Connecting Your Financial Close Process from Record to Report
Jan 30, 2020 | By John Siegel
The financial close process can be a real challenge (or maybe nightmare is a better word). With increasingly tough requirements and companies requiring faster analysis and reporting, it's needless to say, but the modern-day accounting team faces a lot of pressure.
The close goes beyond the final trial balance (and the final-final trial balance) to play a role in the finance department’s close, as well. They need fast, accurate, accessible information to even begin their process. This is where Workiva comes in. They’re the leading cloud platform for connecting your accounting, finance, audit, and internal controls for smooth, timely reporting.
To better understand how businesses benefit from unifying their financial processes, Workiva and FloQast partnered on a joint webinar. Here are a few key takeaways.
Standardized documentation makes it much easier to find supporting documents and verify information, especially if you’re not the one doing the rec in the first place. It also has a huge impact on role shift flexibility. When it comes time to train in a new member of the accounting team or move someone into a new role, you want a standard process that’s simple to learn, not a complex one based on tribal knowledge in the department.
One of Workiva’s key features for standardization is its built-in presentation tool. The tool allows several teams to add and edit information to the presentation, all based on the permissions set by the consolidator. Having all your presentations in one format makes it much easier to relay financial information in a digestible way.
And how do you know the information in the report is up to date? ”What's great as the consolidator is this is automatically pulling in the information," said April Brady, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Workiva. "In my prior life, I would have all my teams upload their templates to SharePoint, and I never knew if it was really truly the latest and greatest. And also, it was a huge manual copy-paste effort to aggregate all of those into a master Excel file. So, huge benefits.”
Moving into a cloud ERP allows everyone to access documents from one central location. When your team is spread across the country or across the globe, this can be a game-changer. It increases your security AND makes it more accessible to the right people at the same time. How often can you say that?
“Workiva allows customers and teams to work on the same document at the same time, but the beauty of it is there's no more version," said April. "So, there's no more saving that final-final. You always in the current version. You can be working with your team and not be getting in each other's way, no longer needing to check documents in or out.”
FloQast works the same way, allowing multiple people to work on a document and always keeping things up to date. Both FloQast and Workiva also offer comments and messaging connected to the close items, so you don’t have to go to email and run the risk that the right people won’t get the information.
Transparency is another benefit of a cloud-based system with only one current version of files. Each time a file is updated, there’s a record of the time, date, and who made the change. You’re able to see who did what, when they did it, and what’s left undone.
“It's transparency with the appropriate level of control. And sometimes that control is just being able to see who's accessing what and when, as opposed to that network drive where everybody in accounting and finance can access it, no, not secure.”
FloQast also allows everyone to see every task, who’s responsible, and when it’s completed. This really boosts the level of accountability on the team and makes it possible to shift resources if someone is genuinely falling behind and needs help.
Both FloQast and Workiva take advantage of connectivity to save you time and help you avoid errors. By connecting your files and documents, you can update multiple records by changing just one. This cuts huge amounts of time from your manual processes and frees you up to focus on higher-level work.
”Whether you're in the first part of the process or the latter half, the more time you spent on that 80% of the manual labor is less time you're focused on analyzing, getting the story and actually providing insight to your executive team," said April. "So the cleaner your house is on the front-end of the process, the more time you get to spend on the analysis and reporting steps, which is really the meat of most companies for making decisions.”
FloQast’s automated tie-outs also help you avoid errors by pulling data from your Excel worksheets and comparing it to your ERP trial balance. If it exceeds the materiality threshold you set, you’ll be notified and balance can’t be signed off until it’s resolved.
When you create time for your team by connecting data and reducing manual processes, you allow yourself to focus on improving your process and your company. We’re always getting feedback that manual processes are a major pain point for accounting teams and that time is increasingly tight. Accountants are putting out fires every day with no time to improve the process so there are fewer fires in the first place.
“One of my customers was able to pull in their filing two weeks earlier, and they use us throughout the financial close process for additional analysis and board reporting management," added April. "And two weeks earlier for 10k is huge. I've never heard of anyone pulling it in that fast. You only can do that when you have confidence in the numbers you're reporting and you have the story done.”
That’s the power of close management and reporting software to free you up for continuous improvement.