Automation – Do Accounting Departments Need This?
Many of us in accounting prepare monthly and quarterly financial reports. Some are specifically prepared for internal management, some for shareholders, and some for regulators and other stakeholders. These reports, by their very nature, require repetitive processes, many of which are fairly stable from period to period.
The question then for many of us preparers is: Why does it take so long to prepare these reports? Part of the answer may be that there is little time to sit back, think about and then streamline the report preparation process. Pre-automation processes usually consist of capturing all the necessary information, and entering it, sometimes manually, into some spreadsheet application software, such as Excel, to produce an intermediary report, the output of which may then have to be entered into another spreadsheet, and on and on before the final product is complete.
In an automated process, inputs are seamlessly downloaded from sources, such as a trial balance, applicable subledgers and other databases into an input sheet specifically geared to the type of report to be created. The input sheet data is then linked, uploaded or directly connected to a pre-formatted report application program to produce the final report. Audit trails are well maintained. Many times, it is best to have the pre-formatted report application program programmed in a more advanced software language than Excel.
Some of the benefits of automation, which are likely obvious to the readers of this article, include faster report preparation, more time for analysis, better controls and more accurate reporting.
While consulting with and servicing our many clients, CFO Consulting Partners observes and understands the pressures that force finance staffs to go from task to task, constantly putting out fires. However, although initially requiring up-front investment dollars, such investments directed at improvement of process will almost always pay large dividends in the months and years ahead.
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