Relieving the Pain of Year-End Close and Reporting

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How’s the 2015 year-end closing going?  Many of you may still be in the throes of year-end close and reporting. 

This can be a stressful process that goes on for weeks, even months, when you include the creation of year-end regulatory filings, year-end audits, and tax filings.  Trust me, I’ve felt your pain.

But with the right tools and processes in place, the year-end close and reporting process can be less stressful and painful for the Finance team, maybe – dare I say it – even something you look forward to.  

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 Remembering the Good Old Days

When I was a staff accountant back in the mid-1980s, I remember spending many nights and weekends working to close the year-end books.  When we’d arrive at the office on Monday morning after a long weekend of work, the Finance department floor would be littered with empty pizza boxes, donut boxes, coffee cups, and even a few empty beer cans.   Ah, the memories!

year-end closeOf course, the technology we were using to collect and consolidate financial results back then was pretty arcane.  My company’s international subsidiaries would send their trial balances via Facsimile.  (Yes, remember Fax machines?)  Half of the time the numbers were unreadable, so we had to confirm them via phone.

Then we would key the numbers into a spreadsheet and perform the currency translations there.  (I think we used Lotus 123.)  Then we would create journal entries and post the changes to the mainframe GL for consolidation.  Intercompany reconciliations were a nightmare, with many phone calls to the foreign subs.  Running reports was an overnight, batch process – night after night.    

Life is so much easier for accounting and Finance staff now with today’s technology.  But year-end close and reporting can still be challenging.  Why?

It’s More Than Just Rolling-Up Numbers

Those who do this for a living know how challenging the process can be and what the complexities are.  The financial close is an iterative process that typically requires many steps:

  • Collecting financial results from multiple systems, divisions, subsidiaries – often with different charts of accounts, currencies, and business practices
  • Consolidating the financial results following US GAAP or IFRS guidelines, including these steps:
    • Performing currency conversions
    • Managing complex intercompany reconciliations
    • Correctly accounting for minority interests
    • Entering top-side accruals and other adjusting journal entries
  • Reviewing the results for completeness and accuracy, making corrections and reclassifications of revenue and expenses as needed
  • Performing hundreds, sometimes thousands of account reconciliations
  • Producing financial statements that the CFO and CEO are confident in signing off on
  • Ensuring adequate audit trails for internal and external auditors
  • Creating regulatory filings that combine text, financial statements, tables, and charts

keep_calm_year_end_close_career_blog_post_50.pngOf course, if the accounting team is doing all of this with spreadsheets and email, especially in a multi-entity enterprise, the process can be almost impossible.  Collecting and consolidating multiple spreadsheets creates too many opportunities for errors and omissions.  This approach adds a lot of time and manual effort to the process.  And when the auditors review the process?  They’ll conclude that there’s a total lack of security, control, and audit trails when using spreadsheets. 

Managing the process with legacy, on-premises EPM applications is a little better approach.  But if your EPM tools are old, cannot easily integrate all the necessary data, have limited dimensionality, and inflexible reporting, the Finance team will still struggle.  A lot of Finance team time and resources will be spent manually entering data, reconciling balances, manually creating reports, and dragging out the process. 

And, in some cases, the installation and implementation of on-premises EPM applications can take 6 months to a year.  The maintenance can also be time-consuming. And upgrades? They’re almost as costly and complex as the initial implementation.  We can do better than this.

Year-End Close and Reporting with Cloud-Based EPM Software

Enter cloud-based EPM software.  The financial close and consolidation modules provided by cloud-based EPM providers, such as Host Analytics, make the year-end close and reporting process much less painful.  Some of the key features that make the process smoother include the following:

  • Automated data loads from multiple sources – ERP, HCM, CRM, and others – both on-premises and in the cloud
  • Financial close process management and status reporting
  • Automated currency translation and intercompany reconciliations
  • Multiple reporting hierarchies
  • Built-in accounting for minority ownership
  • Ability to consolidate results according to US GAAP, IFRS, and other guidelines – within minutes
  • Real-time, dynamic reporting and bursting of reports to managers across the enterprise
  • Automated creation of regulatory filings, board books, and presentations that combine reports, charts, graphs, and text

All of this is backed up by robust security and audit trails that enable both internal and external auditors to trace individual numbers on the balance sheet or income statement – back to their source – within minutes.  This saves a lot of time, effort, and cost during, as well as after, the close process is completed.

Cloud-based EPM software also provides a number of added benefits over on-premises solutions.  For example, the applications can be deployed much faster, are a fraction of the cost, are updated automatically, are more secure, and more scalable than on-premises alternatives. 

Customer Examples

Hundreds of companies are now performing their year-end, quarter-end, and month-end close and reporting processes using cloud-based EPM solutions from Host Analytics. These companies replaced either spreadsheets or legacy on-premises applications with our cloud-based EPM suite.  Here are some examples of the types of improvements and benefits customers achieved with our solution.

  • iCIMS reduced board reporting from 4 days to 4 hours
  • Axioma reduced its close process from 16 days to 4 days and time spent correcting spreadsheets from 20 hours monthly to zero.
  • Physio Control reduced the monthly close by 2 weeks
  • Groupon reduced the monthly consolidation from 3 days to 1 hour

If you’re fed up with the pain of year-end close and reporting and want to learn more about the cloud-based approach, here are some resources to check out.

Watch the replay of our financial close webinar on CFO.com. 

Download a free white paper:  Five Reasons to Move Off of Excel for Close and Consolidation

 Download the Whitepaper

 

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Posted by on January 19, 2016
John O'Rourke

John O’Rourke is Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Host Analytics. With a background in accounting and finance, John has over 30 years of experience in the software industry and 20 years of experience in EPM product marketing at Hyperion Solutions, Oracle and Host Analytics. He has worked with many customers and partners on financial reporting and planning initiatives and has spoken and written on many topics in EPM. John has also held positions in strategic marketing and product marketing at Dun & Bradstreet Software, Kenan Systems, and Decisyon. John has a BS degree in accounting from Bentley University and an MBA from Boston College.

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