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How can CFOs pivot to a virtual financial close?

As finance teams have suddenly turned into a remote workforce, CFOs must guide them in a successful close. Here's advice to help.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our normal way of doing business. As a CFO or finance leader, you're likely faced with a new challenge: conducting a virtual financial close.

Many of the steps in your existing process may require a physical presence at the business. Some of those can easily be transitioned to a remote model. A paper-based sign-off process, for example, can be moved online with very little effort. Other processes are more problematic, though. It's hard to imagine doing a physical inventory without having someone at your warehouse to count your product.

Steps to take in the short term

Now is the time to determine which steps of the closing checklist are potentially problematic. Your finance team must factor in the supply chain disruptions your suppliers and customers are facing. Wherever there is a need for information from external sources, expect possible delays. If you normally receive paper-based invoices and statements from trading partners, proactively reach out to them and develop an information-sharing plan.

If you expect a delayed closing, communicate that early and set expectations with the rest of the executive team.

Closing the books as coronavirus sweeps the globe

Beyond these process issues, there are special considerations for closing this quarter. Economic disruption has led to material changes in supply chain and sales forecasts. Companies should take a hard look at receivables to determine whether their allowance for doubtful accounts needs to be adjusted. The appropriate leaders should be taking a fresh look at contracts. Pending mergers and acquisitions, for example, could be affected by a MAC (material adverse change) clause. Sales forecasts will likely change, and that will have a substantial impact on cash flow.

Digital finance transformation ahead

For the longer term, this is an opportunity to reassess the quarter-end process and look to processes and technology that will support your team going forward. The coronavirus crisis will end, but future crises are inevitable. CFOs should consider deploying technology that will mitigate the challenges of remote closing and reduce friction within their organizations.

Document management products, for example, make information available anytime, anywhere. Financial closing software streamlines and automates much of the process. Self-service reporting tools enable remote workers to get the information they need without reliance on the IT department.

Disruption creates challenges, but it also generates opportunities. As CFOs overhaul their closing processes, they can deploy technology tools that deliver benefits in any business environment.

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