A couple of colleagues know that I used to live in the Middle East during the Arab spring, they reached out asking how we dealt with closing the month/year remotely during that time. The question made me think that maybe I can share this experience with people going through remote closing for the first time.
Yes, I have experienced two lock-downs…well, actually three if you count the current one. My first two lock-downs were in two different jobs so I kind of have the hang of it now :)I did core accounting month-end with my team in Middle-East and Europe in one role in 2013’s Arab Spring. Also, I did forecasting/modelling and strategic planning for the region of North Africa and Levant in another role in 2015. Both roles were during unprecedented times and that was very challenging.
In this article I will share with you what I did in my core accounting role and what helped me close month/year remotely and a bit smoothly:
- Processes: Think about the tasks you do at month end. If they are documented then this is great but if not make sure to write the steps down. Even if you have done closing for years, this unprecedented time might affect your thinking or concentration. We are humans and we cope with unknowns in different ways.
- Closing Tracker Log: Create a closing tracker log of the challenges you remember facing in previous month-ends and document how they were resolved. It is like writing a journal, you will be surprised how your mind will remember once you start documenting. A helpful tip would be to go through your emails and look for messages in month-end, they will work wonders and remind you. Creating a closing tracker helped me a lot.
- Remote video calls: The last thing you want in unprecedented times is miscommunication and wasting times on emails. If you have a challenge hop on a video call and discuss. We are already in isolation, having a video call will build a team spirit even if the person you are contacting is in another team.
- Team Management: Managing a team during this challenging time is not easy. As a manager you are responsible for keeping the team spirit high. The team you have needs to close this accounting period during one of the difficult times the world is going through. I had teams where we did morning and end of day calls which were brilliant. Having said that, when we did both calls in other teams it was too much so we ended up doing 1 call a day. Listen to the needs of your team and think how to efficiently use time. My suggested calls are:
- Start-of-Day Check point: Have a quick call in the morning with a virtual round table check-in and make everyone comfortable to share there day plan. You don’t want surprises and definitely you don’t want members of your team silently struggling with workload. This will also provide this motivating kick in the morning.
- End-of-Day Wrap-up: Based on experience this keeps everyone updated, helps brainstorming and shares experience with the wider team. What is a challenge for someone might be something another member of the team has faced before and has a solution already.
- Post-unprecedented Data Analytics plan: This one is more of me looking back now and what I would have done given my Data Analytics experience. Closing an accounting period remotely flushes more challenging issues. It is also a great opportunity to show you how you can use robotics and automation as well as utilise Data Analytics in Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss and other General Ledger analysis. Write your thoughts while closing so you can pick this topic after the closing for process improvement.
As much as these points might be obvious and basic, you will be surprised how they are missed when challenging times hit.
What do you think? What is your experience like before if you have done closing remotely? What is your experience so far in April month-end? Lets share experience to support each other and have a seamless remote month/year-end closing.