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Friday, 11 March 2011

Automating regular procedures (e.g. month-ends) - the real benefits

Ah, month-ends, those joyous occasions where we get to reflect on the successes of the last month's results and toast the even better ones to come....

What! Not your experience of month-ends?

How about a desperate panic of late nights trawling through those familiar journals and spreadsheets to hopefully pull together a set of management accounts that makes some kind of sense?

Does that sound more like it?

When we finish, we pause briefly, dribble a bit, think we must be able to automate some of this, and then start gearing up for the next one.

If this is you, you might want to consider what the real costs are of not finding the time (or money) to automate some of this.

What are the costs to the business?

  • Missed business opportunities - A finance department focused on producing the numbers instead of interpreting them can cost a business dear. If the finance department spent the time lost to month-end procedures on reviewing the month-end numbers and understanding their implications, the business could benefit greatly;
  • Missed business problems - For the same reasons as above, this pre-occupation with getting the numbers out can lead to future problems being missed until it is too late;
  • Increased staff turnover - The extra workload and pressures (and late nights) can mean it is hard to hang on to good employees in the finance department;
  • Less accurate accounting - Accounts produced in this environment rarely have time to be properly reviewed, allowing errors to slip through the net.

But what about the cost to you?
  • Stress - It goes without saying that this working environment is not conducive to low stress levels;
  • Lack of career progression - Spending all of this time working on what has to be done, stops you working on those areas where you could add real value to the business, and demonstrate your worth. The pay rises come a lot easier when the boss sees you as generating profit rather than as a necessary cost;
  • Time - The biggest cost of this type of approach is time. A chunk of that time put into repetitive month-end procedures could be directed into adding value to the business (as discussed above), however there should also be a significant chunk available for you, particularly if the job currently involves a lot of work outside of office hours. You could start going home at 5pm and not coming in at the weekend. Just think what you could do with that time:
    • Spend more time with the family;
    • Play more golf;
    • Take up a hobby;
    • Learn to fly;
    • Become an internet millionaire (I keep reading emails saying I can do this in 4 hours a week!).
I hope this has made some of you spend a little more time this month on the "we must be able to automate some of this" part of your month-end.

If you want to discuss how you might go about it, drop me an email (glen@feechan.co.uk).

Here's to making month-ends fun!


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