The month-end close is one of the accounting and finance team's most important tasks.
But it's not all roses. Adra by Trintech says 94% of workers reported a high workload during the month-end close and that 87% of people worked overtime.
Even worse, 78% of those surveyed said they're pressured to close even faster.
The good news?
You can accelerate your monthly close.
And in this checklist, we're going to show you everything you need to do to save time on that month-end close process.
The best part?
You can start with these tips right now.
Let's get started.
- What is the month-end close process?
- 8 steps for month-end close success
- Automate repetitive tasks in your month-end close process
- Conclusion: your complete month-end close process checklist
What is the month-end close process?
The month-end close is foundational for your company's cash stability, planning ability, and financial statement accuracy. Given its regularity, the month-end close should be a simple and quick process. But this isn't the case for many companies.
In fact, Accounting Today reports that 36% of their 259 surveyed accounting and finance professionals say they’ve had to reschedule out-of-work commitments during the month-end close process.
About 1 in 5 reported that the monthly close negatively affected their personal relationships.
So, what turns month-end close from a manageable process to a multi-week event? And how can you reduce monthly close time and get back to more interesting projects?
It’s all in how you approach it.
You can reduce time-to-close by tackling a few recurring tasks in the right order. To help, we’ve put together a list of 8 must-do steps that can help you end the perpetual cycle of month-end closing stress.
(Psst...doing all this in Excel? You should check out Cube. We built Cube to help FP&A teams work faster and better in the spreadsheet environments they already know and love.)
8 steps for month-end success
You can get month-end off to the right start by asking for some items early.
Starting with long-tail tasks lets you tackle other things while waiting for responses. It also organizes the process into manageable chunks that take a little time each day.
1. Do some prep work
Prepping for close can help you avoid many common issues at end-of-month. It fixes the last-minute scramble to find errors by heading off missing items:
Contact vendors about invoices: Get in touch with vendors with outstanding invoices first. Waiting until the last second means they may not get back to you in time. (Your vendors experience month-end closing stress, too.)
Check-in with Sales: Check in with your sales team to ensure deal flow and revenue are on track. Note differences between bookings and anticipated revenue. Look for changes or delays in deal structure, pricing, etc.
Tie up budgetary loose ends: Touch base with department heads. Determine any budget gaps or surprise expenses during the previous period. Prepare a budget forecast if differences occur between budget and actuals.
2. Cash Review
Get your cash in order in three easy steps:
Cash reconciliation: Find discrepancies between your ledger and the bank statements. Research and resolve them. Be sure to include cash in transit in your reconciliation process.
Organize cash transaction data: Have your reconciled transaction data on hand for reporting.
Petty cash review: Don’t let your petty cash account become invisible. Reconcile petty cash against receipts. Be sure you've recorded all transactions within the account.
Reconcile AR and AP: Record and reconcile all Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable transactions. Resolve missing or incorrectly applied payments or receipts.
4. Fixed assets
Review fixed assets: Check on fixed asset costs or changes over the previous period. Record any sale, loss, transfer, maintenance, or depreciation instances. Make a note of any upcoming fixed asset activity (write-offs, end of useful life, etc.)
Record accruals: Review and record accrual adjustments in advance of month-end. Recording accruals early in the process helps you complete financial statements on time.
Look ahead to the next period: It helps to think ahead on accruals. Spend some time at month-end to review upcoming activity. If spending isn’t going as planned, you may want to review budgeting.
Account for prepaid expenses: Check and enter prepaid expenses. Remember to include insurance, salaries, taxes, rent, equipment leases, and other advance payments.
6. Preliminary accounting and compliance reviews
Review recognition: Rule ASC 606 changes how companies recognize revenue. Take time to review revenue recognition. Perform a sense check to ensure compliance with ASC 606.
Take a first pass at financials: Walk through the month with accounting. Talk about issues ahead of time. This allows the team to research and resolve issues ahead of financial reporting.
7. Flux analysis
Complete flux analyses: Flux analysis gives context to your financial reporting. It can increase visibility, improve forecasting & budgeting, and boost your reporting integrity. Complete flux analysis for the previous year, quarter, period, etc.
Document meaningful fluxes: Highlight any noteworthy flux analysis. Discuss these during your preliminary accounting review. You may also note them in final reporting to the executive team.
8. Final review and preparation
Final review: Meet with the accounting team. Tie up loose ends before starting financial statements. Note anything unusual in the accruals, fluxes, fixed asset review, and compliance reviews.
Create and deliver financial statements: Give your financial statements a “dress rehearsal." Review, flag, and resolve any discrepancies.
Why the extra walk-through?
It’s better to take a last pass through the numbers than to have to clarify things after delivery. Once you’re satisfied with the reports, deliver the final documents to the executive team and board.
Automate repetitive tasks in your month-end close process
Want to speed up your month-end reporting even more? We have one word for you: automate.
The top 5 tasks you can automate right now:
Emails and reminders: Use automatic reminders to cut out repetitive manual notifications. You can automate overdue invoice reminders, remind colleagues of upcoming internal deadlines, etc.
Marketing alignment: Bridge the gap between Finance and Marketing with transparent reporting. It can help these departments form a unified front, boosting top-line growth. Automation can simplify this process.
Purchase orders: Procurement automation can close the gap between accounting and department heads. It can also simplify accruals and forecasting at month-end.
Revenue recognition and ASC 606: Manually recognizing revenue and compliance testing increases month-end work. Automating these can save hours of time while reducing errors and risk.
Flux and financials delivery: Automatically deliver flux reports and financial statements. This reduces manual reporting and creates a single source of truth for data review.
Your Complete Month-End Close Process Checklist
Now that you have this checklist, you'll never worry about forgetting a step during your month-end close again.
Bookmark or print out this post so that you're prepared for future months!