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8 tips for a faster month-end close

In Process Improvement by itas

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The nirvana for many finance leaders is an ultra-rapid month-end close and in too many cases this proves to be an exceedingly difficult ask.

But there are some steps you can take to speed up your close process and make a real difference to your month-end.

Some of these require system changes, but most of them are more about the way you work and how you organise yourself and your team.

So in this post, we are going to give you 8 of our favourite tips for speeding up your month-end including;

  • Organise your life
  • Set your targets
  • Tell people what you are doing
  • Step away from excel
  • Use your system
  • Remove distractions
  • Do what you need to do (and not what you don’t)
  • Automate to the nth degree
  • Is a month-end close the right thing to do?

Before we dive in, as part of our Financial Transformation Live series, we did a session covering how you can reduce your month-end close time. You can watch it below.


Content referenced in the session:


Webinar: Shift to a continuous close with Sage Intacct
Close the books survey

Organise your life

One of the best tips for anything is to get yourself and your team really organised.

Don’t just hope that things will happen when you want because they rarely do.

Instead, set team and individual KPIs for when you want your close to happen.

A good idea is to map out all of the things that need to happen for your close to hit your target. Think about dependencies and look to understand exactly how the flow should work.

You can use a swish Gaant chart app or just do it simply in Excel but the valuable part of the exercise is sitting down and thinking about what needs to happen and when.

Set your targets

Funnily enough, CFOs often complain about their teams not closing month-end early and yet when you ask them what their target is they haven’t set one!

So one of the first things you need to do is to set your targets.

What do you want to do and why?

Do you want to produce a sales performance report on Working day one? Do you want to produce a full set of management accounts by working day 10?

You can roll these down to departmental and individual targets too and this helps greatly with staff management.

Whatever you are working towards, you do need to have targets, because if you haven’t decided what you want then you can’t be surprised when it doesn’t happen.

Tell people what you are doing

Suppose you had a target to get to a day 5 month-end close but you never told anyone about it?

Would your suppliers make sure they invoiced you promptly? Would your team make sure they had their journals in quickly? Would your sales team make sure they had reported all of their sales?

Unlikely.

So when you set your target you then have to publicise it. Tell people what you are trying to do and why.

And importantly, tell them what their part in the change means. Tell them what you need from them and when you need it.

Step away from Excel

Excel is an awesome bit of kit. 

It is incredibly flexible but often, this flexibility can be its Achilles heel.

We tend to use Excel even when it’s not the right tool for the job because we know and love it. So it is time to wean ourselves off of spreadsheets.

Do an Excel audit - do you really know where all your information is and what people are doing in Excel?

Focus on streamlining - if you can do your reporting in your system, then do it. If you can automate then automate it.

Try to avoid exporting data - when you export data you are also exporting the possibility of adding in mistakes through fat finger syndrome. Keep data within your systems where you can.

Invest in reporting tools - Excel is brilliant for data manipulation but there are much better offerings out there for reporting. Check them out.

Use your system

If you are like most companies then there are probably things that your system does that you have never switched on or don’t know about.

There may have been updates with added functionality that you haven’t taken up or there could be new features that you haven’t thought could be useful.

If you want a rapid month-end close then now is the time to really push your system to the limit.

Find out what it can do with automation, understand how it can cope with reconciliations and look at its reporting capabilities.

And if it isn’t fit for purpose then it is probably time to upgrade.

which-sage-product-quiz

Remove distractions

How often have you found yourself struggling with a journal or trying to put a board pack commentary together only to have the CEO turn up at your desk wanting an urgent conversation about golf?

It happens all the time so you need to remove yourself from a distracting environment.

The good news is that we are all much better at remote working now so spend the day at home or book a seat at a local co-working hub and give yourself the space to concentrate.

Do what you need to do (and not what you don’t)

When you sit down and look at all the things you have to do for month-end you are probably asking how you can possibly fit them all in but we’d suggest that there’s another, more fundamental question you should ask.

What you should be asking is whether you should do them at all!

So ask yourself whether you really need to get all of your supplier invoices in or is it acceptable to accrue?

Do you really need to post a depreciation journal every month for the management accounts?

Is it worth waiting to close just so you can post staff expenses?

Remember that you aren’t producing a set of stats here, for eleven months of the year you are producing management accounts and so a recalculation of your accrued tax asset may not help.

If something doesn’t add value then it shouldn’t feature in your month-end close process.

Automate to the nth degree

Did you know that companies that automate just half of their journal entries are able to spend 22% more time on strategy?

So if nothing else, using automation as a tool will help your CFO to add real value to your business.

Of course, every business is different but typically you can automate;

  • Purchase ledger invoices
  • Recurring invoices
  • New project set-up
  • Revenue recognition journals
  • Prepayments and accruals
  • Depreciation
  • Intercompany transactions
  • Departmental splits

And many more things besides.

You’d probably be amazed at what is available and we can guarantee that there are some aspects of your processes that could be automated, probably very quickly indeed.

Summary: it takes work but you can do it

We’d like to promise you that speeding up your month-end close is not going to take any effort on your part but we really can’t do that.

You do need to spend some time thinking about what you do, why you do it and whether you should carry on.

And you need to assess different ways of doing what you do so that it can happen faster and easier. If you’d like to find out more about speeding up your month-end process then we have a video you can access here.

What we can promise is that if you use our tips you will be able to make real improvements in your close process and your month-end will run a lot smoother as a result.

Is a month-end close the right thing to do?

This may seem like an odd question but is a month-end close right for your business?

The month-end close has been a staple of finance teams for decades but with modern systems, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead, you could look at instituting a continuous close, where your books are always up to date and where reporting is real-time.

You’ll find that your business has access to valuable information immediately giving managers an opportunity to make swift and decisive changes for the better.

And you’ll also get more sleep at the end of the month!

Why not investigate the alternative to a month-end close. Shift to a continuous close with Sage Intacct

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