4 step month-end reduction framework
"Businesses that automate 90% of their manual effort close the month up to 50% faster."
Sage - Close the Books Survey - 2021
Month-end taking too long?
Finance Leaders that spend too much time swept up in month-end are missing opportunities for growth.
Mountains of spreadsheets and reports that contain little useful information stop them from thinking strategically.
Reducing the pain of a month-end that's too long can be a simple as following three steps.
Define what good looks like
Map it out
Let's look at these steps in a bit more detail.
1. What does good look like?
Generally, 5 days is seen as OK, 1 day is seen as exceptional and a continuous close is sensational.
Companies with group structures, by the nature of their complexity, tend to take longer, but that's not to say that the above isn't achievable.
Either way, to start, you need an idea of how long you want your close to take. This needs to be in direct relation to how quickly you need to be able to report on your figures to make business decisions, as well as how much productive time you lose to manual month-end activities.
Also consider that 5 days, working evenings and weekends, is a lot different to 5 days working 9-5 so make sure you build this into your consideration as well.
2. Map it out
Very important, otherwise you're just guessing. If we're going to automate this process, we need as much detail as possible, otherwise, we're just going by gut feel.
Month-end may vary in time, but it should still have a similar structure. Do it as a step by step:
Days 1-3 we do X
Days 3-5 we do Y
3. Detail bottlenecks
Once you've mapped out your month-end this process should become very easy as you can then start asking why... This is how we find the bottlenecks. Some examples below:
Why does it take use more than a day to do our corrections? Because too much human error is made when originally entering the transaction.
Why do our consolidations take so long? Because we generate 4 spreadsheets that are over 100 rows each that need to be merged
Why do we not manage to produce final reports until day 14? Because it always takes at least 3 days to get information from individual A or department B
Once you have an idea of what looks good, you've mapped out your existing structure and you've identified why it's so long and painful you can then look to automate.
How do we automate human error from originally entering transactions? > Lockdown your transaction types (so only certain combinations can be posted) or use AI outlier detection to spot when something doesn't match a trend.
How do we automate consolidations? > Find a way of connecting Excel or PowerBI to our data so we're not having to manually produce and merge spreadsheets.
How do we automate reporting? > Make it easy for individuals and departments to get information to you. It could be a Microsoft Form, a custom web-page or use a dedicated system.
Some systems will even tie all of the above together.
If you're looking for ways to reduce your month-end and you think you could be making better use of technology to help you, fill out the below form and we'll be in touch to look at options and provide some guidance.