to complete the month-end close? What systems are they using? Before pinpointing solutions, it’s best to map out the current process. What means are being used to tackle the workload? What pain points does your finance team have? Once you’ve determined this, you can start working to identify process improvements.

Step 2: Determine Your Ideal State

Now that you’ve identified your current process, imagine your ideal process. In a recent webinar, Joe Blanchett of financial systems at SeatGeek, mentioned that his finance team didn’t have a set protocol for closing their books. Individuals were doing whatever they could to get the work done including managing spreadsheets or leveraging another work management system. Realizing this, Blanchett adopted a platform whose core competency was close management, FloQast, that gave their process a structure. For their month-end close, they implemented an agile approach with daily stand-ups centered around FloQast, thus bringing accountability and visibility to their process.

Step 3: Use Integrations to Move Data

To do this efficiently, Blanchett mentioned integrating FloQast with other core systems like NetSuite (ERP), Salesforce (CRM), Kyriba (treasury management), Coupa (business spend management), and a custom database. If your team also uses a variety of apps but is still manually moving data between them and manipulating said data before uploading it to another application, consider using an integration and automation tool (or iPaaS) to remove that manual work. That way, your team can solve for time.

Step 4: Decide What You Want to Automate

Three common use cases for financial automation are quote-to-cash, procure-to-pay, and employee record and life cycle management – but the needs are, of course, different per organization. Take a look both inside and across your systems to see where manual tasks can be automated.

Important Notes on Automation (Before You Get Started):

Don’t Rush

The first step (identify your current process) and the second (determine your ideal process) are crucial to automation. Before jumping into solutions, you’ll have to determine what the biggest pain is and what you want the solution to look like (or what you want it to do). Putting automation on top of an already bad process doesn’t solve anything. As Jason Pikoos, lead partner of finance ops at Connor Group, said in the webinar: “Automating a bad process is still a bad process just with a prettier UI.” 

You have to separate the tech from the problem (or the issue you wanted the original tech to solve). Tech should only make whatever process it is faster or easier to maneuver. Speeding up a process in shambles will still leave it in shambles. Once you’ve identified a truly better process, automation can then give your finance team a leg up and make work more efficient.

Inspire Confidence

In the same webinar, Mike Flynn, principal software engineer at Rapid7, discussed how instead of going for quick wins, he aims for high-value changes with automation. By addressing the painful and tedious parts of his finance team’s workflows, he helped boost morale in the team by implementing efficient automations. Taking his time and ensuring that the projects were worthwhile truly made a difference for his finance team.

Learning From Each Other

Lockstep, your Business Technology and finance teams can align to improve financial operations and your month-end process. Your BT team can start the journey toward a faster close by identifying current processes, setting an ideal structure, and using an integration and automation tool to reduce manual tasks. This causes the month-end process to be less of a mess and makes people on both sides – finance teams and BT – happier as this mandatory process can now be streamlined.

Want to learn how other Systems leaders are improving finance ops at their organizations? Ask them yourself! Request to Join Our Community >

This is part 1 of our How to Close Your Books Faster Series. Read part 2, “Who Is Responsible for Financial Automation and How to Identify Stakeholders.”

Tayleur Hylton
About Tayleur Hylton

Tayleur is a budding technology enthusiast helping to grow the business systems community.