Continuous Accounting: An End To The Financial Close Nightmare

Elizabeth Milne

Part 21 in the Continuous Accounting Series

We’ve reached the finish line of our financial close series. We hope you’ve found it both informational and thought-provoking. Improving your financial close requires a cohesive and well-planned strategy to manage the systems, people, and processes, from transactional accounting processes to entity close, corporate, financial and management reporting, and disclosure. It requires strong governance, from centralizing compliance processes and controls to managing master data.

Transforming the financial close is not a one-time project; it’s a continuous incremental journey, and the dividends to making even the first few steps to improvement can be substantial. This approach not only cuts the cycle time of the close and reduces risk and audit fees, but also lowers the internal financial and accounting resources dedicated to close tasks. This is an era where CEOs and the broader executive team are looking for finance to move beyond crunching the numbers to interpreting them and acting as a business partner and advisor. Freeing up finance from manual effort and duplicative work and reallocating them is essential to making that shift.

Fewer late nights, shorter workdays

By cutting the overtime, late nights, and repetitive work from the financial close, organizations that improve their operations will be better positioned to retain and attract high-performing and high-potential accounting talent.

With this change to a more strategic role for finance, the heads-down blackout of the financial close is increasingly becoming anathema. Line-of-business teams are increasingly looking to finance and accounting for support, whether during the month or at month-end. It’s why accounting teams are beginning to shift from a traditional record-to-report close process to running more close tasks in real time during the accounting period – using approaches like continuous accounting.

The technology finance has dreamed of

Fortunately, technology has kept pace with change. There are now innovative solutions that enable real-time processing of transactions that used to otherwise be left to month-end. Robotic process automation (RPA) enables automation of increasingly sophisticated workflows or transactional tasks. Financial consolidation, reporting, and planning can be housed in one unified system to eliminate manual extracts and spreadsheet silos. Master data governance and process control applications can ensure centralization of policies, rules, master data, controls, and workflows to cut out inconsistencies and duplication. Advances in business intelligence, analytics, financial reporting, and disclosure make it easier than ever to apply visualization to analysis to identify trends and variances, automate reporting tasks, and create XBRL-based filings.

With new technology advances underway, there’s never been a better time to be in finance. Please read more blogs in our Continuous Accounting Series to learn more.


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Elizabeth Milne

About Elizabeth Milne

Elizabeth Milne has over 20 years of experience improving the software solutions for multi-national, multi-billion dollar organizations. Her finance career began working at Walt Disney, then Warner Bros. in the areas of financial consolidation, budgeting, and financial reporting. She subsequently moved to the software industry and has held positions including implementation consultant and manager, account executive, pre-sales consultant, solution management team at SAP, Business Objects and Cartesis. She graduated with an Executive MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. In 2014 she published her first book “Accelerated Financial Closing with SAP.” She currently manages the accounting and financial close portfolio for SAP Product Marketing. You can follow her on twitter @ElizabethEMilne