As a business reaches a certain point in its growth, whether that growth is organic or through acquisitions, it becomes necessary to explore budgeting, reporting and accounting process improvements. This exploration should begin with asking focused questions to determine if these processes continue to meet the requirements of executive management, departmental management and the Board.
We know this exploration and the pursuant effort to improve such processes can be daunting. However, the questions below can pave the way to success.
What reporting does the finance and accounting team need to produce?
Reporting falls into multiple internal and external categories, including Board, executive management, departmental management, client or artist, investor, project-level and bank/financial institution reporting.
Begin by determining the answers to:
- What reporting output is required in the organization?
- Is the reporting at a top or granular level?
- What schedules will support that reporting?
Next, define the key metrics that are used to track performance and will highlight successes as well as improvement opportunities. These metrics will need to be included in the budget-to-actual analysis in the reporting and can vary by stakeholder.
These definitions will help you determine where to focus energy when making future accounting process improvements, and, more importantly, where to avoid expending unnecessary energy.
What technology can we use to improve our reporting and efficiency?
Now, it is time to look at the general ledger and the inputs going into the accounting system each month. Does the accounting and finance team have the detail that they need to fulfill your requirements as defined?
Examine the general ledger accounts to determine the granularity of data stored in the accounting system and what can be pulled into reports and schedules. A review of the database with the engineering or IT team can highlight additional data available from payment processor or distributor feeds. It is common for detail to be available in the feeds that may not be pulled into the accounting system. This additional detail can be leveraged to build reports, charts and analysis. Frequently, this additional detail can build a more meaningful story around the financial results.
What value could we add for reporting and analysis?
It is always important to look for new opportunities to support management with performance and cost analysis for strategy decisions as well as sales and product teams in scenario and pricing analysis for new initiatives.
For example, in a project-based environment, it can be beneficial to:
- Create a budget for each project,
- Determine the initial life cycle of that project (e.g., one year) and then
- Create a one-year budget to actual analysis for each project.
That data can be tracked by division, by department or by sales lead to allow data drilldown and analysis as to why some projects are on point and others are underperforming. For example:
- Are there standard costs that are not being included in the budgeting process?
- Has the marketplace changed?
- Has the sales team addressed those marketplace changes in their budgeting process?
- Would it be helpful to go through a budget review process closer to the product release date to update sales numbers based on current data?
How can we support growth of the business and our function?
It is critical to keep scalability in mind during this design process. This will enable the team to quickly pivot and adjust as the company grows, as new investors come on board with specific requirements and as the market creates more internal requests.
Scalability can be easily addressed by including all current stakeholders in the brainstorming process above as the team is deciding the reporting needs. Have meetings with executives and department management. Have meetings with key product, sales, marketing and manufacturing staff. Ask them how you can support them with information to better make decisions. This will aid your understanding of the needs and the key components that need to be tracked.
The added benefit of this approach is an improved budgeting process. With these new relationships in place, collecting information to prepare budgets and forecasts will be easier. Frequently, these relationships will lead to other departments sharing information, asking for help with pricing and including accounting and finance staff in department meetings.
By fully understanding the organization, the accounting and finance team can look at the data input process and the reporting process not just from a generic perspective, but through the lens of the specific organization. Then the team can customize their approaches in the most effective manner to support the teams.
Do we have adequate documentation of our processes?
Documentation is a critical part of finance and accounting process improvements, and it’s often overlooked.
Proper documentation is necessary to successfully complete an external audit and to issued audited financials for financial institutions and investors. The accounting team will need to provide full support for:
- Accounts Payable: Document the receipt of the invoice (along with any purchase order if applicable), document the invoice approval and document the payment process including the payment confirmation and 1099 information.
- Accounts Receivable: Document the purchase order and/or initial agreement for services rendered or product sold, document the completion of the order, document the invoice rendered to the customer/client and document receipt of payment. If payment is not received, document the attempts made to collect and the write off.
- Payroll: Document offer letters to new staff to support the hire date, salary and any equity component. Document payroll runs to support the payroll entries on the general ledger.
- Sales Tax: Document the analysis of nexus and sales tax payable as well as any payments made with copies of the associated tax returns and payment documentation.
- General Ledger: Document journal entries with detailed support for the entries, amortization schedules or supporting miscellaneous payables or receivables.
It is important to consider this needed documentation when designing processes and reporting so that it is included each month and is part of the approval, review and close processes.
Learn More About Accounting Process Improvements
You may find exploring budgeting, reporting and accounting process improvements daunting. However, breaking the work into manageable components can help you get through the analysis, design and implementation of improvements. Additionally, bringing in an external, third-party consultant with experience in finance and accounting process improvement can help you maintain traction by serving as a dedicated project manager to the effort. As these processes improve and the day-to-day is in place, you can shift your energy to managing the anomalies with a continued eye on improvement.
If you’d like support, you can contact us to learn more about how we can help. You can also download our guide to accounting process improvement strategies ebook by clicking the image below:
Categorized in: Financial Reporting & Accounting