Finance Industry

Tips to Start Your New Year Off Right

Click here to download the 2020 Finance Readiness Checklist.

As a finance professional, you may feel like your life at work is lived in the past. Between processing expense reports for purchases that have already been made and retroactively reconciling credit card statements, it can be difficult to rise above the day-to-day to look forward to the future.

“I never know what month it is because I’m always sifting through old transactions and closing the books from previous months,” one finance pro shared. “I spend so much time playing ‘catch up’ and chasing down employees for information about purchases they made weeks ago.”

There is no time period when the reactivity of corporate finance is as apparent as year-end close. For many employees, the first days and weeks of January are a time to embark on the next phase of business and begin working towards new goals. For finance teams, however, early Q1 is a mad dash to close the books on the previous year before they can finally leave the past behind.

As a finance team member, you don’t really enter the new year until mid- to late January at best. And when you do join the rest of us in 2020, here are a few initiatives to focus on:

Review your finance tech stack

Instead of jumping right into new projects or audit and tax preparation, take a moment to be proactive and strategize about your finance technology. It is your financial systems, after all, that will determine how your team functions across all business processes.

Innovations in corporate finance technology deliver a plethora of software solutions, with different capabilities and use cases that you can leverage to meet your needs—so make sure that you are making the most of them. 

There is no better time than post-year-end close to review the platforms your business already has in place to aid in closing the books. Keep the systems that are working, get rid of the ones that aren’t, and adopt additional software to fill the gaps. 

You may be tempted to continue using outdated systems rather than embark on a new implementation, but the cost of not switching to better technology will hurt your business in the long run. Devise a list of questions to ask yourself when evaluating new tools, and use this rubric to identify the right platforms out of the pack.

Get a quick win

What better way to start the year than with a quick win that immediately yields results? 

As a growing company, you’re likely considering making some big changes to your processes as you scale, such as switching to a new ERP. You might think it’d be best to wait to adopt any other software until after the ERP implementation is complete. 

But ERP implementation can take months, even longer to see the returns. Don’t stall your team’s progress during this time. Look for systems that can be impactful and implemented quickly before you move to a new ERP. The software will be up and running—and ready to hook into your new ERP when it goes live.

There are software platforms and process changes with quick and easy implementations that will have a big impact on your organization. Getting a quick win for your finance digital transformation can set your team up for success and position finance as a strategic partner, without requiring a ton of additional work.

Download The 2020 Finance Readiness Checklist:

Prepare for audit

You might be thinking that you can skip this section, since most of your audit prep was done in Q4 of last year. But the work isn’t over. Your finance team still needs to be on-hand to provide data and answers to auditors’ requests.

Make sure that your 2019 books are in order now that year-end close is complete. Develop a timeline for the audit process, with key checkpoints and milestones for both the external auditor and your team.

Use the audit as an opportunity to evaluate your internal controls and identify policy deficiencies, such as a lack of segregation of duties. While it is understandable for early stage companies to forgo robust controls, establishing defined processes will become necessary as your company grows.

Take steps to ensure there is a clear separation between purchaser and payer before the auditor arrives. This will be beneficial to you not just in audit, but in advance of a potential future IPO.

Begin new projects

Remember way back when your team spent time planning for the new year? Well now you can finally focus on those projects!

Well, sort of. The day-to-day tasks won’t ever end, and without efficient processes in place, your team will likely get pulled away from those projects to react to issues as they arise.

In today’s business environment, employees need to move quickly. This often leads to out-of-bounds spending, missing transaction data, and lack of transparency—all of which require a retroactive response. 

By shifting to proactive processes, finance teams can enable robust controls that ensure compliance with policy without adding friction. Because these systems can function on their own to support employees and do not need constant intervention, finance teams are free to focus on more strategic work.

Don’t spend the new year in the past

The start of a new year is an exciting time for a business. Finance teams can embark on new avenues for growth, take on high-value projects, and get a glimpse of all that is to come on the horizon. 

With year-end close behind you, make sure your team has the resources they need to strategically plan for the future and fuel company growth in the months to come.

Click here to download the 2020 Finance Readiness Checklist.