Close, connected accounting teams work better and faster, says US survey

The stronger the collaboration, the faster financial reporting teams can complete the month-end close. That was one of the biggest takeaways from a new survey of nearly 600 finance and accounting professionals in the US.

Overall, the 2019 State of Financial Reporting Survey: Connectivity’s Impact on the Financial Close, issued in early November by Workiva in partnership with the Journal of Accountancy, found that connection and collaboration fuel a faster close, manual tasks are far and away the top concern for teams and automation in the finance function is on the rise.

The findings in this report are based on surveys conducted by Workiva from March through May 2019. The 2019 State of Financial Reporting Survey drew responses from 584 accounting and finance professionals. Respondents represented all levels of businesses, including approximately 25% in the C-suite; 37% at the VP, director or executive level; and 38% at the manager and staff level.

The survey found that respondents who describe their teams as “very connected,” about 40%,   say they complete the month-end close in five days or less—nearly double the percentage of those who describe their collaboration as “very disconnected.” In fact, more than half of those on “very disconnected” teams say their close takes 10 days or more. According to the report, “bringing data, people, and processes together could lead to efficiencies and shorten turnaround times.”

Organizations that considered themselves  “very connected” – either in the way they collaborate on, collect, or apply data – were overwhelmingly satisfied that they have sufficient time for analysis. By reducing manual tasks and increasing team connectivity, they can dedicate more hours toward financial planning and analysis.

Manual tasks were also a top concern in the financial close process, two times more than other factors. Performing manual tasks was the lead concern regardless of role – although for staff, turnaround times were a close second (35% to 33%, respectively). 

Automation in the close is becoming the norm. Modern teams are automating more areas of the close process. More than 75% of respondents have automated at least part of the financial close process or are thinking about it. “This appears to be in direct contradiction of the concerns related to manual tasks – indicating that, while organizations are automating more, they may not have achieved the level of automation they desire or are still early in their journey,” the report notes.

Larger teams are more likely to have adopted or considered automation, which can include connecting data from source systems like ERPs to financial reporting tools. “While larger teams may have had a head start on technology due to likely bigger budgets, modern cloud tools are fast becoming more affordable and make accounting automation accessible for teams of all sizes,” concludes the report.

For a free copy of the report, 2019 State of Financial Reporting Survey: Connectivity’s Impact on the Financial Close, contact