Advanced Operating Models
Mar 20, 2019

Reimagining finance with on-demand close

As finance and accounting (F&A) becomes a strategic business partner, on-demand close is a key part of this transformation

Advanced finance teams are adopting a smart approach to transforming the traditional close process – continuous financial close is a dynamic process in which close activities are spread throughout the month. Soft close can happen any day and a formal close within two to three days. The ultimate goal is on-demand close, where finance professionals have access to real-time data to accurately close the books at any point in time.

There are four dimensions to understanding why this journey from continuous close toward on-demand close is relevant to your finance team today.

Competitive edge from insights
With companies flooded with external and internal data, access to information is no longer a competitive differentiator. Companies are now focused on shortening the data-to-insight-to-action journey, and faster close and reporting is an important step. It brings better accountability, agility, and visibility, helping financial controllers become more valuable business partners.

User experience
As people have become accustomed to the ease of using Siri, Uber, and Airbnb, finance professionals are experiencing a big divide in the way they interact with technology outside of work and then during office hours. Such innovation and customer centricity should define their workspaces, too.

Work-life balance
Finance professionals across countries and cultures know that the run up to the financial close period means limited time for family and friends during that five-to-ten-day cycle. The cumbersome processes associated with collating and validating data, and handling exceptions, tie accountants to their desks. A faster and smoother financial close improves the work-life balance and helps retain high-performing employees.

Advancing with technology
An advanced finance function doesn't shy away from deploying new technology and supporting enterprise growth. Cloud-based solutions offer faster access to new technology while driving standardization and the adoption of best practices. And by introducing robotic automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning to accounts payable, accounts receivable, and journal entry, companies are reducing manual effort and unlocking new insights. 

Unleash a faster, smarter financial close

As they move to an on-demand close, leading organizations are making transactional and manual tasks invisible and analytical and judgmental tasks more intelligent. In record to report (R2R), there has been remarkable success in automating reconciliations and inter-company reporting streams. Soon, many of these processes will run like a utility with touchless processing. And with machine learning, computational linguistics, and computer vision, the finance function is becoming more intelligent by embedding analytics at its core.

To explore how companies are rethinking their financial close process, we ran a webinar with Victoria Hernandez, accounting and external reporting leader at Mondelēz International, one of the world's largest snack companies. When asked about top challenges, over 80% of attendees cited high work load, rework and manual effort, and lack of access to real-time data as the main challenges. Most of the respondents also agreed that their organizations lacked the financial tools and resources to achieve continuous close.

To provide accurate and timely financial information to support business leaders in decision making, we have developed a road map that addresses these challenges and transforms your financial close and reporting. But this is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as every organization needs a different mix of digital, process, policy, and industry knowledge related to the financial close.

Here are the three considerations as you embark on your financial-close-transformation journey:

  • Get the foundations right: good processes allow you to weather the unknown and make significant changes to your financial close. Hernandez says Mondelēz International has improved its base process through harmonization, simplification, automation, and constant communication.
  • Adopt new policies and controls: in addition to the high dependency on technology and computing power, data, policy, and controls also play important roles. For instance, consider:
    • Nurturing an agile team of man and machine
    • Adapting current business policies to better support on-demand close – for example, require that monthly activities like data reconciliation and validation reviews or quarterly corporate allocations and charge-outs happen more regularly with automation technology 
    • Adopting dynamic controls
    • Creating consumer-grade user experiences
  • Embed new ways of working:
    • Bring together business transaction and accounting transaction life cycles 
    • Ensure there is one way of recording across accounting and management books 
    • Use AI solutions to manage, solve, and predict exceptions

About the author

Vivek Saxena

Vivek Saxena

SVP and Service Line Leader, Record to Report

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