Consulting Services Building Flexibility into Your Accounting Function in Uncertain Times
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It is safe to assume that we are only seeing the initial impacts the coronavirus pandemic will have on business. New approaches to reaching customers, interacting with vendors, forecasting cash flow, and managing a workforce have quickly become a necessity. Organizations are being challenged on all fronts to think beyond traditional methods of doing business.

Now is the time to evaluate your current accounting function and invest in improvements that increase flexibility. Business leaders need accurate, real-time financial data to help them make critical operational decisions and formulate strategy—especially in a constantly-changing business environment such as the one we are experiencing now. An agile strategy can help your organization adapt and maintain critical processes throughout change and disruption. Below, we outline some key focus areas to increase flexibility in your accounting function.

By documenting your current processes, you’ll gain insight into the key players, critical decision points, and inefficiencies that can be corrected.

Map your current processes to highlight opportunities

A new working environment has highlighted challenges and improvement opportunities within many organizations’ accounting function. Most organizations will find that some processes are too reliant on time-consuming manual tasks. This can create bottlenecks when new business processes and strategies are being considered. In addition, employees are working both in and out of the office, and this alternating between in-person and remote work is likely to continue. Unclear, inconsistent, or inefficient processes can make it impossible to complete certain functions efficiently and effectively in a remote environment.

By documenting your current accounting processes and procedures, you’ll gain insight into the key players, critical decision points, and inefficiencies that can be evaluated and revised. Many organizations have only recently attempted to work through accounting functions virtually. As you outline your processes, consider:

  • Have you postponed certain tasks due to processes that aren’t manageable outside the office?
  • How long does it take your team to close the books on-site versus when some or all of your team is working remotely?
  • Were any internal controls bypassed due to sudden changes to operations? Do you have modified internal controls in place for a remote work environment?
  • Do you have the right staff to support all the functions your team covers?
  • Have layoffs or other staffing changes impacted your ability to gain timely, robust insight into your organization’s financials?

Inevitably, you will need to update your current processes to accommodate new information, tools, and situations. For example, critical internal controls should be appropriately modified rather than bypassed, so evaluate the recent crisis period and plan alternate options to implement in the event of future disruption. By documenting changes and acceptable alternatives and communicating them to your team in a clear and accessible way, you can avoid confusion and improve adaptability.

Your insight is too important to put on the back burner, particularly during times of uncertainty.

Automation and technology bring agility and focus

Particularly during times of uncertainty, business leaders need the accounting department to spend more time on forecasting and strategic activities than on transactional tasks. Automation and technology are key to maximizing the agility of an accounting function.

With a flexible and robust cloud accounting system, critical accounting functions can weather disruptions and information remains accessible to team members wherever they may be. By maximizing automation and efficiency, the accounting team’s time can be reallocated to focus on analysis to support data-driven business decisions. This allows organizations to eliminate some of the guesswork when it comes to assessing financial health by providing real-time visibility.

In addition, technology often facilitates increased internal controls, such as custom permissions and roles, which are necessary when work is performed remotely and can be modified as circumstances require.

An outsourced partner is invested in your success and is part of your team.

Partnerships help lighten the load

An outsourced accounting partner can help you increase capacity, expand the knowledge pool available to your organization, provide access to cloud-based tools, and relieve some of the stress on your current accounting department. One of the major benefits to an outsourced accounting partnership is that your organization gains access to professionals with a depth of experience without adding headcount. Many businesses have had to make challenging decisions regarding staffing levels over the past several months, so hiring full-time staff members may not be feasible. However, an outsourced partner is invested in your success and is part of your team—they can help you navigate complicated financial issues and find new paths forward. With a knowledgeable outsourced team in your corner, you have the resources to help improve efficiency and stability within your accounting function, manage federal aid packages, and stay updated on changing regulations.

Outsourcing also improves flexibility by scaling support up or down as needed. The accounting partner can contribute more during busy seasons, support existing staff with day-to-day tasks and reporting, or even fill a role until your organization can find the right candidate for the long haul.

 

Here to help

P&N has a range of experience helping clients improve flexibility in accounting function, address gaps, and support greater efficiency. Our Client Accounting Services team can help your organization map current processes, assess your needs, develop a plan, and provide ongoing service so that you can focus on adapting to change and growing your business. Contact us to start a conversation.

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