Take a stroll through your accounting department as the end of the month approaches and you might just notice a palpable tension in the air. Pulses quicken, patience shortens, and pupils dilate as your highly qualified team dives into yet another month-end close, fingers crossed that everything is smooth as silk and the data is accurate and timely.
Embark, of course, understands the month-end plight of the accountant and is here to help. In fact, for possibly the first time in our consistently informative series of tomes, we're giving you a two-for-one special. No, your eyes don't deceive you, as Embark is providing you, our financial brethren, with a handful of critical month-end close best practices as well as our brand new Accounting Month-End Close Checklist Template to integrate into your own procedures. With so much riding on your month-end process and reports, we figured it’s the least we could do.
The Importance of Your Month-End Close
Your month-end close procedures are more than just a matter of dotting all your I’s and crossing all your T’s. They’re about transparency and streamlined efficiency that's equal parts internal control and octane boost to your month-end closing. When firing on all cylinders, your month-end process is insightful and thorough, leaving no accounting stone unturned, and integrates redundancies to ensure accuracy and reliability within your data.
Naturally, your month-end closing doesn't exist in a vacuum but reverberates throughout your entire organization. Management, finance, and virtually all decision-makers within your enterprise rely on the month-end data to craft strategy and steer the direction of the whole company. Therefore, a set of critical best practices always come in handy to make certain your month-end close is streamlined, quick, and eminently reliable.
Checklist Best Practices
It's not a coincidence that Embark is providing you with our Accounting Month-End Close Checklist as a useful template to integrate into your own procedures. An in-depth, far-reaching checklist is, in fact, the most critical best practice in developing effective month-end close procedures. A useful, customized checklist creates those aforementioned redundancies and safeguards to protect your data and process from mistakes, miscues, and miscommunication that can harm nearly every corner of your organization. Aside from the headstart we've provided with our spreadsheet-based template, make sure to keep other factors in mind as your tailor it to your company's specific needs.
- Organization is key. Whether you group your checklist by balance sheet account, entity, groups, or any other categories, make certain it's meaningful to you, your team, and management.
- Incorporate consistently important data points and tasks, identifying who performs each function, when they should perform it, and which area of the financials it impacts.
- Review individual and team responsibilities frequently. Roles change and evolve over time, particularly when a major transaction or transformational project is underway. An ongoing review of responsibilities prevents the panicked and rushed reassessment of roles as deadlines near and tensions rise.
- Find a balance between excessive and insufficient information. Your checklist should be thorough enough to provide adequate guidance but not so much that it becomes tedious and laborious in of itself. For instance, exclude details that change every month or are extremely time-consuming.
Other Factors to Consider
As vital as a checklist is to your month-end procedures, there are several other best practices to incorporate into the process that are also useful in making them as efficient and effective as possible.
- Use your month-end as an educational tool. Young accountants or those new to the organization can leverage the process to gain a far more profound understanding of your company's operations.
- Speed is important but not nearly as essential as accuracy. Management, stakeholders, and your accounting department should all be on the same page, recognizing that reliable information trumps all other considerations. That obviously doesn't mean, however, that the process should stretch out into the next lunar cycle.
- Leverage technology whenever and wherever it makes sense. This notion applies to the checklist itself as well as the many processes involved in gathering, sorting, and analyzing data. RPA, for instance, can streamline and automate several processes that feed into your month-end procedures.
- Use month-end reporting as a means of building relationships and improving communication outside of accounting and finance. With so many different aspects of operations converging into your month-end procedures, they provide a unique opportunity to positively impact both communication and culture within your workplace.
Take these best practices along with our Accounting Month-End Close Checklist to create a set of procedures tailored to your specific needs, that streamline your close processes, and maximize their impact. With clear inputs, a familiar interface, and the flexibility to mold itself around your company's particular demands, Embark's handy and useful tool can bend and pivot as your enterprise grows.