Transforming the financial close is not a one-time project; it’s a continuous incremental journey, and the dividends to making even the first few steps to improvement can be substantial. This approach not only cuts the cycle time of the close and reduces risk and audit fees, but also lowers the internal financial and accounting resources dedicated to close tasks. This is an era where CEOs and the broader executive team are looking for finance to move beyond crunching the numbers to interpreting them and acting as a business partner and advisor. Freeing up finance from manual effort and duplicative work and reallocating them is essential to making that shift.

Fewer late nights, shorter workdays

By cutting the overtime, late nights, and repetitive work from the financial close, organizations that improve their operations will be better positioned to retain and attract high-performing and high-potential accounting talent.

With this change to a more strategic role for finance, the heads-down blackout of the financial close is increasingly becoming anathema. Line-of-business teams are increasingly looking to finance and accounting for support, whether during the month or at month-end. It’s why accounting teams are beginning to shift from a traditional record-to-report close process to running more close tasks in real time during the accounting period – using approaches like continuous accounting.

The technology finance has dreamed of

Fortunately, technology has kept pace with change. There are now innovative solutions that enable real-time processing of transactions that used to otherwise be left to month-end. Robotic process automation (RPA) enables automation of increasingly sophisticated workflows or transactional tasks. Financial consolidation, reporting, and planning can be housed in one unified system to eliminate manual extracts and spreadsheet silos. Master data governance and process control applications can ensure centralization of policies, rules, master data, controls, and workflows to cut out inconsistencies and duplication. Advances in business intelligence, analytics, financial reporting, and disclosure make it easier than ever to apply visualization to analysis to identify trends and variances, automate reporting tasks, and create XBRL-based filings.

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