Updated: Sep 15
Here's a quick checklist for all Finance & Accounting Managers, Directors and Department Heads. It's not only about high ROIs and Lean Six Sigma process improvement but also about making the work more manageable and pleasant.
Invest in equipment & physical environment
It's all about the people and if you can make their work more comfortable or more efficient, go for it! Remember, it can work in many ways, and removing instructions or making it more enjoyable is also beneficial.
1. Get an extra monitor or two. A 24-inch monitor bought for £100 and amortised over typical 660 working days comes to just around £0.02/h. And that's deductible!
2. Get a physical mailbox for incoming invoices. Do not give Johny another occasion to tell you that non-funny joke. Let him feed the mailbox instead.
3. Make the office comfortable - minimise noise, optimise humidity, use air conditioning and fans. Also, limit distractions by moving takeaway flyers and eating to the kitchen to avoid hunger contagion.
Improve & automate processes
Keeping software use and processes under control makes the work more pleasant. You and your colleagues may oversee many reports and procedures done once per quarter or less frequently. It pays off to structure the collaborative work and master the software.
4. Learn your software. In-depth. Even the boring, technical functionalities. If your career path means a life sentence with spreadsheets, befriend with Microsoft Excel. Or master the accounting software you use.
5. Use templates and automation in Excel. Because hand-written invoices are passé and Excel VBA macros can generate them in no time.
6. Check processes for dead-ends and error-proof if possible. Your generic Accounts email won't migrate data from spreadsheets to Sage by itself when the email owner is no longer with the company.
7. Eliminate bottlenecks. Minimise downtime. Consider the availability of all process stakeholders and the scope of their contributions.
8. Log employee task if your department is big enough. Obviously, for Business Intelligence and continuous improvement purposes, not to micromanage.
Plan finance & accounting work and prevent errors
Avoiding a hectic month-end is invaluable. So is to meet all the deadlines and avoid costly errors. Planning brings stability and gives a leeway to check and correct all the outputs. And it not only relates to work within the Finance or Accounts but also the collaboration with other teams.
9. Plan tasks: weekly, monthly and annually. To avoid stress and hectic work, because that one small spreadsheet error may require three days of rework.
10. Have desktop procedures or manuals always ready. Sorry, we don't know how to do that, Sarah is on vacation.
11. Plan continuity of availability – have a backup schedule. Sorry, we cannot take your call. The accounts team has a coffee break.
12. Create calls handling policies or schedules. Because the fifth call about already paid invoice is not worthy of your time.
13. Minimise the impact of ad hoc work with the right prioritising rules. When General Manager or CEO wants it now, you want to be able to help them put out a fire.
14. Plan for succession and continuity. Because employees go on maternity/paternity leave, retire, change jobs and careers.
Simplify your work if possible
Solutions don't have to be complex to work well. They have to be adequate and robust. It's incredible how many ideas for improvement can bring a simple walk around the office.
15. Standardise procedures. A procedure of 6 steps could be done in 720 different ways, but who's got time for that.
16. Go paperless - digitalise, categorise and catalogue documents. Because 1000 pages could weigh 2.5kg on your desk or 25 MB on the cloud. Not to mention the carbon footprint.
Establish policies and stick to them
Developing policies and defining responsibilities doesn't make the Head of Accounts or Finance Director stiff or their teams boring. It makes them confident and empowered. People shouldn't be overwhelmed by their workloads. Quite the opposite, processes should be people-independent, especially those related to spreadsheets.
17. Facilitate deep work & focus
Socialising can be refreshing but not in excess. Creating conditions that allow focusing on tasks that don't require collaboration can work miracles. You may, for instance, turn to music that boosts concentration.
18. Communicate adequately, especially on the enterprise-wide level. Specify who, when, where and how, to avoid stampede near the payroll office.
19. Define the scope of work and responsibility. Accounting tasks are not chocolate coins, and no one grabs them voluntarily unless told to.
20. Develop and communicate the overtime policy. Let the spreadsheet-thirsty financial analysts work more if they want to, but don't force David to miss his son's birthday on Sunday.
21. Establish and communicate the internet and social media use policy. Settle somewhere between selfies of corporate events only and moving business to Facebook altogether.
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Michael Sena. The founder of Senacea – MS Excel consultancy based in London, operating worldwide. If you are looking for MS Excel or VBA consultants to develop new tools or bring efficiency to your spreadsheets, contact us now.