The sheer number of companies who continue to forego widely available technology in lieu of paper processes, physical sign-offs, and other manual activities is simply astonishing. Of course, if your company is one of the guilty organizations still subject to these inefficiencies, don’t feel bad.
Transitioning your finance organization into the new era, where processes are powered by technology and everyone is focused on continuous improvement, is no easy feat. However, with the right strategy and no matter your starting point, it is entirely possible to improve your month-end closes (and maybe implement some new tech along the way, too).
Get Yourself In The Right Mindset
Before you make any moves within your organization, the first thing you need to do is get yourself in the right mindset for the job. Being your organization’s change agent means accepting that there’s going to be resistance and you’ll need to acknowledge the hurdles you’re likely to face along the way, whether they come in the form of people or their processes.
At the end of the day, people who have been doing things a certain way for a long-time — no matter how time-consuming or inefficient that way may be — tend to be resistant to changing those methods. So, after you get yourself in the right mindset, you should also be forever working to get your whole organization in a mindset of accepting change and striving for continuous improvement through change.
If you can convince your staff that adopting new technology isn’t a hurdle, but an on-going initiative to drive progress within your business, your job will get a lot easier. Until you can do that, make sure that you stay positive and try to keep your teams positive, too. This is most easily done if you believe in your project to begin with.
Work to Generate Buy-In Across Your Organization
Generating buy-in starts from the top and must trickle down throughout your entire organization. In other words, when you want to start a project, you need to start by going to your superiors and convincing them that your initiative is worth the investment of time, energy, and other resources that it will require. Once you have leadership’s support, you then need to take things a step further and work to get your entire organization on the right page.
Gallup recently found that fewer than 1 in 4 U.S. employees strongly agree that their leaders have a clear direction for the company. A lot of this can be contributed to leaders simply leaving employees in the dark when it comes to what they’re doing. Getting organizational buy-in requires you to inform, education, and involve the feedback of everyone who will end up being impacted by your project.
When it comes to improving month-end closes, that involves everyone in your finance department, and getting their support is the absolute only way to ensure your project’s success. While it’s easier said than done, the ideal thing to do is to involve them in the conversation as early on as possible.
Implement Metrics to Measure Progress
Before changes are made, implementing and identifying the right metrics is the only way to track your progress overtime. Not only does this help you prove to your leadership team that the initiative is worthwhile, it will also give you the data and moving statistics you require to hit your milestones overtime and keep employees motivated. Your metrics also give you the opportunity to identify hurdles and continue to solve the problems you’ll face throughout the adoption period and beyond.
When it comes to improving month-end closes, taking stock of where you’re already at will give you a benchmark to which everyone can compare future performance. For instance, you might measure how many entries are currently completed manually, along with your average close cycle, and the number of checks your team writes in a given month. These starting points will prove very beneficial in keeping your teams motivated.
While you’re working to identify these metrics and begin setting goals, remember that you should be seeking progress, not perfect. Reducing a journal entry from 8 hours to 30 minutes is a major achievement, but you might need to set smaller milestones along the way to ensure employees feel these goals are both actionable and achievable. Then, once you reach a milestone, set a new one to continue striving for the progress you’re looking for. Maybe that time can be eliminated all together, but you need to work incrementally.
Set Goals and Timelines to Guide Success
Acknowledging the importance of milestones and setting multiple smaller goals is important in creating an achievable and actionable timeline, but you still need to make sure that your goals are properly defined so that you can measure your progress using the metrics you identified. The best thing you can do is set “SMART” goals, which are: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-Focused, and Time-Constrained.
A great example of a smart goal is to take your current 5-day close and set a target for the next 6 months that encourages your team to getting the close time (or at least the majority of it) down to 3 days. This strategy will motivate your team and it gives them a very clear, transparent, and measurable goal to strive for.
Of course, in addition to setting many small, SMART goals, you should also be mindful of your overall timeline. Planning your goals out in advance is a good idea in order to keep your overall timeline within a reasonable timeframe while also looking ahead to make sure that your bigger milestones are placed at reasonable intervals. That means close enough together so you don’t lose momentum but far enough apart so no one is discouraged or overwhelmed.
Ultimately, your goal timeline and the goals themselves may shift with time as you begin checking off achievements and seeing progress, but you should always strive to keep things achievable, and perhaps learning towards the challenging side of things without ever trying to push your team so hard that they lose confidence or motivation.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Out Support
Being a change agent is no easy feat, and that’s why you should never feel discouraged or afraid to seek out support from your peers. In fact, the roadblocks you’re sure to run into overtime are best overcome with the help of the other professionals around you.
That could mean communicating issues with your supervisors, proactively discussing challenges that you foresee with your team, and even turning to your colleagues for advice and involvement. Doing so is actually very powerful, and it opens the doors to many brainstorming sessions and opportunities for collaboration that will ultimately get everyone more involved, more committed, and more likely to be successful.
Additionally, you should leverage your network, both inside and outside of your organization, to talk to other professionals who may be in a similar position. They can offer a wealth of guidance and advice that could help you see things in a new light or even change how you’re approaching things to help you get by the hurdles that stand in your way to success.
Even if these professionals are just a sounding board for you, talking through the challenges you’re facing and getting accolades for your accomplishments thus far is extremely beneficial. Having the right partners on your side, like Multiview Financial, will also give you yet another team to turn to when you’re looking for assistance improving your company’s financial processes.
Celebrate Every Success Along The Way
When you have a long timeline drawn up detailing all the goals you want to reach with time, it’s easy to get caught up in minute progress and perhaps even lose sight of the achievements your team is already making. That’s why you should make it habitual to celebrate every success along the way, acknowledging when your team hits a milestone even with something as simple as a mention in your employee newsletter.
Meanwhile, bigger milestones (like getting far ahead of schedule and surpassing your larger goals) deserve a much more eventful celebration, perhaps involving an office party or even a nice bonus or gift for those involved. It’s this type of acknowledgement that will really help steer employee engagement and help them feel part of the team, encouraging them to recognize how important they are to your company’s growth and progress.
This level of accountability isn’t easy to achieve, but it all plays back into overall employee satisfaction and retention. In fact, with moving statistics that make statements like “63% of employees who are recognized are very unlikely to look for a new job,” it’s definitely something you should strive for as part of your initiatives.
We Want to Make Month-Ends, End
Here at Multiview Financial, we help businesses every day who are stuck with legacy systems and even paper processes that eat away at their teams’ productivity through monotonous, manual tasks that are simply unnecessary in today’s era of advanced technology. Of course, we know that making the transition to more modern financial processes is a challenge.
If your company is struggling to improve or eliminate month-end closes, reach out to us for friendly advice that will help you take your organization into the new age. We have the tools and techniques you need to help your organization get more done, all the while improving productivity and insights across every department.
Interested in learning more about what we can do for your organization? Reach out to us today, talk to our team, and even schedule a free demo of Multiview’s products and services to power your organization’s finance department.