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There are many elements to a good strategy that will make your period-end close faster and smarter

The most essential requirement for anything in a race is to have a real-time knowledge of its position relative to the finish line. Anybody who is facing a deadline must have the basic and raw stats to ascertain whether he should move faster. If you don’t know where you are currently, you cannot figure out what to do to make progress and to measure progress.

Where are you now?
Most people are using an Excel-based method for close. People create what eventually turns out to be a Monster spreadsheet and they come back and update the spreadsheet so people can get a rough idea of the process. The flaw (now that we’re looking back at it from atop the technology horse) with this method is that you really don’t get an accurate picture of where you are.

Integration
In this step, you should integrate tasks and manage them in one place, preferably within the ERP system itself. If somebody performs a review or an analysis anybody who wants to look at it can access it to see where they are in the process, whether they are on time, why it is taking too long, and whether they have a problem to solve. The processes are now integrated and your solution gives you the true status of progress. That makes it a little faster.

Automation
Instead of relying on the users, the system starts with the process when the conditions are satisfied. You eliminate errors and delays inherent in a user-dependent approach. A crude attempt at automation gets some of the tasks out of the users’ hands. But to really make progress, to make the fast close even faster and smarter, none of this will be enough. You still have no idea when it will finish or what happens if it does not finish. You are not monitoring it. True automation is not just about running processes but also controlling tasks and verifying outcomes. With most solutions, this verification is performed manually. However, this stage is far better compared with where you originally were. You have a technically superior solution now.

Manage by exception
The solution needs to find an alternative to the manual way of looking at individual outcomes for anomalies. They should be selectively sorted and reported to you. This is achieved with exception management. You need a little bit of mental change to adapt to this. And the system and the solution should be able to do that.

Workflow
True automation and verification need to be coupled with a proper workflow, which oversees collaboration and ensures completeness. The system runs tasks, controls and monitors progress, verifies outcomes, and reports problems. An exception will come to you instead of having a highly qualified and well paid human resource look for problems among a bunch of outcomes. Problems present themselves as exceptions, and he needs to address ‘only’ those exceptions.

Don’t push it to the month-end!
By automating closing procedures that usually need a lot of people and by executing them early you can lower the peak workload and flatten the curve. That has a direct correlation to the number of FTEs and associated costs. But you need to get to the fourth or fifth stage before you could reap cost savings; just ‘automating it’ won’t suffice.

Webinar: The only truly integrated closing solution is now powered by SAP HANA

Join us on a webinar to learn how to transform your closing cycle. See how the only truly integrated closing solution can manage your end-to-end closing process. Learn how to make the transition from the traditional closing spreadsheet to a truly integrated closing solution.

Date: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Time: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eastern US Time

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