Quite often the features of a CPM solution can be utilized to support a financial close management system. Utilizing one software for both CPM and FCM can reduce overall costs, decentralize tasks, and increase user adoption.
Number of Clicks for the End-User
Implementing a solution to help improve the financial close process required efficiencies to be gained in the overall process. Ensuring that users can get the information that they need with as few clicks as possible will help to reduce time and effort for the process.
The last thing you want is for users to have to open unnecessary system forms, Excel schedules, ERP tables and windows, and any other documents to support the values in the trial balance and supporting documents.
Ideally, you would want the system to compile multiple datasets for you so you can open one form and view all the necessary information to reconcile the account
Many companies have a close process that started with tracking tasks with Google Sheets, emailing users to follow up over and over again. To add confusion, what happens if a user will be on vacation or changed roles?
Many CPM platforms have a workflow or process flow component that can be leveraged for the financial close process, but to add value, you will want a solution that can track due dates and give a high-level status on recs completed, upcoming and overdue and send email notifications. Solutions that provide a calendar view or timeline are extremely helpful so you can visualize how long tasks have been outstanding and when you are expecting work to be completed.
Hands down, this is a must. You will want a system that proactively emails users when tasks are started and constantly annoys them when a task is overdue. This goes with having a flexible workflow where users for tasks are easily updated so you do not have to worry about emails going to the wrong user(s).
One of the big benefits of having a financial close management system is to make it easy to audit financials. When choosing, you will want a system that makes it is easy to navigate closed periods (ideally with a file folder structure) and can easily view forms via an audit trail.
Supporting documents should also be easy to retrieve from the form
Ability to Easily Save and Retrieve Artifacts
We have not seen a company that does not use some unstructured data to complete reconciliation in the process. It could be an excel schedule or pivot table or even a screenshot. Regardless of the type of data, you will want to be able to save it and associate it with the reconciliation so it can easily be retrieved for an audit or more likely roll over for the next close cycle.
Easy to adjust workflows
Users changing positions, taking time off, or being consumed with other priorities means that the workflow for a financial close management system should be flexible and can be altered mid-process. Dashboards can help to review user workloads, and over time, tasks can be moved to users with more bandwidth resulting in reduced stress in a typically busy time of the month.
Workflows make it easier to decentralize tasks while still being able to manage the close process. So when you have a functioning close solution, this will make the transition to a decentralized team much easier.
Supports Multiple Data sources
Customers tend to stick to basic datasets for financial close, trial balance, GL Details, and then try to marry manual exports of sub-ledger information or excel schedules and other data sources to support the reconciliation. To reduce clicks and searching for variances, you will want a solution that can bring in all the structured data sources needed for various recons including, sub-ledgers, currency data, alternate operation tracking systems. There is quite often a cost per connection, but there are a few CPM systems that do not have a finite number of source systems that can be integrated.
Simplified Roll-Over Process
Moving to an FCM from none, you will quickly notice how easy it is to open a period to be reconciled. Some systems are easier to roll over than others. We have found that updating a few variables in a process versus having to copy several file folders structures the way to go. Again, to reduce the clicks and have a fully contained FCM. The system should be doing the heavy lifting. Users should not have to copy over supporting schedules and files for a rollover to the next month.
Transaction Matching/Auto Reconciliation
This is typically reserved for companies with a large number of transactions. It will help with bank reconciliations, payables for credit cards, and intercompany. While this is a feature that is reserved for focused Financial Close Management solutions, many CPM solutions can be configured/customized to help match transactions on certain criteria and produce a result set of discrepancies to be verified. This will help to reduce time and increase accuracy in the accounting close process.
You will want to be able to use checklists. We have found that checklists are essential to adding internal controls for users and to help with the onboarding of new users. Typically, a system that either has a checklist embedded in the tasks/workflow or in the forms would be preferable.