Corporate accounting departments can be one of the most baffling yet also essential areas of a business. Though no business can survive without it, the science of measuring, processing and analyzing a company’s finances can sometimes feel (somewhat ironically) expensive and time-consuming.
Corporate accounting deals with processes such as the preparation of cash flow statements, financial records, balance sheets and more. This collection, preparation, analysis, and presentation of corporate financial information takes place across numerous data sets and business system applications.
“So many of us are just sitting in the desert begging for a sip of water,” says Jenny Sohn, chief financial officer at Workato.
That’s because the finance and accounting teams have been greatly under served when it comes to the efficiency gains from digital automation. Instead of realizing those benefits that their colleagues in other departments have reaped, many in accounting are stuck throwing more bodies at their onerous processes, including the reconciling of the books.
Luckily there are other strategies for accounting departments to implement if resources are tight. Thanks to these five tips, you should be able to see immediate results.
Create strict cutoff policies
One of the biggest drains in terms of time and effort wasted for accountants is waiting for the right data to arrive. Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on the professionalism of clients, colleagues and employees. Accounting delays can have drastic negative consequences, and this means someone on the finance team will have to be the bad guy and decide exactly when it is too late to submit invoices and expense reports.
Create a cutoff day (say, the end of the month) and stick to it! You can re-evaluate how effective your policy is every other month and adjust it accordingly.
Organize a process walk through
Running the department’s daily tasks by other members of the company will not only make them more understanding of the amount of work to process (which can help with tardy invoices), but may also potentially yield interesting insights into inefficient methods.
Getting a fresh perspective on an existing process or system within the accounting department is never a bad idea.
“You should ensure that your processes are well defined and simplified as much as possible, before worrying about the technology,” says Kumud Kokal, former Head of Business Systems at Airbnb and Intuit. “A convoluted process with the best technology is still a recipe for failure. Having a well defined, repeatable, and scalable process is the first step.”
Connect Your Applications
One of the greatest weapon in the accountant’s arsenal is not only modern, cloud-based applications but undeniably a good intelligent automation solution. Integrations and automated workflows can save accounting departments hours of data entry, reduce error, and help them gain better insights into expenses and profits.
Imagine this scenario: every month someone on the accounting team spends three hours creating a spreadsheet to reconcile the company’s headcounts. To do this, they download a data set from the company’s HR application and upload it to the finance application and re-download the data to begin working with it. Instead, what if the two applications could just be integrated with one another and share the necessary data? An integration like this could save an employee more than 36 hours per year and make their job more enjoyable.
Nick Fedele of Fintelligent explains how his instead of manually keying billing invoices into multiple systems, they automate the task with the right cloud accounting program. This process revolutionized his company: “Intacct is our system of record and we’re pulling information from different operational systems that cover different portions of the business and bringing them into Intacct as our source of truth. We can automatically manipulate our data and put it seamlessly into Intacct.”
Spread those time savings and efficiencies simply by connecting applications and the accounting department begins to experience true digital transformation.
Automate as much as you can
There is no doubt that accounting requires ingenuity and smart decisions. But it is equally true that some processes and workflows can be automated in order to free up employees to take on more high-level strategic work. It’s one thing to adopt better accounting applications, it’s another to try and push them to make them work for you as much as possible.
Mundane but complex tasks such as routing or decision-based form control are now perfectly executed by the best software. The Journal of Accountancy goes as far as recommending automated audits too. The ability to have employees file expense reports through a chat platform like Slack and have them automatically routed to accounting to reconcile exists.
Automation between applications can turbocharge existing processes for accounting teams.
Insist on oversight and reviews
Finally, ensure that CFOs, treasurers or finance committees are all involved in the accounting process as regularly as possible. Catching errors early on is always better than late, and getting the right people involved should provide a safety net for the whole company.
In fact, Mark Murphy at Forbes recommends employing a similar method during accounting meetings to ensure everyone is involved in the process. The good news is that if you follow the four previous points, reviews will be faster and easier to perform as the whole accounting process should become quicker, smoother, and more efficient. Automation and integration will also help reduce errors and keep processes streamlined.