The close can be a catalyst for change – not just a monthly battle
Adam Zoucha MD EMEA, FloQast explains how you’ve somehow got to keep your staff happy, engaged, and enthusiastic through the Close process
Let’s say you run a small accounting team at a medium-sized business. You’ve got an ever-lasting list of challenges, from rapidly changing regulation to demanding bosses to a general lack of highly qualified applicants to fill empty seats. You keep hearing rumblings in the news about recessions, financial disasters, and the like – ‘permacrisis’ wasn’t the Collins Dictionary word of 2022 for nothing.
If you’re reading this, the chances are you don’t have to imagine much of this scene. Chances are you’re living something pretty close to this on a daily basis. Major firms might have the resources to tackle the permacrisis with major hiring drives, but that’s not an option for you. You’ve got to make the most of what you already have, helping your team do their job as well as possible in the face of growing pressure, and without sacrificing their personal wellbeing. With so many issues crying out for attention, where do you begin? What actions can you take to reduce stress, increase productivity, and deliver better for the business?
Adam Zoucha, MD EMEA, FloQast
No, this isn’t the end of the article – but when you’re looking to improve accounting workflows, the Close is the place to open your investigation. So much of the accounting team’s job comes down to the monthly Close – ensuring that all the right information has been submitted at the right time, that purchase orders have been tracked, invoices have been paid, and that the overall picture of the organisation’s financial health is accurate, detailed, and available at speed.
In a highly volatile financial environment, a delay of six weeks between the last day of the month and the figures landing on C-suite desks just isn’t tenable. It’s essential to be able to serve that information within days – and that means a significant amount of pre-preparation, granular tracking of where each job list is up to, and the ability to rapidly chase up missing paperwork from staff up and downstream of the accounting department.
Much is made these days of the strategic role of accountants. Accountants really do have the opportunity to tell the story behind the numbers as well as accurately recording them. This isn’t just a keyway to serve the business better – it’s a great chance to bring fresh purpose and engagement to your team. We’re not just counting beans – we’re helping drive the business forward. Without us, the leadership team is running blind.
Again, timeliness and efficiency are key to this role – it’s hard to deliver predictive insights if you’re weeks behind the curve and the business has taken two major decisions since the figures you’re presenting went through the system. Achieving this regular high-speed Close process – without sacrificing accuracy – does not happen by pushing staff past their limits.
People and tools in harmony
How it does happen is by giving your people the right tools for the job. Accountants have the opportunity to step up their role in the organisation because of the possibilities offered by modern accounting technology. So much of the role used to be about grunt work – chasing things, manually copying things, literally book-keeping. But with the right solutions, the vast majority of that uninspiring burden can be lifted from skilled staff, freeing them up to work from the figures rather than simply shepherding them.
If you successfully improve the efficiency of your Close process using technology, chances are the rest of your accounting workflow will follow suit. Not to mention the wider benefits of technology promoting operational excellence and more efficient upstream and downstream processes. So, begin by looking for the right solution. You need something created by accountants, for accountants – software that actually alleviates the daily stresses you face, rather than adding a new IT to-do list. It shouldn’t take frontline staff weeks and weeks to learn – it should be a natural fit with their existing tasks, deadlines, and requirements.
It should also be optimised to support more collaborative working. In other words, it should contain high-capacity tools that allow you to see what everyone in your team is working on, who’s been assigned to what, which jobs are outstanding, and who has sign-off on major transactions. Any team member should be able to tell at a glance how this month’s Close process is going, what’s outstanding, and what will need to happen to get the job done.
Finally, it should automate simple, repetitive tasks – chasing non-accounting staff for their receipts, invoices, expenses, and POs, compiling varied data into a single, usable format, pulling out the headline figures, and flagging up potential areas of concern. And with all that done, it should also be customisable to give you the dashboards you need to derive the insights your senior colleagues are asking for. Where are our biggest areas of risk? Which teams or clients are causing the biggest drain, and the biggest boost? How do we see the expected trends of the year playing out in the data?
These are the kinds of improvements and benefits a successful integration of technology can bring. Accountants no longer need to struggle as now more than ever, the tools to make that a reality are available to the mid-market.