Hard to believe it’s that time of year again. Before you get completely consumed by year-end tasks, check out these best practices from your peers.
Everyone has their own way of tackling this monster chore. But there are some strategies that can help finance departments of all sizes minimize the chaos and the stress.
Here are six of the best we’ve heard:
1. Publicize deadlines early and often. Christmas and New Year’s fall on Fridays this year – what will that do to your deadlines for final check runs, etc.? Some finance pros find that early (and frequent) reminders of all year deadlines, highlighting any changes from the norm, can keep last-minute frenzy to a minimum.
2. Have a checklist. Of course everyone has a mental checklist for everything that needs to happen between now and year-end. But a physical checklist helps too, say many of your peers. That includes not only what Finance has to get done but IT and other support staff, too.
3. Read all instructions early. The last thing anyone wants is a surprise at crunch time. So crack open those forms and download those instructions ASAP. And be sure they get read. That way if any specifications or requirements have changed, you’ll have plenty of time to account for that and even try a test run.
4. Prep new forms with blank space for updates. Certain things change every year, like the IRS standard mileage rate. And Finance will have to announce that via e-mail, in a memo, on your company intranet, etc. Some Finance pros keep a template on their desktops announcing the annual updates. Then, when IRS or other agencies announce the new numbers, all you have to do is plug it in and send away. Why reinvent the wheel, especially when time is at such a premium?
5. Do any reconciliations you can ahead of time. Granted you can’t get everything done in advance. But take another look at that checklist to see which tasks, like certain reconciliations, can be tackled in advance of Dec. 31. That’s made other finance pros’ to-do list a bit shorter when they need it most.
6. Institute “quiet hours.” No matter what size your year-end to-do list is, everyone could use some quiet time to concentrate on the tasks at hand. That’s why some finance departments institute “quiet hours” either once a day or at least once a week, particularly during year-end. Phones go to voice mail, e-mails don’t get checked – walk-ins are for true emergencies only. Some of your peers find the converse works, too: Setting “open office hours” where people can come in with questions, keeping the number of random interruptions to a minimum.
Do you have any proven tips that make your own year-end smoother? Share them here.