General Ledger Lockdown: Finance Teams Streamline the Close by Automation and Efficiency

No matter what size your company is, the growing number of general ledger accounts can be laborious for your accounting and finance team. According to a survey from Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation, 10 percent of U.S. companies and 20 percent of those in Canada say they have 3,000 or more accounts to maintain and reconcile, on at least a quarterly basis.

Aside from inadequate personnel levels, the biggest toll on accounting department workloads comes from a lack of accounting tools or systems. Two-thirds of U.S. finance departments say reconciliation remains a manual process, while half of Canadian companies said the same.

Organizations that have made the leap into automation are enjoying a smoother, faster close process.

"We've reduced the time it takes to produce our monthly, quarterly and annual financial statements by nearly 50 percent," says Angela Riley, CFO of Northern Contours, Inc., a Minnesota manufacturer, in the report.

This has translated into a competitive advantage for wireless communications firm Sonetics Corp.

"I'm looking to maximize our opportunities and add value to our forward-looking activities," says Mike Williams, vice president of finance, in the report.

Executives from some small businesses are concerned that enabling automation may prove more time-consuming than simply continuing manually. In turn, many are using off-the-shelf software packages that simplify the automated close.

Another strategy for increasing efficiency is the refinement process design and execution. When Canadian Western Bank Group instituted a new general ledger system, it was able to create and post entries more effectively, thus reducing the number of manual reconciliations left for staff.

"We don't have as many intracompany reconciliations," says Carolyn Graham, senior vice president and chief accountant, in the report. "We are able to get the entries right the first time."

Are your company's financial processes and execution resulting in a fast, clean close? Read Benchmarking the Finance Function 2013 report for tips and insights.