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Everyone knows ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, the famous English Christmas carol about the twelve days after Christmas. It starts on Christmas Day and lasts until the evening of the 5th of January – also known as Twelfth Night, or Epiphany.

For many this will be a relaxing time spent with family and friends with a slow start back to work in the New Year. Unfortunately, for many finance teams, this can be a very busy period with less time and added pressure.

Call me cynical, but for finance teams perhaps the words need to be changed to reflect reality! The diary of a financial controller might look something like this…

Day 1: Christmas Day, Saturday

On the first day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… open your presents under the tree

Day 2: Boxing Day, Sunday

On the second day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… relax and enjoy, don’t over-indulge

What he really means is to make the most of the time-off to recharge the batteries before returning to work when it is going to be all hands to the pump for our 31 December year-end. Oh, and don’t drink too much, you need to be on your A-game!

Day 3: Dec 27, Monday (Bank Holiday for most, but not for me)

On the third day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… can I have a year-end cash forecast?

It might be a Bank Holiday for most, but I have too much to do to sit around enjoying myself! Well, you can have a cash flow forecast, but it is a bit of a pain to pull together. We do not have an automated direct cash flow report and we have multiple systems we need to interrogate to have any idea where we are likely to be. Back to my manually compiled Excel report!

Day 4: Dec 28, Tuesday (Bank Holiday for most, but not for me)

On the fourth day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… help HR with payroll

One thing about working on Bank Holidays, you don’t get disturbed! Salaries still need to be paid and reporting needs to be done (the so-called Making Tax Digital). However, things are slow as the remote working process is slow and cumbersome. No one on the IT Support desk to help. If only we had a Cloud based solution!

Day 5: Dec 29, Wednesday

On the fifth day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… cash, cash, cash and more cash

The team is back working. The priority is maximising the cash balances so accounts receivable is in focus. The problem is that the system is not very automated and things like email chasers and cash allocations are manual. This limits our ability to maximise cash collections. If only we had better end-to-end credit management!

Day 6: Dec 30, Thursday

On the sixth day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… make sure everything is posted

Well, I would, but we don’t have an effective solution which means that we lose control of invoices and authorisation and we end up chasing our tails. The whole process is reliant upon manual intervention – it is a real problem. And don’t talk to me about employee expenses. That is even worse. Another late night for the team. If only we had a purchase management solution!

Day 7: Dec 31, Friday

On the seventh day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… have a happy new year

It’s the final day of the year. Not too much to do apart from providing some flash numbers for the CFO, ensuring everything is transacted that can be transacted and trying to load the budget for 2022 into the finance system in preparation for next year.

Day 8: New Year’s Day, Saturday

On the eighth day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… relax and enjoy

Perhaps I will spend today looking into technology and how it can help finance. Surely there must be a better way! 

Day 9: Jan 2, Sunday

On the ninth day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… relax and enjoy

Fat chance of relaxing, knowing what is in store for next week. Perhaps a chance to read that book I got for Christmas about mindfulness and stress!

Day 10: Jan 3, Monday (Bank Holiday for most, but not for me)

On the tenth day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… make sure everything reconciles

Need to work, too much to do! Lots of reconciliations to perform. Bank (as our accounting solution does not auto-reconcile), fixed assets (as this is a stand-alone, siloed solution) and some inter-company balances to agree. If only our reconciliations were automated and other solutions integrated!

Day 11: Jan 4, Tuesday

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… make final postings and close the books

That will be simple then! Multiple accounts systems to close. No automated way of doing accruals and prepayments because our sales and purchasing solutions are not fully integrated. It’s going to be a late one! If only our financial close process was more automated!

Day 12: Jan 5, Wednesday

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my CFO said to me… have the man pack ready for tomorrow

So, just the report pack to go. Just need to create the pack – bringing together actuals, forecast and budget and data from multiple sources. With a bit of luck, we may even have some time to perform some analysis and add some narrative explaining the numbers. It would be great to have the time to add some value and strategic insight! If only we had better tools to analyse data and understand business performance!

I can only dream that, by next Christmas, we are in a better position and have more integrated and automated solutions in place. Perhaps if I put a new ERP solution on my Christmas present list now, the CFO and Santa will make it happen in 2022. Let’s hope!

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