“Well, you know, it is month end”, I say, and colleagues nod sympathetically and steer clear for a while. For most non-finance types, it’s a mysterious process that seems to cause a lot of stress. For finance types, it is a beast to be tamed.
By “month end” or “month end close”, I’m referring to the process by which a month (or other period) is brought to an end in the financial system. This means trying to get the numbers as accurate as possible for some sort of eventual output. This could be management accounts, a report for a funder, a VAT return or just the sense of achievement and closure.
It means making sure you have accounted for all the expenditure and income for that month. Depending on the organisation you may also carry out certain “month end” tasks such as calculating depreciation, reconciling the bank and other balance sheet accounts.
In this post I set out a few things to consider which might make a month end less stressful.
Power Query gives you many more tools beyond standard Excel for automating management accounts. This post sets out some points to consider. It is not intended as a step-by-step guide, because one size does not fit all, and the path you take will vary depending on what you want to report and your source data.
However, the key message is that Power Query makes complex and lengthy transformations really easy, and completely repeatable. Whatever you want to do, you can do it better with Power Query.
In fact, it was often the same point I was agreeing with and disagreeing with. For example, I agree that human connection is really really really really important. However, I’m increasingly convinced that most offices are not automatically conducive to quality connections and fulfilling relationships. And I say this as an extrovert who really needs to be around people and values lots of casual interactions. That is, offices are designed around my needs as it is.
What would happen in your organisation if you stopped producing management accounts?
I’ve had to delay issuing management accounts a few of times in my professional career. (It’s funny, it feels scary even admitting that, such is the sacred status of the Month End Routine. It makes me feel like I’ve failed as a finance director.)
Because I was once an auditor, I have an obsession with useless controls. This is where an organisation makes you do something which they think is providing some kind of internal control. However, when you think about it in more depth, you realise it isn’t providing any control at all.
Some examples of useless controls
I had locked myself out of the online portal for an old pension scheme. I rang up and gave my account number. They asked for my full address as a security measure before they reset my account.
When I had more junior finance roles in larger organisations, I often found the annual budgeting process to be somewhere between traumatic and soul-destroying. Week after week of meetings and emails and multiple versions of clunky spreadsheets.
So when I became a Finance Director, I thought long and hard about what made organisational budgeting so awful. I then identified four key components of a happier budgeting process;
A good Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system can make your business run much more smoothly. However, there are lots of systems out there which do very different things and lots of pushy salespeople. So it’s very easy to be seduced by something that looks fancy but turns out to be difficult to customise for your business.
In this post I set out a few things to consider if you want a new EPOS system.