Making a High-Quality Virtual Close a Reality

Making a High-Quality Virtual Close a Reality

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Introduction

As COVID-19 spread across the United States in early 2020, many chief financial and accounting officers, controllers, and other finance leaders oversaw their first closing of the books with 100 percent of their workforce working remotely.

As finance teams well know, a financial close is a highly orchestrated process in which team members depend on each other to produce deliverables on a tight schedule and in precise sequence—a symphony of moving parts that can quickly become discordant when well-practiced routines move to a virtual environment.

Executing a virtual close is a significant leap from going over hard copies side by side with access to large monitors, high-speed scanners and printers, and other technologies that support productivity and collaboration. At the point offices shut down, a number of employees may not have had even the basics ready at home: a reliable laptop, remote access, and videoconferencing capabilities.

Adding to the complexity, key personnel were at risk of being unable to participate in the close due to illness or family responsibilities, a concern that continues. And most managers likely did not have much experience overseeing a completely remote workforce.

At this point, many companies have executed their first virtual close, and now they are looking at what's working and what may need to be fixed.

After all, as time goes on, it's clear that the virtual close was not a "one-and-done" experience. The need to close the books remotely keeps extending as many offices remain closed, and business leaders and employees are concerned about coming back too soon. Health officials also warn of a resurgence of the coronavirus once cold weather returns, with the potential for renewed stay-at-home orders. Looking long past the end of this year, COVID-19 has likely changed how and where we work forever.

It's unlikely that companies will go back to the more analog approach to closing the books.

The process was already becoming more technology-driven before the spread of COVID-19. Now, the necessity of closing virtually has only accelerated the desire to introduce greater automation. Most companies didn't have significant remote close capabilities, and now they are discovering that the technology and processes that allow a virtual close also promote greater efficiency, accuracy and transparency that companies seek for any financial close—remote or not.

Here we discuss how to evaluate the needs of the financial organization and develop a strategy for a robust and sustainable virtual close, with enhanced processes and technologies that will provide value long after the immediate impact of COVID-19 has abated.

For more information, download the full report from the link below.

READ MORE ARTICLES IN JP EXECUTIVE INSIGHT- ISSUE 4, 2020

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