Thoughts About Your Accounting Close and Financial Reporting with a Remote Workforce
April 27 , 2020
Many businesses are adopting social distancing strategies, including increased use of remote workforces to adapt to and fight through the Covid-19 crisis. Completing monthly, quarterly or annual financial reporting activities can be challenging to accomplish remotely, so we share our experiences in assisting clients to do so in this article. With thoughtful management, the efficiency and effectiveness of accounting and reporting processes can be maintained as much as possible with a remote workforce.
The physical separation of remote workforces adds difficulty to all involved. While many of the tools used under “normal operations” continue to be effective, the remote nature of the workforce may change the way in which the work product is compiled and assembled. It will also change the interaction needed between team members to complete, review and perform quality control on the work products. Therefore, leaders need to make extra efforts to overcome the difficulties of operating remotely.
- Clearly define goals and project plans, and monitor and report on status. These disciplines are more important now than ever before to enable processes to run smoothly and avoid fire drills that are even more challenging in a remote environment.
- Communicate more than “normal” so that everyone can become comfortable with remote work and interactions.
- Ensure that the technology and information security requirements are in place so that your team can operate effectively on a remote basis
Working remotely and meeting critical finance, accounting and reporting deadlines requires significant focus to optimize team structure and workflows.
- Use detailed project plans, checklists, timelines and other mechanisms to define project requirements, clarify roles within the team, identify dependencies, and communicate status. Monthly and quarterly closing checklists and similar outlines are extremely helpful for all required deliverables: Board and senior management reports, press releases, SEC reporting, etc.
- Make resources available to all who need them in real time.
- Develop a file storage plan and use it consistently while maintaining appropriate access security over those files. Typically, companies will create a central folder for each period’s financial reports.
- Finished work products should be stored centrally and shared according to agreed-upon nomenclature so that team members can locate and process as needed.
- One individual should own a document and be the gatekeeper for changes proposed by internal preparers, executive management, external legal and accounting advisors, investor relations etc.
- The gatekeeper should maintain version control so that reviewers can easily identify updates to the documents. “Track Changes” and blacklined documents help focus reviewers’ efforts.
- Establish deadlines for comments and limit the number of drafts to minimize time spent processing successive versions. Relevant comments will always need to be considered but avoid excessive wordsmithing once you have a solid document.
Success as remote team is tied to many factors: Convenient and secure access to information. Clear project plans and access to effective project management tools, deploying team members effectively and relentless communication while supporting individual needs for job satisfaction, growth and enrichment.
Larry Davis – email@example.com
Paul Karr – firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Segal – email@example.com