The financial closing process at most businesses is complicated and—without modern accounting software solutions in place—time-consuming for accounting teams.
But the close is also essential to proper accounting and finance management at those organizations, so cutting corners isn’t an option. Instead of cutting expenses related to the financial close process, they’re looking for ways to improve efficiency and generate more value from these tasks.
Financial close software is widely regarded as the best way to leverage efficiencies, improve productivity, and create a strong return on investment from the close process. But choosing the best financial close software isn’t always an obvious process. Many of these business solutions offer similar services, but their package of tools and features can differ, and the user experience can vary widely on each platform.
If you’re looking at your options and struggling to identify the best financial close software for your business, you can simplify this process by identifying the key criteria that should guide your decision.
Here are some suggestions to help you identify the best option available.
Look for Built-In Automation Capabilities
The ability to automate tasks is perhaps the single most valuable feature of financial close software. Automation allows businesses to offload menial, time-consuming tasks to an intelligent software solution that can manage data in real time.
With up-to-date consolidated data and reduced accountant workloads, automation eliminates friction to enable a fast, smooth close for your business. Automation powered by business intelligence also increases your knowledge about your company’s financial close data, delivering notifications when data or other circumstances change—which improves the accuracy of your data and helps your department better manage its financial information.
Prioritize Access to Plug-and-Play Applications
Different businesses have different needs. Some types of financial close software will create a suite of applications that cater to industry-specific needs, but you can achieve an even more customized experience by choosing a financial close solution that offers a large suite of plug-and-play applications.
With plug-and-play applications, businesses can achieve a higher degree of customization that can serve highly specific needs. And with plug-and-play functionality, these customizations are easy to make, reducing the management demands placed on your department.
Seek Out Tools That Reduce Data Error Rates
Automation cuts out the manual data entry and data management processes that are most likely to introduce errors into your accounting information. But data validation tools provide another layer of quality assurance, identifying errors and helping accounting teams resolve any discrepancies, resulting in higher-integrity data.
End Your Dependence on Excel
Excel has been a necessary evil for accountants from the day it was first offered as a business solution. But it comes with significant limitations—especially when the close process is complicated by acquisitions, reorganizations, and other changes in your organization.
No accountant thinks of Excel as their friend, but it’s still a part of the close process, especially when consolidating data that is organized in Excel spreadsheets. The best financial close software will offer a better, more intuitive alternative to Excel’s frustrating spreadsheets, but it will also be compatible with Excel so that you can integrate Excel data into your close platform.
Aim to Reduce Reliance on IT
The best business software is user-friendly, allowing configurations, maintenance, and other tasks to be completed without getting IT involved. This improves the agility and performance of these tools, allowing accounting professionals to implement the necessary changes themselves instead of waiting for IT’s help while workflow bottlenecks develop.
Ideally, your financial close software should offer a quick and easy initial setup. The faster you can get this software integrated with your financial processes, the quicker you can start generating value from this asset. A simple, intuitive user interface also reduces the training time for new business solutions, allowing users to fully embrace the full spectrum of features right away.
Software customizations should be low-code or no-code in nature, allowing users without any special technical background to take control of their software and make sure it’s providing all of the services they need.
Don’t Compromise on Analytics
Good financial close software supports analytics in several ways. The first and most obvious benefit is the inclusion of analytics as a feature of the platform. Although your finance department may have its own stand-alone analytics tools already in place, financial close analytics are specialized to generate data-driven insights that are specific to the consolidation processes.
Meanwhile, the automation and streamlining of the close process can free up time for accounting staff to focus on analytics and insights to improve their day-to-day operations. In some ways, analytics can be considered a luxury for accounting teams because not all departments have access to tools that support better, faster performance. Automation clears a path to prioritizing analytics throughout the finance department.
Finally, improved visibility results in better and more comprehensive access to business data. And with validated data resulting in fewer errors and discrepancies, analytics can render insights into the close process that benefit from a higher volume of data and better reliability.
Look for a Centralized Suite of Financial Tools
As your organization builds its financial technology stack, there’s obvious appeal to solutions that package a number of different tools and capabilities into a single platform. From an IT perspective, the integration of these solutions is more cost-effective, and management challenges are reduced with fewer moving parts within the tech stack.
A connected suite of financial tools also improves the flow of data between solutions, as well as the full functionality of the features offered by each solution. Ideally, organizations should seek out a financial services platform that combines financial planning, close, tax, and analytics functionality into a single solution.
By bringing these related solutions under the same roof, your organization can leverage software synergies that deliver a total value that is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Listen to Past Customers
Sales materials can tell you everything you need to know about the potential of a software solution. But you can never be sure how that potential translates to actual value until the software is deployed in a live environment.
That’s why customer testimonials and reviews should play a central role in your search for a better financial close solution. By hearing the first-person experiences of past and existing customers, you can get a better sense of the reality of each prospective close solution, sorting out marketing myths from the reality of how that software might be able to transform your current operations.
Whether you request testimonials from each prospective software company, consult reviews from third-party sites, or rely on a combination of these resources, make sure you hear from multiple customers as you weigh your options and move closer to a decision.
When you start shopping around for the best financial close software, you’ll find plenty of solutions that all offer basic features such as bill payment and expense approval. To take your financial close process to the next level, though, you need to find software that is capable of using the latest data management innovations to streamline operations and optimize your financial close process.
Although organizations have typically viewed the close process as an expense that offers little to no value of its own, modern accounting practices understand that the right financial close software delivers value by improving internal resource management, and by generating insights to improve the close process in the future.