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Much like the last quarter of a tight football game, financial reporting is highly dependent on the month-end close. In this financial home stretch, accountants must tally their numbers from the month’s myriad activities and complete a sequence of critical tasks – tasks that often pile up during the final countdown and are extremely overwhelming.

There are many processes within finance that are broken and perpetuating inefficient processes every month. These days, a more user-friendly approach to month-end closing and reconciliations is more than possible thanks to advances in technology.

A 2020 global survey by McKinsey and Co. indicates that 66% of companies across all industries have piloted business process automation in one or more business functions. With digital automation, accounting can be made more systematic, easing monotony and even eliminating some tedious tasks for accountants. These digital applications can help ease the overwhelming burden of month-end closing.

When accounting teams use automation, spreadsheet usage can be reduced by 50% or more, and reconciliation volume can be reduced by 10% to 40%, according to SkyStem, a SaaS company that provides powerful month-end closing solution for accounting teams. Let’s look at four ways accounting teams can automate and optimize their month-end financial tasks and unlock a more efficient and successful financial future.

  1. Real-time automated dashboards

A real-time dashboard gives accounting teams an extreme advantage in an age awash with so much data and ever-changing factors. A dashboard that provides up-to-date reports to track processes and progress enables necessary changes and improvements to be made in real time.

Automated dashboards give accountants a single view and open up their bandwidth to push execution and efficiency to the next level with every month-end close.

  1. Automated month-end closing checklists

Checklists may seem old-fashioned, but they are a proven way to help manage complex processes that need to be performed by multiple people working in synchronicity. For accountants, this also means that multiple people can contribute to a repeatable and successful result.

Month-end often comes with a series of check-off activities, so an automated checklist can help deliver a strong, stable close month after month. These can be tasks such as activities to be performed, frequency of activity, current status, date completed, or any special notes or reference numbers that need to be included for each checkbox.

These checklists should also evolve as accounts and factors change, regenerating so they can be of maximum effectiveness at each month-end close, which can be programmed with post analysis. – automated closing.

  1. Automated process improvements

There are sub-processes, such as journal entry and reconciliation work, that accountants know to be tedious and manual. Not to mention that they are often time-consuming and error-prone. As businesses adapt to an increasingly digital business landscape, the need to streamline processes will be required. The financial close is a perfect opportunity to try to automate repeatable tasks.

Small improvements have great potential for improvement. As users interact with items to accomplish a task, automation can replicate those steps to help streamline processes, making small adjustments that can be applied smoothly across a system without major disruption.

They can also achieve even greater efficiency through scheduling features to be proactive in certain cases. This helps remove unnecessary tasks from accountants at the end of the month, using their brains for higher value tasks.

  1. Automated benchmarking

Each accounting team is dealt a unique set of cards, and that hand can even change every exercise, which is why benchmarks are important metrics. When you leave a paper trail of important metrics—ones that can even be automated to track ahead of time—teams can ensure efficiency and overall progress.

Benchmarks can be determined by relevance, including factors such as industry, revenue size, or department headcount, to name a few. Measuring processes against our peers also helps individuals better understand how teams delegate people, resources, processes, and technology methods to inform decisions. The ultimate goal is to provide accounting teams with the confidence to make informed decisions to effectively manage resources, especially during month-end closing.

Automation: a key measure for the future of accounting

97% of enterprise IT decision makers agree that automating business processes is crucial for digital transformation. Much of the advice in this article on how to automate key accounting elements is taken from SkyStem’s “Book of Secrets for the Month-End Close” e-book.

About SkyStem

Based in the heart of New York, the company’s flagship solution, ART, is enterprise technology that helps CFOs and controllers reduce the time and resources required for month-end close. Some of the goals are to provide insightful reporting, help issue financial statements by automating balance sheet reconciliations, and manage month-end tasks.

The web-based solution streamlines and eliminates up to 90% of manual activities while strengthening internal controls and corporate governance. To learn more about the secrets to streamlining and optimizing your month-end close process, download the ebook here.

Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company. This article originally appeared on Sociabilitya sister publication.