12 Essential Features of Close Management Software
May 21, 2018 | By Blake Oliver
Close management software consolidates the activities of the month-end close in one platform that incorporates workflow management, reconciliations, and checklists to help companies close the books faster and with greater accuracy.
Imagine having a few extra days – or even an extra week – every month for the strategic work you know you need to do. Imagine saying good-bye to paper binders of reconciliations, tedious status update meetings, checklists that might not be up-to-date, and the panic that ensues when a family emergency means that a key team member will be gone and unreachable for a week.
Pinch yourself; you’re not dreaming. This new reality can be yours with close management software.
Close management software takes these headaches away, and gives you a simplified, transparent and standardized methodology for closing the books faster every month. By leveraging automation, many of the tedious and labor-intensive manual processes can done with the click of a button.
Today you have plenty of options when it comes to close management software. Here are twelve things you should think about before you make your choice:
12 Essential Features of Close Management Software
1. Easy to use
Is the interface intuitive and easy to understand, or will there be a steep learning curve for your team? The best choices make it simple to onboard new employees and to delegate or reassign tasks to team members. Automatic rollforward of schedules is a big plus that can save hours of manual work. Options that eliminate manual processes will save your team hours, and make the close more accurate to boot. Systems that send alerts when tasks are past due make it easier to stay on schedule.
2. Works the way you do
How flexible is it? Some software packages force you to adapt your processes to the ones that their developers created, which can make the switch tough. But others will let you bring your existing processes into the system so you stay in control of the process. Flexibility to use your own checklists and to use it for other monthly tasks are also big pluses.
3. Full integration with Excel
Some systems force you switch from Excel to web forms that are missing much of the functionality of the real thing. Solutions that let you bring your own checklists and worksheets inside make it easier to learn the new process because it’s already familiar.
4. Simple integration with your ERP or accounting software
Systems that make it easy to export data from your ERP into Excel mean that you can keep using the workbooks you’re used to. Dynamic links between your ERP and Excel mean that your tie outs are automatically updated when journal entries are posted. Alerts when a reconciliation no longer ties help you keep everything in balance.
5. Ease of implementation
How long will it take to get your team up to speed with your new software? And who will bear the burden of the heavy lifting – will it be your already overburdened team, or will there be a team from the software company that will help out? Some systems take months for full implementation, while others take just a week or two.
6. Reconciliations simplified, automated and locked down
Automated tie outs of your reconciliation workbooks to the ERP trial balance cuts down on tedious manual processes and reduces errors. The ability to auto reconcile specific accounts means that more accounts get reconciled every month. Locking down folders once the workbooks tie prevents accidental changes. The ability to sign off on reconciliations in the software puts an end to the administrative effort of printing sheaves of paper, signing them manually, and putting them in binders. Access to previous reconciliations within the system makes it easy to re-check them later if questions come up.
7. Simple dashboard with a clear overview
A dashboard with status updates in real time puts an end to endless time-wasting meetings. The best dashboards make it easy for everyone to see what they need to do next, and what still needs to be done. And no more worries that you’ve missed something crucial this month.
8. All your documentation and processes in one place and easily available
Software that provides an easy place to store all your work papers and documents in the cloud means that you can standardize and continuously improve your processes. The ability to carry forward notes from month to month means you don’t need to rely on memory alone. If the system lets you drill down into the detail from the overview, then reviewing workpapers is a cinch. Plus, your auditors will be happy when you can immediately produce the dreaded PBC items they want.
9. Collaboration made easy
One of the biggest benefits of close management software is workflow and process tracking. A system with a clear dashboard makes it easy to see what tasks are assigned to which team members and when they’re due. Better visibility improves accountability. Cloud systems make it easy to integrate remote workers so they feel more like part of the team. Look for tools that make it easy to sign off on reconciliations and assign tasks to the appropriate team members. Another biggie to look for is the ability to take all the back and forth about checklist items and review notes off of email and consolidate them in the system, where it becomes part of the documentation available for your auditors.
10. Excellent customer support
A support team that includes accountants means they speak your language and understand your concerns. A highly responsive customer support team makes for a terrific customer experience, and means you’ll have a partner for your business, not just a software vendor. Look for a company that listens to its customers and creates the improvements and new features they request.
11. SOX compliance simplified
Look for the ability to differentiate team member duties, responsibilities and permissions while maintaining a complete audit trail that can be easily exported for your auditors. Systems that consolidate review notes and sign-offs for easy export create the evidence you need to demonstrate a qualitative review of workpapers and reconciliations, especially when combined with the ability to lock files down and prevent future changes. This saves time and reduces audit costs. A dynamic sync between your Excel workbooks and the GL with alerts when adjustments throw balances off ensures that everything stays tied out.
How much does it cost? For mid-size companies with tight budgets, this may be the most important consideration. What does the package include? How much do extra seats cost when your team grows? If you can close the books faster every month, what is that extra time worth to your organization?
Choosing the right close management software for your business can make a big difference in how your business runs every month. With extra time every month, you can work on what really matters. Here at FloQast, we’re convinced we have the only product that gets high marks under all these criteria. Read the reviews and schedule a demo. You’ll only be sorry that you didn’t do it sooner.