Executives say it all the time.  “I’m a big picture person” or “Don’t bother me with the details just give me the bottom line” or as that Saturday Night Live skit hilariously illustrates – “JUST FIX IT!”  Isn’t it nice, though, when executive management sees the big picture and also understands the details that need to be addressed in order for their vision to become a reality?

When it comes to realizing the vision of a streamlined, efficient accounting operation,  here are several best practices to consider if you’re feeling like your processes are broken.

  • Be Paperless.  All data, invoices, statements and reports should be transferred and stored in electronic form.
  • Enter Once.  Information is only keyed or saved one time at the point of origin and is then moved/exported/imported electronically from that point forward.
  • Cultivate Experts. Specialists and subject matter experts are pivotal.  Having someone who knows everything about accounts receivable or property taxes or insurance across entities makes a difference.
  • Centralize and Decentralize.  You can do both.  Centralization, consolidation and assembly lining tasks wherever possible provides opportunities for the most efficiency.  Centralized reporting hubs and key indicator dashboards are also important.  At the same time, it is important to recognize tasks that are best left de-centralized because of unique requirements or qualities.
  • Encourage Sameness. The more uniformity you have across entities, the easier it is to cross train and have flexibility in reporting and analysis (universal chart of accounts, shared databases, same bank, etc).
  • Know Your Software.  Knowing your software applications and what they can and can’t do is critical.  Companies often have functionality that could make their lives easier but don’t know about it or don’t have the time to harness it.
  • Match Skill Sets. Always make sure skill sets and knowledge are appropriately matched to the tasks.
  • Be Scalable. If your organization’s staffing needs are constantly changing due to acquisitions and dispositions or other organizational change, having scalable systems and staffing is critical.
  • Access the Cloud. Cloud computing can offer on-site personnel flexibility for various business needs (travel, working from home, etc) and allow companies to outsource some tasks to lower overhead and improve staffing quality.
  • Reduce Excel Accounting.  Be aware of the volume of tasks being done outside of your accounting systems in Excel.  This can be a signal that your software solutions are not adequately meeting your needs.
  • Establish Business Requirements.  Ensure the business requirements are not driven and adapted to the capabilities of existing stakeholders but are driven by the needs of the business.
  • Keep an Open Mind.  You don’t know what you don’t know – being able to accurately measure costs of a process, savings and time spent (time is money) is key.

SNL “Fix It” Skit