Social distancing measures have considerably impacted the financial close process of companies. A large majority of finance professionals are no longer able to come to the office to perform journal entries, account reconciliations, and respond to external audit queries. The situation creates delays in the preparation of financial results and increases the risk of controls not being executed as designed.
Jani Martikkala: Finance Automation and Heavy Metal
Friday, June 5, Aico’s Harri Laatikainen and Clive Jefferies demonstrated to a TriFinance audience how the Aico software helps organizations complete their month-end closing more efficient and up to 50% faster. Aico is a Finnish software company specialised in financial automation solutions.
For this interview, the team of CFO services sat down with Jani Martikkala, Sales Director at Aico to discuss how the current crisis reveals the benefits of technology in improving resilience and maintaining adequate financial controls. When not helping customers with technology for financial close, Jani likes to play the drums. He played in a Heavy Metal band for over 10 years.
Collaborating more efficiently while working remotely
According to you – what’s the biggest challenge for the Finance department right now?
Jani Martikkala: ‘Three months ago, nobody had a clue just how different the world would be and how fast the change would happen. The sole purpose of a financial department brought together in the form of SSC or GBS is now under attack. People have to work from home, some are getting sick or have people around them getting sick, IT infrastructure is under stress as people try to work and communicate remotely. All in all, there is less predictability, while getting results faster, and knowing what to focus on is critical.’
How does technology like Aico help finance professionals to collaborate more efficiently in a period of intensive teleworking?
Jani Martikkala: ‘Since we can’t go over to a colleague to look at their screen like we used to, the problem is: “How do we collaborate on a specific task?” Accountants need a portal to share and monitor their work, but they also must be able to discuss specific details. Aico has that functionality, offering collaboration between finance professionals and notifications from real-time ERP data without having to tab back and forth all of the time.’
Speed, ease of use, built-in workflows, and dashboards
What are Aico’s benefits versus a classic ERP application?
Jani Martikkala: ‘Speed, ease of use, built-in workflows, and dashboards to track processes and progress are what users notice first. Users get insight into what has been done, or more important – what hasn’t. We see improvements also in enforcing internal controls, process compliance, and standardization across the company that does not require a huge ERP upgrade or a single chart of accounts. Purpose built-in applications like Aico are designed for end-users to have the best functionalities to complete the work needed to be performed at the end of the month.’
What about compliance? How does it facilitate continuous procedure conformity?
Jani Martikkala: ‘If we focus on internal compliance & control activities, we must ensure that people follow corporate procedures regardless of the system landscape, following the same rules in each country despite different versions of ERP. In reality, even when forcing global rules, legal entities across the world may not have the ability to follow those rules instantly and must run time-consuming manual checks to report their compliance.
‘Aico brings flexibility to this, as compliance and controls can dynamically vary between legal entities based on the content of documents, for example, manual journal entries.
‘In practice, this means that required supporting evidence and approvals can vary not just between legal entities across the globe, but also between different type of documents within a single legal entity. These controls are included in the process in Aico and enforce users to follow them by instructing correct behaviour when rules are not followed and preventing sending documents further in the workflow before rules are met. Maintaining these rules is also simple and in the responsibility of the customer, not IT or consultants.’
How about fulfilling external auditing requirements and obligations?
Jani Martikkala: ‘With many audits now also taking place remotely, Aico binds together all relevant information by linking it automatically. The user can, for example, create journals directly from a close task or from the reconciliation document and the auditor can drill between documents via links. As prior period documents are visible via links, users can follow the history as far as necessary.’
We see improvements in enforcing internal controls, process compliance, and standardization across the company that does not require a huge ERP upgrade or a single chart of accounts.
Jani Martikkala, Sales Director at Aico
Making the uncertain future a bit more predictable
Do you think this is the right moment to modernize month-end close work practices?
Jani Martikkala: ‘What the right moment is, depends on so many things. For many people, the focus is now on business continuity and managing the risk of this situation becoming the new standard for months or even years to come.
‘Covid-19 has shown us how unpredictable the future can be, even when it comes to financial close which in general should be something that is repeated in the same manner from month to month.
‘Aico can make that uncertain future a bit more predictable. These days, predictability has a certain value. So yes, now is the better time than ever for investing in streamlining your processes and having technology implemented to help increase visibility and control.’
How fast can you deploy such a capability?
Jani Martikkala: ‘We offer two steps to move forward. The first step is to streamline your processes and have them modelled in the Aico closing task manager without adding the integration between Aico and your ERP system.
‘This first step can be executed very quickly. Instant gains from this step are the increased visibility, auditability, and shorter waiting time for end-users as the system keeps users informed when they should be active and they can follow the progress in real-time. Technology also forces users to execute all tasks in the right order with enforced supporting evidence and approvals.
‘Step two would then be to start adding automation by implementing journal solutions and reconciliation solutions with real-time integration into your ERP system. Aico can automate the running of reports in your ERP system and even create journals based on the data found from those reports. This step will take longer but the results are immediate and measurable.’
This article was originally published by TriFinance.