Accounting

Streamlining Your Month-End Close with Microsoft Excel

Jun 04, 2018 | By Blake Oliver

In today’s world of automation, cloud technology and artificial intelligence, the highly manual processes that so many of us rely on for the month-end close are an anomaly. All those reconciliations and accruals with increasing pressure for speed have you wondering how you’re going to get it done.  You’ve taken those manual processes to the limit and you’ve squeezed every drop of efficiency out of your team, and it’s still not enough.

Maybe like the folks at Thrive Market, you’re tired of working with three or four systems that don’t talk to each other. Now you’re ready to try a contemporary solution for closing the books that’s more efficient, accurate and collaborative. But with so many options out there, how do you make a decision? Let’s start by looking at the basic architecture of solutions.

What architecture is best for close management software?

Today’s close management software generally follows one of two approaches for reconciliation:

  • Integration with familiar Excel
  • Web form templates

Let’s take a brief look at the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

The familiarity of Excel

The biggest benefit of Excel is that we’ve been using it since our early days of accounting classes. We know how it works, and we love all the cool things it can do – SUMIF and VLOOKUP, PivotTables and conditional formatting. Excel-based close management software means you can keep working the way you work.

Excel’s power and flexibility mean that we can create spreadsheets that aggregate a huge amount of data and calculate complex accruals and reconciliations. However, as we note here, poorly designed spreadsheets can introduce all kinds of errors. Manual data entry adds more.

Lately, there have been grumblings from CFOs that Excel hasn’t kept up with the times, and that it needs to be replaced with something that allows more automation, more collaboration and better integration with their accounting systems.

So does that mean that Excel is on the way out as part of the month-end close? Let’s take a look at the solutions that don’t use Excel as part of the architecture.

Web form templates to the rescue – or not?

Like the Excel-based models, the goals are still improved accuracy, visibility and efficiency. The claims are that with greater control over the input, there will be less room for error. Greater automation means that the manual tasks for data entry, checking figures, and emailing, saving and filing spreadsheets can be eliminated.

However, many users have found that their reliance on Excel has not been eliminated. These web forms simply aren’t up to the task of the complex accruals, reconciliations and calculations needed to close the books.

So they still use their spreadsheets to do the work, and then cut and paste the results into web forms. Adding their spreadsheets to the documentation for the month-end close means a time-consuming upload process. This added layer of complexity is an invitation to introduce errors, especially since there’s no system to alert users when a reconciliation no longer ties when the GL changes.

These limitations plus the steep learning curve for these web forms mean that promised efficiencies and time-savings can remain elusive.

What do CFOs really want?

A recent survey of CFOs from around the world showed that what they want most today in their new hires is adaptability to new technology. These CFOs see automation as critical to becoming more agile and strategic. And interestingly, 34% cite lack of time as a chief barrier to increasing automation. Those results agree with a soon-to-be released survey we just did. And remember what those anti-Excel CFOs want – more automation, better integration with their accounting systems and more collaboration.

FloQast is the missing link

FloQast gives CFOs exactly what they want – more automation, better integration and easier collaboration. FloQast connects your ERP and your workbooks dynamically. By leveraging automation, those labor intensive manual tasks are a thing of the past. Automation helped one of our clients shave almost four hours off their monthly bank reconciliations.

FloQast sits between your ERP and cloud storage and uses APIs to pull numbers from your ERP. Because it integrates with all of the leading ERPs and accounting systems, you get the best of both worlds: you can keep using your beloved spreadsheets and you can work from one consistent, integrated interface. Because the reconciliations are dynamically linked to the GL, you get an alert if something no longer ties. No more tedious double- and triple-checking numbers to make sure nothing changed. And once a workbook ties, you can lock it down.

While Excel is great for reconciliation, it’s not the best platform for collaboration. With FloQast, you get a central dashboard that everyone can see. It’s easy to see what still needs to be done, and what everyone’s next task should be. Because it’s in the cloud, even your remote workers feel like they’re part of the team. Plus, our review notes make it easy to capture the back and forth between team members off of email and make it part of the documentation.

Remember what CFOs said about time being a barrier to automation? With FloQast, your team can be up and running in as little as two weeks, and it can make things better, even the first month you use it. Since it’s based on Excel, you can keep working the way you work. There’s no learning curve to try to get web forms to do what you can do with your eyes shut.

Ready to learn more about how Excel can help you streamline your month-end close? Check out our white paper that explores the benefits of using an Excel-based solution to easing the pain of the month-end close.

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Blake Oliver
Blake Oliver, CPA, is an entrepreneur, accountant, writer, and speaker who specializes in cloud accounting technology. In 2016 and 2017, Blake was named a “40 Under 40” in the accounting profession by CPA Practice Advisor. He is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for FloQast.

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