Accounting & Audit Alert – 5 steps to streamline the month-end close
Many companies struggle to close the books at the end of the month. The month-end close requires accounting personnel to round up data from across the organization. Under normal conditions, this process can strain internal resources.
However, in recent years the accounting and tax rules have undergone major changes — many of which your personnel and software may not be ready to handle. This state of flux may be pushing your accounting department to its breaking point. Fortunately, there are five simple ways to make your monthly closing process more efficient.
1. Create a standardized, repeatable process. Gathering accounting data involves many moving parts throughout the organization. To minimize the stress, aim for a consistent approach that applies standard operating procedures and robust checklists. This minimizes the use of ad-hoc processes and helps ensure consistency when reporting financial data month after month.
2. Allow time for data analysis. Too often, the accounting department dedicates most of the time allocated to closing the books to the mechanics of the process. But spending some time analyzing the data for integrity and accuracy is critical. Examples of review procedures include:
- Reconciling amounts in a ledger to source documents (such as invoices, contracts or bank records),
- Testing a random sample of transactions for accuracy,
- Benchmarking monthly results against historical performance or industry standards, and
- Assigning multiple workers to perform the same tasks simultaneously.
Without adequate due diligence, the probability of errors (or fraud) in the financial statements increases. Failure to evaluate the data can result in more time being spent correcting errors that could have been caught with a simple review, before they’re memorialized in your financial records.
3. Adopt a continuous improvement mindset. Workers who are actively involved in closing out the books often may be best equipped to recognize trouble spots and bottlenecks. Brainstorm as a team, then assign responsibility for adopting changes to an employee with the follow-through and authority to drive change in your organization.
4. Build flexibility into your staffing model. Often accounting departments require certain specialized staff to be present during the month-end close. If an employee is unavailable, the department may be shorthanded and unable to complete critical tasks. Implementing a cross-training program for key steps can help minimize frustration and delays. It may also help identify inefficiencies in the financial reporting process.
5. Minimize manual processes. Your accounting department may rely on manual processes to extract, manipulate and report data. Manual processes create opportunities for errors and omissions in the financial records. Fortunately, modern accounting software can automate certain routine, repeatable tasks, such as invoicing, accounts payable management and payroll administration. In some cases, you’ll need to upgrade your current accounting package to take full advantage of the power of automation.
Keep it simple
Closing the books doesn’t have to be a stressful, labor-intensive chore. We can help you simplify the process and give your accounting staff more time to focus on value-added tasks that take your company’s financial reporting to the next level.