Many promising sprinters face a mental roadblock as they develop. Physical training and repetition propel them faster and faster, yet despite pushing their body harder each month, most still plateau. It often takes a wise coach to switch a sprinter’s mindset from simply moving quickly to moving their body with purpose, using better technique, and taking longer strides.
Finance teams face a similar predicament with their monthly financial close process. The process is acceptable, and may even perform well at times, but there can be a lot of manual tasks and specialized tools that may cap maximum speed as the team sprints toward the end of the month.
The effects of tool sprawl often manifest in the simplest tasks. Something that should take a few seconds or minutes is actually overcomplicated, requiring the same time consuming, manual steps, and multiple tools associated with larger tasks. The impact of these cumbersome processes is very difficult to measure, as are the hidden costs. There are opportunity costs associated with tool sprawl, such as increased staffing to address bottlenecks and more errors in general. Moreover, there is the very real cost of government-assessed fines that can be imposed when mistakes go undetected.
The modern spreadsheet is impressive, but when talking about specialized tools being a hinderance to a swift close, it is a foundational culprit. Spreadsheet applications were designed for accountants. The ability to calculate, organize, and problem solve using a spreadsheet on a desktop computer remains groundbreaking to this day. As companies scale and departments grow, the natural inclination is to stick with the tool because it has a low training curve.
However, the challenge comes with collaboration. The month-end close often involves several team members locked in a slow-moving, highly manual process of updating, uploading, and communicating around spreadsheets. Many organizations have built robust close processes based on spreadsheets, resulting in on-time completion and met deadlines. Because the system works, most have been content to tinker around the edges instead of considering ways to streamline the whole close process