Accelerating financial reporting enables financial professionals to focus more time and energy on other strategic planning tasks. But quality can’t be sacrificed for efficiency; your reports must also be accurate and trustworthy if they’re going to be of value to you and your finance team.
Below, we have outlined 5 tips and best practices to help your organization speed up the time it takes to issue financial statements.
Make a Plan & Get Everyone Onboard
Accounting departments can be limited by tradition and a pervasive mind-set of "this is the way it’s always been done". But if long standing habits have plagued your finance team with burnout and dread around closing the books, it’s time to develop a new plan and get buy-in from your team. Introducing a new way of doing things gives your accounting team the opportunity to adjust or even overhaul day-to-day financial operations and embrace a more efficient process.
Start by creating a detailed list of tasks that must be completed in order to prepare your financial statements. Work backwards from previous years and review the action items and priority levels for each step that was taken to issue your financial statements in the past. Be sure to include key dates, assign a team member to each task, and communicate expectations with your entire team. When establishing a new procedure and workflow, it is important to practice good change management habits and get the entire finance and accounting team on the same page. If you want to issue financial statements faster, every team member must understand the goal and have clear expectations on their role and responsibilities.
Issuing financial statements may require input and collaboration from a vast array of contributors, such as managers, staff, lawyers, auditors, bankers, accountants, or consultants. Even with accounting technology and expansive spreadsheets, financial data can be scattered among people or document storage silos, forcing accountants to contact dozens of contributors and meticulously hunt down the most current and up-to-date version of the needed file. It’s a major reason end of year reporting can take weeks or months to finalize. When all financial data and underlying documents exist within a single data warehouse and all contributors have access to that data repository, reporting can take a fraction of the time. Establishing a single source of truth allows accountants to feel more confident using the data in their reporting, knowing they’re using the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Empower Your Team
End of year financial statements often consist of dozens of smaller, detailed financial reports and analyses. The entire team should be able to share reporting responsibilities and have access to the tools they need to create reports customized with whatever data or visualizations they need. Self-service reporting functionality means cutting dependency on other departments and eliminating the time-consuming back-and-forth of emails and documents. Anyone should be able to build the exact report they need from the ground up, regardless of technical expertise, and have the final copy in short order.
The single best way to speed up financial reporting is with a purpose-built tool. Technology solutions that enable self-service reporting can kick the reporting process into high gear and give your organization new abilities in terms of financial foresight and flexibility.
Simplify Data Analysis
Accountants must invest hours of time collecting, integrating, and analyzing data. Utilizing a powerful data warehouse can drastically reduce the time it takes to collect and analyze that information, resulting in faster reporting and analysis. When data and documents are stored in a central hub, they are quickly and easily accessible. Further, dashboards offer fast and intuitive ways to visualize data, with the ability to easily categorize, organize, and manipulate datasets. Journal entries, amortization schedules, and projections can all be calculated in a fraction of the time when the financial data is stored in a centralized repository.
Automate as Much as Possible
With the end of the fiscal year looming around the corner, it can feel overwhelming to prepare accurate financial reports under tight deadlines, time constraints, and even impending holidays. When you rely on manual processes, human error is inevitable. But when you can automate your reporting processes, you reduce the risk of error that arises from incorrect data entry, copy/paste mistakes, or even changes to source or destination file formats that produce unexpected and erroneous results. When you don’t have to dedicate dozens of hours of time reviewing and correcting reports, you can issue your financial statements faster.
There are many tools available that can help finance teams automate their processes and handle the heavy lifting of report creation in a way that’s both quick and easy to produce the final document. Fortunately, those tools have never been more accessible, affordable, or effective than they are now.
How DebtBook Can Help
DebtBook makes powerful, easy-to-use, cloud-based debt and lease management software for government, higher education, and healthcare finance teams. Our software enables finance teams to issue financial statements faster by providing a single south of truth where all team members and external contributors can access, analyze and extract data and source documents. DebtBook provides tools to automate year-end reporting with the ability to export audit-ready notes, amortization schedules, payment history, and data visualizations in seconds. Click here to learn how DebtBook can help you reduce the time and stress it takes to prepare financial reports.