The monthly, quarterly, or year-end close off process is a follow up to the book-keeping process. Accountancy in general and closing of the books are necessary in providing information to various users, to prepare financial statements and in achieving all statutory requirements. This is an in-depth task and requires a high level of compliance in terms of the accounting standards and other relevant regulations.
Delays are common and the following are tips for improvement in meeting the deadline, efficiency, and accuracy.
- Planning. This is the starting point and a crucial area of every process. List each task and aspect of the process, including information required from other departments other than the finance department. Each element within this list should be in sequential order and their date of completion is to be listed. In this manner, responsibilities would have been assigned and different personnel are being held to a deadline.
Once the above has been set, the manager/s must assess their team and identify its strengths and weaknesses to also consider additional internal or external training, as necessary.
- Include mid-month updates and reconciliations. Scheduling and holding regular (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, etc) update meetings and discussions will determine the stage of completion as at that date. Comparisons with the planning stage are to be done for the necessary actions to be taken. Ensure all activities are on track and the relevant reconciliations are being prepared. Any matters arising from such updates and reconciliations should be addressed immediately and an action point or decision is agreed upon.
- Simplify and standardise. Unnecessary lengthy chart of accounts will lead to errors and bookkeepers take longer to get used to. Simplify and standardise as much as possible. Ensure that reconciliations are user friendly and easy to follow through. Eliminate irrelevant complexities and if a complex chart of accounts has always been the norm to track performance within the business, try to find alternative methods on tracking performance.
- Automation and Accessibility of information. Awaiting information delays the process. Extracting information stored on common servers or systems will reduce delays on the various sections of the financials such as revenue, purchasing, inventory, related party transactions and balances, amongst others.
Having different systems might also be challenging, especially if they cannot be integrated or automated using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Excel workbooks are not the ideal way to manage complex and large volume of transactions.
- Perform part reviews. Regular reviewing of bookkeeping and the processes implementation function itself are vital so that changes and corrections can be affected pre-deadline and close off. Post close off reviews are also important to set future benchmarks and track ongoing processes.
- Manage expectations. Discuss, be aware of and agree upon management’s expectations as early as possible within the process. The team should not become overwhelmed with such expectations and the manager/s should hold the relevant expertise to provide support where needed and communicate realistic timeframes.
The financial close of function, once set up effectively and efficiently, is a relatively repetitive monthly, quarterly, or yearly process. It is vital that once such a level has been achieved, knowledge on other available enhancements are introduced to the existing process due to today’s fast-evolving business environment.