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January 9, 2024
Min Read

How to Build the Best Month-end Close Checklist

Faster closes begin with better checklists. We'll walk through best practices for month-end close checklists that align teams, provide visibility, and ensure audit-readiness.

Tierney Pretzer
Accounting Guides
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You want a faster close every month. The first place to start is examining your close checklist, the playbook for your monthly close process. 

Like a sports playbook, the close checklist outlines the role each member of the team plays, avoids accidental collisions or miscoordination, and keeps the team on track.

So what makes a best-in-class close checklist? We’ve outlined what top-tier close checklists include to ensure yours is steering your team towards the easiest close possible.

The Table Stakes

Before we jump into more advanced tactics, it’s important to first highlight the basics. 

At a minimum, your close checklist should include the comprehensive list of tasks that your team needs to complete each close. 

While the initial task of writing it all down may at first seem unnecessary, in order to understand what’s behind your close being delayed, you’ll need full visibility into what’s happening each month.

If you’re starting from scratch, download your existing GL data and scan through to determine how those journal entries or transactions were booked and what systems were used. Then note  who did it and around what time that information was first available. 

This should give you a baseline view of what’s happening during the close (and perhaps what’s not but should be).

With your skeleton checklist now in hand, we recommend that each task include: 

  • Who’s assigned the task
  • Who will review the task
  • When the task should be completed
  • When the task should be reviewed
  • Task category
  • Frequency (Annual, monthly, quarterly)
  • Entity (when relevant)

Source: Numeric close checklist

Each of these will help your team both understand their role, key deadlines, and enable you to filter and sort tasks as needed to diagnose sticking points in your close.

Enough Detail to On-board New Team Members

If your close checklist is best in class, adding a new team member should be seamless. You simply pass along your detailed playbook and they’re able to operate without need for back and forth meetings or emails. 

How can your team provide that level of context? We recommend considering a blend of—

  • Comprehensive descriptions with numbered steps 
  • Links out to templates for entries 
  • Loom videos of team members walking through more complicated processes 
  • Screenshots of tech involved or what exact data to pull 

Task description for a task item "Post interest transactions manually in investment account"

Particularly for growing accounting teams, a well documented checklist saves time in the long-run with fewer errors and full clarity across the close. 

A Real Playbook 

Task Dependencies

You’ve outlined who’s handling which aspects of the close. Check. But stopping there is a 2-dimension portrait of your team’s close playbook. 

A critical aspect of the close is the interdependence of some steps on others. You need to first do X before you’re able to do Y. In order to map the game plan, you need to clearly articulate dependencies in your close process.

Scan your checklist for any tasks that hold up others and mark them as dependent. If using Numeric, you’ll then be able to see on the task profile that your outstanding task is blocking another teammate, helping the whole team prioritize and better sequence work. 

Order matters in the close. Mapping dependencies is critical to a best-in-class close playbook.

Make it Visible to All 

While accountants are the core stakeholders in the close, running an effective process requires visibility beyond the accounting department. 

Best in class close checklists are visible for members of the FP&A team. This way, if there’s a question about when a specific aspect of the close will be finalized or a needed reclass, the team can quickly reference the close checklist and add a comment without the need for emailing back and forth. 

Teams using Numeric provide FP&A and other key stakeholders across the company with viewing/commenting access so that issues during the close are caught proactively. 

Organize your close, align your team

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You’re being realistic 

The best monthly close checklists avoid an all too common human flaw: thinking we can achieve more than we can in a given time period. 

Especially when you want to shorten your close process, it’s easy to attach task deadlines that are aggressive and fall into wishful thinking. 

Two concrete ways to prevent your optimism from being a roadblock: 

  1. Group your tasks by person on the team and then sort by date, does the workload for any one person seem too concentrated on a particular date? Is the balance appropriate? 
  2. If using Numeric, upload your holiday calendar so that your close process timeline automatically takes into account time off, preventing a mad rush to close out on month’s when holidays overlap with the close. 

Your Sidekick to an Audit

The best month-end close checklists are an auditor's dream. To keep your checklist in top shape come potential audit your checklist should: 

  • Be version controlled. Once a close wraps up, your checklist should be a snapshot in time of your team's work.
  • Include all comments & discussion. While it’s tempting to ask questions and add notes in Slack or email channels, to best prepare for an audit you want the full record of what’s been done and discussed related to the close tied with your monthly checklist. 
  • Record changes over time. If an account was modified since it was last reconciled, your checklist completion each month should highlight the change. For teams using Numeric, the task history will automatically include a record of completion, reviews, any changes, comments, and notes.

Audit trail on a task in Numeric

Embedded in your Day-to-Day

While a best in class checklist certainly helps during an audit, often the primary rationale for most teams to invest in their checklist format, structure, and software is to improve their close process. 

For a checklist to have that effect, it’s not enough to set it and forget it, only viewing the checklist at the end of the month. 

Best in class close checklists are embedded natively in the workflows of accounting teams. For teams using Numeric, this translates to email notifications and Slack notifications of tasks that need to be completed or reviewed. Determine how and where team members will keep track of progress across the close, linking out or providing a summary of the checklist. 

Think through, where can you link out to your checklist? Where does your team already reference often?

Leading teams also incorporate their checklist into standing team meetings, creating views purpose-built for quickly scanning what’s on deck or holding up the close. 

Progress to close overview in Numeric

While every team works differently, most companies find a view of all outstanding tasks, sorted by date, and grouped by team member to be the best view for weekly meetings. Having multiple views of your checklist so that team members can quickly reference what’s on deck for them, what’s overdue across the board, or their progress to date reduces friction in executing on the monthly close. 

View of outstanding tasks, grouped by category, and sorted by date

Iterate Each Month 

Finally, the goal here isn’t that month one your checklist is perfect. Instead, small improvements to your checklist over time compound each month, making a huge difference over time. 

We encourage teams to view the monthly close as an continuous improvement process — identifying inefficiencies and gradually tackling them one by one. 

Whether it’s adding robust documentation, better views to integrate your checklist into your work, or adding dependencies to all tasks, investing upfront in your checklist goes a long way towards a faster close.  

How Numeric can help

Implementing best practices is easier with the right tools. With Numeric, teams start for free managing their monthly close, with best practices baked into our product design. Organize your close, provide full visibility, and stay ahead of audits.

Get started for free.

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