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Are there any tools around for automating or at least helping with the close process?

accounting automationI'm not looking for something to close the books for my team - I think that doesn't and can't exist. However, there must be some tools out there that help you capture your close process and optimize it, or help you walk through a close process with check-ins, check points, etc.. Basically something to facilitate consistency and hopefully automate and streamline while reducing process and people risks. Thanks!

Answers

Leinani Nakamura
Title: Partner
Company: Mohler, Nixon & Williams
(Partner, Mohler, Nixon & Williams) |

Yes, there are systems and tools now available to help with the close. Hyland Software, Blackline and Trintech have close management systems. Each has their own strengths, of course. Hyland’s strength is workflow with integrated document management. They are in Gartner’s magic quadrant in the ECM space (Enterprise Content Management). Blackline is strong in reconciliation management. Trintech has a solution as well. If you are an Oracle or SAP company, they also have tools in this space.

scott graves
Title: CFO
Company: Armstrong Teasdale LLC
(CFO, Armstrong Teasdale LLC) |

I would recommend looking at Value Stream Mapping (VSM) your close process. If you could get a good VSM tool champion to facilitate a day event, this is a very simple tool using post-in notes to map out your current process and identify waste and sequential processes that could be performed in parallel. In terms of all of the Lean tools available, I find this one to be the most powerful because of it's simplicity to use and it's ability to identify waste and inefficiencies. I use this first in most areas that I want to address for improvement, both in back office and plant floor operations.

Topic Expert
Sunil Thukral
Title: Controller/Technical Accounting Advisory..
Company: Consultant
(Controller/Technical Accounting Advisory/ SEC Reporting, Consultant) |

Hi Jeff,

The short answer to your question is yes. I have attended one of the webinars organized by Silicon Valley Accountants (www.SVACPA.com). I have attended the webinar in the past and also a live session in their offices and have found it very useful.

Kirk Conole
Title: Partner
Company: DCI Solutions
(Partner, DCI Solutions) |

Hi Jeff, It's possible to cut month end close times without buying software or doing a lot of staff training. Works best in midsize companies with at least 3 AP staff but could work well for you. I will furnish the contact number for "Jason" the AP manager of a company where this has worked well and he can describe what happened and why he's happy.

Jeffrey Chalmers
Title: President, Financial Effectiveness Team ..
Company: Silicon Valley Accountants
(President, Financial Effectiveness Team Leader, Silicon Valley Accountants) |

Kirk, I agree that one can cut close times using human capital to accomplish what technology can accomplish. I did this at my last company (10 days to 3.5 days).

The problem is that when I left or we had staff turnover, the close mushroomed and needed constant attention. A good solution can really help with the organization and communication around the close. Interestingly, when I implemented a tool, I found even more opportunity for improvement as there were still activities prepared which were not well documented or communicated.

I would also throw out that there is both a core close and the extended close. To me the close was really when we pushed the button on the 10Q, which involved significantly more effort and review than the ~5 days people spend in the core close. Managing such events require more diligence and effort than a concentrated 5 day close.

Michael Sipos
Title: Enterprise Account Executive
Company: Trintech
LinkedIn Profile
(Enterprise Account Executive, Trintech) |

Jeff:

There are a number of solutions that can optimize the close process. I happen to work for one of the providers of those solutions, Trintech. However, it is important to not look at the close process in a vacuum or to implement a solution that only partially solves your issues. A suggestion would be to include the following criteria:

1. Does it provide an integrated solution beginning at the reconciliations, continuing through the close, risk management, compliance, and financial reporting?
2. Does the solution provide flexibility for current practices, including configurable templates, workflow, and task management?
3. How extensive are the standard and ad hoc reporting capabilities?
4. How scalable is the solution?
5. How easy is it to implement and maintain the solution?
6. How effectively does it integrate with ERP and legacy systems?
7. Is the provider a proven, financially sound company that can support your firm's needs locally and globally?

Topic Expert
Barrett Peterson
Title: Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis
Company: TTX
(Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis, TTX) |

We use Blackline which provides workflow, reconciliation review and approval, task lists used for both close and preparation and delivery of schedules to our auditors who can download the analyses directly through their own "user" on our system, as well as other functions. All major vendors offer useful tools and some limitations, and each company's needs differ.

Anonymous
(Director) |

There is a Saas Based reconciliation tool that I have heard about that is popular in Europe. The website is www.balancerecon.com
As I understand, it is fast, accurate and requires no changes to current processes. I am looking into it for my company.

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