August 4, 2020

4 Tips to Streamline Your Remote Month-End Close

Forty-three percent of surveyed executives on a recent NetSuite webinar said that they could not perform a remote close as effectively as one in-office.

Month-end close is already a difficult and time-consuming process. Even in the office, 82% of finance teams considered it a negative experience. Completing month-end close remotely adds a whole other layer of complexity.And while some finance teams may aim to just “get through” remote close before everything returns to normal, the truth is that remote work isn’t going anywhere. According to a Gartner CFO survey, 74% of companies plan to shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.Having the right software and processes for your remote month-end close is more important than ever. With efficient systems in place, finance teams can streamline their remote close. Here are 4 tips to do just that.

1. Increase communication

Being remote means you can’t physically walk over to someone’s desk for clarification on a certain task or account, which helps prevent seemingly small inaccuracies. Instead, set up virtual check-ins and working sessions to help ensure that team members stay on track with their specific tasks during the close.Bill Koefoed, CFO at OneStream Software, hosts team check-ins via video conference twice a day. Even if you prefer not to meet that frequently, scheduling 15-minute checkup calls and 30-minute group working sessions with team members during closing weeks will give them a space to ask questions and talk about any issues.Here are a few best practices when running virtual calls to ensure they go as smoothly as possible:

  • Require that video be turned on during video calls to retain nonverbal communication.
  • Send agendas before calls to maximize your time together.
  • Keep agendas brief, and use bullet points instead of full sentences.

Over-communicate with your team to reduce confusion. “Communication is the responsibility of the leader, not the led,” says Peter Nesbitt, VP of Finance at Teampay. “Over-communicating needs to happen when you don’t have in-person communications.”

2. Review the process before finance

When it comes to month-end close, there is a heavy focus on the finance department. But what about everything that happens before the reconciliations?In a distributed business environment, employees outside of finance are making purchases every day. Streamlining the way they go about doing so will make finance’s job easier when the end of the month rolls around.This starts with giving employees a central hub to request funds, receive payment methods, and submit receipts. Understand what information is relevant to employees and make it easily accessible by anyone, from anywhere.

Embedding your purchase request process into employees’ existing workflows encourages adoption because users don’t have to navigate a separate system. Use tools that automatically guide employees through the buying process and alert them when action is required.

3. Pull tasks forward

In traditional accounting cycles, finance teams have to wait until the end of the month to know how much has been spent across their organization. Because of this, they often take a rearview mirror approach, conducting analysis using last month’s numbers.

The distributed nature of remote work demands a real-time approach that allows finance teams to understand spend activity across the company at any given moment. This requires finance teams to proactively collect spend data, rather than doing so after the fact. As Megan Gallagher, Sales Engineer at FloQast stated at the Agile Finance Summit, “Having an efficient close isn’t about trying to cram everything into the 5 or 10 day close period, but identifying tasks that can be accelerated and pulled out of that time frame.”

For example, over 60% of finance professionals say they are forced to conduct “best-guess accounting” during month-end close. Requiring employees to obtain pre-approvals and code purchase requests upfront eliminates manual guesswork and frees the team from frustrating back-and-forth.

4. Adopt cloud-based software

“Embracing cloud-based tools is an opportunity to rethink what you’re doing and consider if there’s a better way,” said Sebastian Wagner, Controller at Argus Media. “It’s not about additional things you can do, but about how you make your existing processes more effective and efficient.”All employees can access the cloud from anywhere, in real-time, which makes it especially useful in remote and distributed environments. By leveraging cloud-based software to proactively control spending, enable real-time visibility into spend data, and automate reconciliation, finance teams can eliminate manual tasks and share relevant information with a distributed workforce.

Furthermore, integrations between cloud platforms allow purchase request data to be automatically passed through to your accounting software. Transactions are reconciled in real-time, so finance teams have full transparency into all the spend happening across their company now, not only after the credit card statement comes in several weeks later. Cloud-based software can support your team in achieving a continuous close from anywhere. And you can use the time saved to conduct strategic analysis and deliver valuable insights to stakeholders in real-time.

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