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The Close, Consolidate, Report & File process: Without Automation & Embedded Controls It’s A House Of Cards


“Get your house in order.”  This expression is referenced everywhere.  I hear politicians repeatedly using it: “Before we start talking new taxes or entitlement reforms we gotta get our house in order.”  Sports figures too: “We had a great practice today but, before we think about competing for the division title, we gotta get our house in order.”  Celebrities aren’t immune from invoking it either: “Like, I totally want to hit the party scene again but, since I like just got out of rehab, I like think I need to lay low and totally like get my house in order first.  One more thing…do you know where I can get a drink around here?”  Okay.  Maybe that last one’s a stretch.

Relating this expression to the processes owned by the finance functions at corporations, the house that most often needs to get in order is the Close, Consolidate, Report & File process, or CCRF.  The timeliness and accuracy in this process is pivotal for company survival.  Still, many companies struggle with this process for many reasons.  Some of these reasons are that businesses are still using multiple opaque and rigid systems lacking any integration capabilities to seamlessly align each of the activities like the required disclosures and governance of financial statement reporting.  Also, and most frequently, there are  poorly trackable and error-prone manual inputs or overrides to the data as spreadsheets and stand alone documents are often used in this process.  A lot of companies are using out-of-date and misappropriated tools without any audit-able workflow management system.   This time consuming, labor intensive approach leads to unnecessary delays completing the CCRF process in a timely and reliably accurate manner.   As a result, there’s little trust from the business users that these performance results are indeed accurate.  Therefore, the figures become largely ignored by the business users rendering them useless for business insight.  This leaves the workforce normally relying on these results to help make their strategic decisions forced to act on their gut or intuition.  Not good….and I haven’t even gotten into the ramifications of disclosing incorrect information to regulators or shareholders!

The Close, Consolidate, Report & File Process


Finance departments are already overburdened with newfound regulatory, compliance, and financial reporting requirements not to mention new disclosure expectations and the forthcoming global XBRL initiative while being pushed to be more analytical and insightful about “what the data is telling them” in regards to critical business impacting activities like market analytics, customer profitability, predictive analytics, scena
rio planning, etc. Yes, the rising water level of requirements falling under their purview shows no signs of abatement.  Yet, empirical research backed up by the likes of The Hackett Group, APQC and the IBM Global CFO/CIO Studies, shows that these finance departments continue to shrink in size relative to revenue at a time when they should be growing.  What’s wrong with this picture???

In summary, Finance is facing external pressures from the following:
  • Volatile and uncertain economy,
  • Compliance with new regulatory and financial reporting requirements means increased workloads,
  • New disclosure requirements and  global XBRL mandates means more work within tight time frame,

while having to respond to internal pressures from the following:

  • Evolving role of CFO and the Office of Finance
  • Need to liberate finance professionals from manual and complex processes
  • Executive management needs timely and accurate reports to respond to market opportunities in very short time

Changing Events & Regulations Since 1999


A controlled, automated, audit-able CCRF practice is required for finance to be doing the right things.  Finance teams are re-engineering their financial close processes to individual close, consolidate, report & file activities.  To manage and monitor these processes, they’re investing in integrated solutions that can automate these activities into a unified, secure solution.  Implementing this integrated CCRF solution provides instant benefits by automating administrative tasks with embedded controls to allow finance to focus on analysis and other high-value activities.  CCRF practices are no longer simply about closing the books, consolidating the data while running inter-company eliminations, minority interest calculations, and currency translations to come up with ‘the numbers’ before finally publishing them out on some financial reports.  No, there’s additional disclosures and financial governance required.  To get ahead of this one you’ve got to implement a CCRF system to manage it all else the levee will break and we know what happens then.

Find out more about how to automate this process because it’s not going to shrink in requirements.  So, get that house in order or I’ll invite that celebrity I referenced earlier over to your house for dinner.  :)

IBM Cognos Controller, IBM Cognos Clarity FSR, and IBM CognosBI solutions seamlessly manage this entire CCRF process end-to-end.  Take a look.

The core FPM processes are:

  1. Close, Consolidation, Report & File
  2. Profitability Modeling & Optimization
  3. Planning, Analysis & Forecasting
  4. Performance Reporting & Scorecarding
  5. Governance, Risk & Compliance

Next in this series covering Financial Performance Management we’ll focus on #2 above, Profitability Modeling & Optimization.

Tim O’Bryan/IBM

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