Case study: Meeting goals and growth initiatives through a comprehensive financial close assessment
BackgroundA global, publicly traded software company found that its rapid growth had resulted in excessively manual financial operations and industry-trailing time to close. These issues impeded its ability to make rapid decisions, undertake thoughtful analysis, and develop cogent financial plans. With a goal of becoming a more effective finance department on par with its industry, this company looked to improve its operations with a focus on a shortened financial close and more time dedicated to decision-making.
Constraints in the following areas inhibited the company’s ability to develop a world-class finance function and, in particular, effect a timely and efficient financial close.
- Data availability and formatting that was inconsistent and unstructured
- Lack of interdepartmental coordination that caused bottlenecks in processes impacting downstream activities, leading to longer process cycle times
- Documentation system variability that affected the integrity of version control and document retrieval
- Spreadsheet-based modeling and account reconciliation that required significant manual interventions
- Spreadsheet- and email-based workflow management that made it difficult to monitor the status of the month-end close
- Close processes, thresholds, and materiality levels that were not aligned with the company’s current size and maturity
- Lack of formal procurement department and policies across the organization
- Two-day reduction in time to close; identified and defined process for potential four-day savings
- 3,500 account reconciliations auto-certified
- Time savings of 60-84 hours per month
CohnReznick performed a rigorous financial close assessment to identify the activities that were slowing the organization and causing bottlenecks in the time-to-close process. In interviews with key stakeholders and collaborative workshops, the CohnReznick team reviewed the key processes and procedures through which close efforts are performed, including time to close, subsidiary consolidations, and financial reporting. The team also documented and mapped out current-state workflows of the pre- and post-close timelines to identify pain points, compare them to benchmarks, and determine which close activities have an inordinate impact on the financial close.
Leveraging organizational expertise with our team’s financial and technological acumen, key themes were identified to help decision-makers focus on where and how to target improvement efforts, including efforts focused on addressing excessive interdepartmental communications, multiple disparate systems, lack of centralization, and poor data access. The result was a roadmap of quick-win, short-term, and long-term recommendations.
The quick-win initiatives sought to drive efficiencies through implementing changes in policy, procedures, and the current technology environment. Standardizations in journal entry creation, close activity due dates, report generation queues, and reporting metrics were made with minimal investment. Other technology-based changes included a global rollout of – and concurrent training on –the systems used by U.S.-based operations. Policy changes also included standardizing calculations and materiality thresholds of accounts to allow for a consistent methodology of calculating cost of goods sold (COGS), accruals, inventory reserves, and stock compensation across the company.
A finance automation platform was recommended as a tool to address the problem areas of excessive reconciliations, decentralization, and disparate systems. The tool’s account reconciliations module automated low-risk accounts while streamlining high-risk account reconciliations. Its task management tool streamlined the financial close workflow by enforcing document version controls and creating auditable approval workflows that bolstered the internal control environment. Its transaction matching tool automated key bank account reconciliations.
Future phases will make use of other product features to further drive efficiency and bolster management’s ability to access the highest-quality data to drive decision-making.
- Reduced monthly time to close by two business days to date; identified four potential days of savings globally
- 35% of approximately 10,000 account reconciliations auto-certified through the technology tool
- Automated transaction matching for six key bank accounts that has enabled time savings of 10-14 hours per account
- Increased ability to monitor and report on month-end close activities in real time
- Global standardization of account reconciliations and task activities
- Formal workflow processes created to move over 2,500 financial tasks into a structured environment
- Increased visibility for SOX and internal controls from the tool’s audit trail, account reconciliation and task status reporting, document storage, and workflow management
- Numerous efficiencies across operating expense policies and management
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