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Overcome Challenges Closing the Books During the Pandemic

Author: Kelly Green | | March 16, 2021

Your monthly closing process might have stayed the same for years or even decades. The traditional monthly close required a lot of in-person interaction between the Accounting department and other staff members. Procedures appeared on checklists on the walls, with managers checking up on the team to ensure that everyone stayed on schedule. Face-to-face collaboration included informal conversations and meetings. If a problem occurred, employees could go over to a manager’s desk to ask for help.

 
COVID-19 has drastically changed how many organizations handle traditional tasks. Remote workforces are now commonplace, and they are gaining ground as both companies and employees realize the benefits of this arrangement.

The books must close accurately every month, no matter where employees are. Here are the most common challenges with managing this process remotely, and how to overcome them.

Sudden Adjustments to Remote Work

The adoption of work-from-home policies was slow but steady before the pandemic. Once COVID-19 hit, the rapid acceleration of remote work left organizations and employees reeling. People new to working from home had to set up home offices and develop processes that allowed them to focus on their tasks, all while dealing with the stress of the pandemic. Organizations had to rapidly deploy alternative solutions to support the remote workforce, which may have led to inefficient applications that were easy to roll out and configure.

Fragmented Interactions

Employees lost traditional communication channels at the start of the pandemic, no longer able to visit someone’s desk or bring up questions face to face with their managers. Fragmented interactions developed when remote work moved conversations to video calls, Slack chats, emails, and other remote-friendly methods. Unfortunately, these solutions can slow down responses and leave people wondering where they are at in the close process.

Siloed Employees

Another major problem comes from employees lacking access to the resources they need for the monthly close. Financial data may live in on-premises data centers, with access restricted outside of the internal network. The software used for closing monthly could face similar limitations, especially if not intended for remote users.

Siloed employees may lack visibility into the tasks they need to work on, resulting in closing delays, redundant work, and other inefficiencies. It also puts the accuracy of the company’s books in peril, as the data accessed may not be up to date.

Increased Workloads

The pandemic may have resulted in layoffs in your organization. Your accounting team may be much smaller, with work responsibilities increased for each person. Some team members may be more affected than others, depending on who was laid off. You could end up with significantly stressed and overworked employees who make more mistakes, miss deadlines, and head straight to burnout.

Solving Remote Monthly Close Issues

While you face many challenges with closing the books remotely, you also have access to tools that can support a modernized process. One tool might be in software you already use. Oracle’s FCC EPM Cloud application and the on-premises Close Management solution can address the pressing issues at hand.

Some of the ways that Oracle Close Manager helps you achieve a fully remote closing process include:
 

  • Putting all resources and data into a centralized solution. Employees go to one source, updated in real time, to see what they need to do next to close the books for the month.
  • Improving visibility. You can see exactly where you’re at in the closing process, what tasks are pending or finished, and whether they need approvals to move to the next step.
  • Designed for remote access. You’re using an application that is ideal for employees anywhere around the globe. They won’t run into problems with permission or being unable to access the software from their home computers.
  • Easily optimize the workflow. When you see the full process from start to finish, you may find inefficiencies that printed instructions and checklists previously hid. You can audit each step so it is efficient, which helps you reduce the pain that comes from understaffed Accounting departments.

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