Continuous Close and Why It Matters

Continuous Close: The Move to Real-Time Accounting

Gone are the days of waiting for month-end numbers. Accounting Today sums it up: it is no longer “business as usual,” it is “business now.” As companies adopt this new sense of urgency, there is a growing realization of the important benefits to be gained from a continuous closing of books (also referred to as “continuous accounting” or “daily close”), including the daily recognition of revenue and cash flow, timely reconciliations, early detection of errors or theft, and ultimately aiding the ability to make strategic, data-driven decisions based on real-time information.

In essence, a continuous close is like a “rolling” close. The practice helps to keep the company’s financial books up to date, and near ready to close them at any point in time. This approach to continuous accounting presents the opportunity for an ongoing “soft close” that more evenly distributes the workload throughout the month rather than waiting until the end of the period to make adjustments, settle intercompany eliminations, and complete consolidations. Continuous accounting has a two-fold purpose: 1) to provide executives and other decision makers with accurate, real-time financial data when they need it, and 2) to make the month-end “hard close” exponentially faster, easier, and more accurate.

 

The Urgency Factor: The Drumbeat is Getting Faster

Most accountants are familiar with the typical cadence behind a traditional financial close. At the end of the period, all data is uploaded, intercompany reconciliations and eliminations are completed, consolidations are performed, and once approved, the books are closed and final reports are issued. There are weeks’ worth of tasks included in this synopsis, and while it may not always be enjoyable, it is predictable and driven by clear processes.

Typically, executives get their first clear vision of performance several weeks after the end of a period, whether that be monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Yet few of us know of an executive who is willing to wait three weeks for anything! Modern, competitive businesses just cannot operate that way.

As CFO.com highlighted in this whitepaper on modernizing the financial close, “the constant drumbeat of competition, combined with the persistent scrutiny that regulators and other stakeholders apply to financial results, leaves little room for financial close and reporting processes that require an overabundance of patience or are lacking in clarity and precision.”

Of course, nearly every results-oriented finance professional can see the enormous benefits of a continuous close. But as you’ll read below, the ability to achieve this vision is a lot easier said than done.

 

Continuous Close: The Move to Real-Time Accounting

Not so long ago, the need for the accurate, real-time information that is provided by a continuous close was limited to the financial services sector (banking, for example). Today, companies spanning every industry are rapidly understanding the benefits of a continuous close, which ultimately results in a much more efficient and accurate month-end close. But there is one mammoth obstacle standing in the way of achieving this goal of a continuous close, and that is technology.

Many accounting systems are not built for such efficiency. Companies oftentimes find themselves between a rock and a hard place. At one of end of the spectrum is an enterprise accounting system that was built without anticipating the need for real-time, continuous close accounting and is therefore too rigid to adapt. At the opposite end is a more nimble, modern accounting system that lacks the infrastructure to process the high volume of enterprise-level transactions (aka scalability).

Flexi is a rare accounting system that delivers the best of both worlds. From its beginnings over 30 years ago, Flexi was supporting one of the world’s largest banks with the ability to process billions of transactions, convert global currencies, consolidate multiple entities, and provide continuous close capabilities – all with extreme precision, speed, and security.

All to say, we know a thing or two about delivering technology that perfectly enables a continuous close process. We’ve drawn upon this knowledge to provide a summary below of the most important capabilities to look for when evaluating accounting software vendors. At a minimum, a true, enterprise-level continuous accounting process must be powered by sophisticated accounting software that provides the ability to:

  • Connect all relevant data through a seamless integration
  • Automate routine tasks (“rules-based workflow automation”) with the flexibility to customize tasks and exceptions based on specific business rules
  • Pull data from different general ledgers into a standardized format
  • Quickly consolidate financial statements in real time
  • Convert multiple currencies into a common currency for reporting purposes
  • Easily generate and distribute real-time reports along with data visualization and analytics
  • Provide complete transparency including 24/7 access to detailed audit and compliance reports
  • Scale to unlimited growth potential, without compromising performance (speed or accuracy of transaction processing)

 

System Integration is Key

A continuous close must account for all relevant data, including data residing outside of the accounting system. The ability to easily integrate other systems and third-party applications with a company’s accounting system is mission critical.

As an example, Flexi’s customer and SVP of finance, operating in the hospitality industry, explains the benefits:

“We’ve integrated Flexi’s accounting system with our POS (Point of Sale) software so our [8,000 restaurants] can produce this information on a daily basis. They’re able to pull daily results not only from one restaurant, but also in aggregate across their entire company for deeper analysis.”

This continuous close process, which effectively conducts a soft close throughout the month, has cut the time it takes to close books by at least two weeks, sometimes more.

"[The restaurants] can now close their books in three days compared to the 7-14 days typically experienced in our industry."
That is nearly 5x faster than the competition!

SVP of Finance and Flexi Customer

 

Ready to Reap the Benefits of a Continuous Close?

Flexi’s robust accounting software is uniquely designed to enable a continuous close process, allowing customers to achieve in minutes what traditionally takes hours or weeks of time.

It would be our pleasure to share the Flexi difference with your organization. If you’re ready to experience all of the benefits that can be gained from a continuous close process, request a demo today.

2022 Top Accounting Challenges

2022 Top Accounting Challenges

2022 Top Accounting Challenges for Corporate Accountants

With no thanks to the pandemic, accounting departments everywhere have been forced to adopt new ways of thinking and working. To understand how the industry is being impacted, we interviewed accounting professionals and executives to identify their top accounting challenges. The data we’ve collected in 2021 sets the stage for looking ahead at improvements needed in 2022.

The perspectives shared revealed unique and very real challenges; some of which have been swirling around the profession for decades while still others have only just recently bubbled up to the surface. The challenges for those at the forefront, though, are numerous and, in some cases, daunting.

Although our interviewees represented different company sizes, there were two predominate themes that surfaced: people and technology. As you will read in this article, the challenges that encircle each are highly interconnected and likely woven into the fabric of every corporate accounting department.

Let us look at the top four challenges revealed and how to solve each.

 

1. Skills to Pay the Bills (are Not Enough)

It’s no secret that there has been a widening skills gap in accounting. The desire to hire more well-rounded and future-ready accountants is on everyone’s to-do list, particularly as companies adopt newer technology that will automate routine accounting tasks. Thus, accountants that are also equipped to excel in strategy and financial planning roles have more value (and leverage) now than ever before.

According to Schuyler Ryan, Assistant VP of Finance, the evolution from bookkeeper to problem solver cannot happen fast enough. She shares that her accounting staff is made stronger by people who are “critical thinkers, problem solvers, and not content with doing the same thing every day.”

This does not necessarily mean eliminating the traditional accounting role as automation becomes more prevalent. What it does mean is hiring accountants who can do more than simply maintain the books.

When asked if automation was the elixir to cure all (accounting) ills, Michelle Lucero, Senior Accountant, put it bluntly. “There are a lot of opportunities for automation but I think the bigger problem is that people are automated in their thinking.” Going forward, the new breed of accountants will need to recognize that while technology is indeed changing their job description and workload, it is also necessitating the ability to take on more strategic and consultative roles, which not only adds value to the accounting organization but also to the company’s bottom line.

 

Tip: When looking to broaden the expertise and skillsets within the accounting department, consider the applicability of newer professions such as data analytics or forensic accounting. These types of fields emphasize critical thinking and the ability to not only understand the numbers but also the meaning behind them.

 

2. Manual Processes Continue to Slow Things Down

Let’s face it, manual accounting processes are one of the top frustrations of every accountant. In fact, many of the leaders we spoke with believe manual accounting is becoming more costly and no longer sustainable. Factor in more disparate systems, massive amounts of data, and more reporting and regulatory requirements, and manual processes have become akin to treading in a vat filled with molasses.

In the old days, throwing more people at the problem was always the solution. Today? Not so much. “The biggest challenge, not just for me and my team but also probably many industries, is moving away from all the manual work and finding ways to automate our accounting,” says Lucero.

Fortunately, though, things are changing. For the last few years accounting processes and the profession have been ripe for transformation through automation. The difference now is that the discussion has changed from a hypothetical to a reality. It is no longer a question of if or how automation will play a role in the accounting profession. It is now a matter of identifying what manual processes can be automated today.

Asked whether she agreed with the statement that the more processes you can automate today, the better, Natalie Roberts, VP – Accounting and Controller, says, “Absolutely. I am all about making things more efficient. I look for solutions to our problems and the more manual processes I can take off my staff’s plate, the better.”

With so many accounting complexities, automation cannot be a “one size fits all” approach. “It must be careful automation,” warns Ryan. “You don’t want to automate a process that has so many nuances that you end up spending even more time correcting that automation.”

 

Tip: Assess your current processes to identify areas that involve highly repetitive, routine tasks based on concise business rules, or still involve paper. Initial areas to review that may be ripe for accounting automation include invoice approval processes, AP workflows, certain journal entries and reconciliations, vendor management, or expense management such as T&E.

 

3. Older Technologies are Still Holding Productivity Hostage

As we sit here today, there is no doubt that technology advancements have enhanced the accountant’s ability to interpret data efficiently and effectively, particularly with innovations such as RPA (robotic process automation) and AI. The problem, though, is that change and accounting continue to be strange bedfellows. The two should co-exist and evolve harmoniously, but they oftentimes do not.

As example, according to research firm Gartner, RPA could save finance teams 25,000 hours of avoidable rework from human errors, at an annual cost savings of $878,000. Yet many companies are still in the early planning stages of RPA, and a long way from actual adoption.

This isn’t to say that all accounting organizations are averse to change as much as it is saying that some industries are more challenged than others. But given the bloated costs and productivity losses associated with manual work, companies cannot afford the status quo. Even if change doesn’t come easily, it must come.

The strides and inroads that AI is making in accounting point to an opportunity to achieve better results in a quicker span of time. Ryan, who works in the insurance industry, added, “The insurance industry, as a whole, is seeing so much change in terms of automation and AI, I think they are both going to continue to shape the accounting field for years to come.”

 

Tip: Look for enterprise accounting software that is modern enough to include the automation features needed, but flexible enough to address your company’s unique environment. Ideally you will want a solution that understands the insurance industry and can help you safely automate “parts” of your manual processes, including those nuances that are unique to the industry. Initial areas to assess might include automated invoice approvals, AP workflows, certain journal entries and reconciliations, vendor management, or expense management such as T&E.

 

4. Recruiting the Right Talent is Difficult

Marc Benioff, Chair and co-CEO of Salesforce once said, “Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth.” For those trying to hire accounting talent in the insurance industry, the same holds true.

The hard-earned CPA designation on a resume is no longer enough. As Ryan mentions, “I look for people who I know are going to be smart and who can think critically. I like the members of my team to have diverse skills and backgrounds because they can challenge and encourage each other by offering different perspectives.”

The reality is that new accountants who are just entering the fray, as well as the old guard, are now slowly seeing AI, cloud computing and automation as technologies that are impacting their profession and growth opportunities. Consequently, companies that are not forward-thinking and are not automating more manual processes may be losing out on much more than productivity concerns.

As Lucero explains, “One of the hidden problems associated with NOT automating and continuing to do manual work is that it can become an issue for companies that are trying to attract new talent.” New talent expects more innovative technologies and less of the repetitive, manual work that keeps them trapped in bookkeeper-type roles.

 

Tip: Innovative technology and the ability to attract top talent are indeed intertwined, much like the mantra of Field of Dreams, “build it and they will come.” First and foremost, future-ready technology (aided greatly by cloud accounting software) is critical to keep your company competitive and operating efficiently. An equally valuable side effect of that commitment is the ability to attract and retain ideal employees who see the opportunity to join the company as career growth and not a step back in time.

 

Conclusion

On the surface, the top accounting challenges involve people, skills, or productivity. But the common denominator at the heart of nearly every pain point is the need for accounting automation. Without modern technology that enables the automation of routine tasks, accounting teams cannot realize significant productivity improvements, find greater rewards and opportunities in their career choices, or attract emerging, top talent.

Spencer Kuo, VP of Solution Consulting at Flexi Software, sums it best with this: “Right now, accounting, technology and automation have reached this inflection point in which accounting is automated enough and the analytics and reporting is good enough to enable the accounting department to make that evolutionary shift from being ‘just accountants’ to being more of an analytical organization.”

Most accountants have already realized that technology will continue to change their day-to-day job requirements. They are also beginning to understand the resulting opportunity to step into expanded roles which are more strategic in nature and can add direct, impactful, and more visible value to their company. As insurance accountants elevate their learning and adoption of new technologies, it’s important to recognize that it’s not about whether automation will take jobs away but rather how it can make their job better.

 

Flexi’s future-ready accounting platform, combined with our 30+ years of expertise delivering enterprise accounting software, are among the reasons why advisory firm Aite-Novarica has recognized Flexi as one of the leading providers of General Ledger and Financial Systems for the financial services industry. Schedule a demo and allow us to show you the Flexi difference, and why enterprises of all sizes choose Flexi.

To dive deeper into this subject, including trends, statistics, and additional insight from industry experts, download Flexi’s eBook, Accounting Automation and AI.

 

Flexi Named Among Top Accounting Software for Insurance Companies

Aite-Novarica Group, an advisory firm that delivers unique intelligence and reliable insights to the financial services and insurance industry, has recognized Flexi Software as one of the leading providers of General Ledger and Financial Systems for the Insurance industry.

Their report provides an overview of the current solution provider marketplace for insurance general ledger (GL)/financial systems, and profiles six of the leading GL/financial systems. It is designed to assist both property/casualty and life/annuity/benefits insurers in drawing up their short lists of potential providers based on vendor market position and offering details.

Flexi’s positioning – among other leaders Microsoft, Oracle, FIS, Workday and Sapiens – reflects our focus on developing a world-class platform while remaining agile and responsive. This strategy bodes well for our customers seeking a more flexible platform that can accommodate the unique needs of their business, with assurance of personalized support.

Flexi’s beginnings over 30 years ago were rooted in industries including insurance, banking, credit unions, and healthcare where security and performance are paramount. Flexi is also a preferred white label accounting solution, empowering Fortune 100 brands to confidently build their future with Flex as the backbone behind their accounting operations.

When you need a top-tier accounting platform with the utmost security, yet still desire a flexible infrastructure and personalized support, Flexi is the answer.

Learn more about our accounting solutions at Flexi.com. Get the full report from Aite-Novarica here.

Image source: Aite Novarica

Recap: Flexi’s 30th Anniversary User Conference

On October 29, 2020 Flexi hosted its 30th Anniversary User Conference online. This virtual experience was no less impactful than the previously planned in-person venue in Naples, Florida. While COVID-19 caused us to shift plans, the virtual gathering produced many benefits including greater inclusion with a large gathering of Flexi customers from all over the country.

Conference host Spencer Kuo did an outstanding job of keeping the User Conference engaging, interactive, and informative. Highlights of the event are recapped below.

  • Over 50% of attendees have been with Flexi for more than 10 years. Nearly one quarter have been Flexi customers for 20+ years. Those impressive statistics reinforce Flexi’s “staying power” and our ability to continually innovate and deliver all the new features our customers need to stay current, keep up with changing compliance requirements, and increasingly work more efficiently.

  • Keynote Address from Flexi CEO and co-founder, Stefan R. Bothe, gave attendees an inside look at the company’s growth and celebration of its 30th Anniversary milestone, as well as emerging industry trends.

  • Customer Showcase sessions allowed for valuable learning from peers as featured customers shared their experiences and best practices for using Flexi software. One banking customer shared how FlexiAnalysis has saved the accounting team over 30 hours per month, and one insurance customer shared how moving their accounting system to the cloud with Flexicloud has enabled accounting to better adapt to a remote work environment.

  • Flexi Solutions overview by Spencer Kuo gave customers a fresh look at Flexi’s full accounting suite, including a walk-through demonstration of newer capabilities: eRequest app (workflow-based, paperless procurement process), FlexiBI (powerful cloud analytics that’s ready out of the box and requires no coding), and other time-saving features.

  • Interactive Polls provided instant feedback regarding customer needs and challenges, as well as collaborative input on new ideas.

  • Constructive Chats enabled continuous Q&A throughout the conference.

  • Flexi Roadmap was shared by Dmitry Trudov, President of Flexi Software Division, giving attendees a preview of the new products and features that are being introduced in the next release, Flexi 2020 r2 (6.4).

  • Support and Services teams, represented by Adnan Khaliq, Jason VanderPloog, Christian Pellegrino and Steven Pickus, were clearly the “fan favorites” with the chat window lighting up with glowing feedback and reviews from Flexi customers regarding the exceptional responsiveness and service they have received.

"Support has always been FANTASTIC in our experience. I can't say enough about how responsive and helpful this team is. Shout out to Steven, Christian, Grainne, Ed, etc."

-Flexi User Conference Attendee

"Jason, Paul and Elliot are the best!! They have always gone above and beyond for us and we could not be more thankful for everything they do!!"

-Flexi User Conference Attendee

​​Accounting Software for Business​​

The 2020 Flexi User Conference was a big success. For those who joined us or participated, thank you. For those who missed it, all sessions were recorded and will be made available shortly (or contact us for more immediate access).

 

Flexi Software Celebrates 30 Years of Innovation in Accounting Software

Flexi 30 Year Anniversary Logo

2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Flexi Software, a provider of premium accounting software for business. With its continuous innovation, Flexi’s three decades of experience has powered the financial operations of enterprises worldwide representing Fortune 10 brands, global financial institutions, insurance companies, healthcare organizations, and other industries where superior performance and security are paramount.

From its beginnings in the early 1990’s, Flexi was no ordinary accounting software provider. Supporting one of the world’s largest banks required the ability to process billions of transactions, convert global currencies, consolidate multiple entities, and provide daily close capabilities – all with extreme precision, speed, and security.

Flexi’s flawless execution earned its reputation as a premier accounting software provider for enterprises with complex accounting environments. The company’s platform was widely regarded as one of the industry’s first accounting systems with a client-servicer architecture utilizing industry standard technologies and development tools; a pioneer of the open platform needed to seamlessly integrate accounting and financial data with other technologies and third-party systems.

This foresight and ability to be first-to-market continued to fuel Flexi’s growth. The company was among the first to introduce workflow automation capability in the late 1990’s, over a decade before the rest of the industry embraced it. With a similar lens into the future, Flexi identified the emerging opportunity for companies to gain efficiencies by outsourcing the back-end accounting operations. Flexi’s open platform, robust functionality, and ability to white label the platform made it the ideal choice for finance and accounting outsourcing companies needing an enterprise solution to support the growth potential of an estimated $420B global industry.

Innovation has continued to drive Flexi’s platform. Today the company announces its newest release of product enhancements that will be unveiled during the October 2020 User Group Conference. Highlights include:

  • eRequisition, an automation application to streamline the procurement process, which joins Flexi’s suite of eApps that enable paperless, automated processes for T&E, invoicing, vendor management and more.
  • A fully integrated suite of FP&A solutions for better and faster reporting, analysis and planning, building upon Flexi’s belief that giving users access to information is the key to any accounting solution.

“From the beginning, we wanted to offer the best accounting software to our clients and not be all things to all people like the traditional ERP vendors,” said Stefan R. Bothe, Flexi’s co-founder who remains at the helm today. “The industry has seen significant disruption over the past 30 years, as companies have either been acquired by much larger ERP providers or not survived. Our focus on delivering world-class accounting solutions has enabled Flexi to prevail as the only remaining original client-server accounting software providers, which included Peoplesoft and JD Edwards.”

Flexi’s focused development strategy has paid off for both the company and its customers. Customers benefit from the continuity and reliability of an accounting software that easily adapts as business and technology needs change or grow, and Flexi experiences remarkably high retention rates and loyalty from its strong customer base.

A summary of key milestones includes:

  • Delivering the technology that enables continuous close for financial institutions and other enterprises needing daily close capabilities.
  • Enhancing Flexi’s initial core accounting modules with workflow in 1996 to automate routine accounting tasks, more than a decade before the rest of the industry began embracing this trend.
  • Greatly simplifying accounting processes in complex environments with the concept of “multi-everything:” multi-entities, multi-books, multi-currencies, or multi-GLs that must be consolidated.
  • Enabling outstanding growth for industry partners that private-label Flexi’s software to bring an accounting solution to their customers across diverse industries, serving millions of end users around the globe.
  • Providing cloud accounting software to give customers the flexibility to choose either cloud or on-premise delivery, making Flexi one of the most experienced vendors offering both options.
  • Continually innovating, most recently with the release of FlexiFinancials 6.3 that includes additional automation applications as well as a fully integrated FP&A suite with reporting, cloud analytics and budget software.
  • Achieving remarkable retention rates and a client satisfaction rate of 96% through Flexi’s commitment to deliver an exceptional customer experience with VIP-level support.

With the advent of cloud computing and the mainstream acceptance of business process outsourcing, many companies are rethinking the role of accounting and taking steps to shift away from a transaction-oriented role to a more value-added function that focuses on analyzing data and improving corporate decision making. Flexi will continue to be a force in shaping this future and the next transformative trend in the industry: accounting factories.

“The creation of accounting factories to automate or outsource the management of financial data processing will enable the finance staff to step into more visible and strategic roles of the front office,” Bothe said. “Flexi will continue to be a key player in this shift and remain committed to enabling our clients to respond quickly and remain ahead of the curve.”

CPA Software Market Global Analysis

Flexi is among the leading accounting software providers included in the CPA Software Market 2020 Global Report.

The report is intended to serve as a document containing aggregate information, which promotes and assists in the estimation of all aspects of the CPA Software Market. Visit CDI to request a copy of the report. 

Key Players in General Ledger Software Market

A new informative report on the global General Ledger Software market titled as, General Ledger Software has recently published by Contrive Datum Insights (CDI) to its humongous database which helps to shape the future of the businesses by making well-informed business decisions. It offers a comprehensive analysis of various business aspects such as global market trends, recent technological advancements, market shares, size, and new innovations.

As expressed by CDI, “the report presents a thorough overview of the competitive landscape of the global General Ledger Software Market and the detailed business profiles of the market’s notable players.”

Flexi is among the key players included in this report. Visit CDI to request a report sample. 

Enterprise Accounting Software Market Size Forecast 2020-2027

Flexi is among the leading players covered in The Enterprise Accounting Software Market Report, made available by Market Research Intellect

“It is a comprehensive document that provides valuable insights into market elements such as drivers, restraints, competitive landscape, and technology evolution. For better understanding of the market, the report offers a comprehensive analysis of the key segments and future growth prospects. The current COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed market dynamics and the global economy. The report provides an impact analysis of the pandemic on the entire market. It also provides an analysis of the current and future impact. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the dynamic changes in trends and requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also includes a post-COVID scenario and prospects for future growth.”

 

Insurance Accounting Software Industry Size 2019

A Research study on Insurance Accounting Software Market analyzes and offers ideas of exhaustive research on ancient and recent Insurance Accounting Software market size. Along with the estimated future possibilities of the market and emerging trends in the Insurance Accounting Software market.

As per the report, the Insurance Accounting Software market is predicted to gain significant returns while registering a lucrative annual growth rate during the foreseen time period. 

Flexi is among the leading providers of Insurance Accounting Software covered in the report. Request a copy from Express Journal.

3 Bold Projections for 2020 Enterprise Accounting Software Market

Excel based financial analytics

Flexi is noted among the key players included in the findings released by HTF MI.

“A new business intelligence report released by HTF MI with title “Global Enterprise Accounting Software Market Report 2020″ is designed covering micro level of analysis by manufacturers and key business segments. The Global Enterprise Accounting Software Market survey analysis offers energetic visions to conclude and study market size, market hopes, and competitive surroundings. The research is derived through primary and secondary statistics sources and it comprises both qualitative and quantitative detailing.”

Learn more and get the report online.