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Signs of finance department dysfunction

We’ve worked with finance departments ranging from one to 100 people. Regardless of size or industry, five themes pop up over and over again. Focus on these five areas to help transform the value your finance team brings to your organization.

1. Evaluate the design of your team

Your back office accounting team may have all of the right components, but roles and responsibilities evolve over time, leaving you with illogical division of duties, inefficient reporting structures, and vastly uneven capacity. Solve this issue by documenting roles and processes and cross-training staff.

2. Fix the general ledger setup

You know the old saying “garbage in, garbage out?” In a finance department, a more precise analogy might be sorted versus single sorted recycling. While all of your information is (or should be) getting into your general ledger (GL) system, the real issue we see is that the GL system isn’t set up to sort and track items the way you need them. Some take the “single sort” approach, throwing all of the data together without any way to distinguish what it aligns with. Even more common is having way too many accounts.

Take time to build appropriate data architecture on the front end, or consider “refreshing” your chart of accounts every three to five years to ensure you track data in a meaningful way.

3. Use technology to make processes more efficient

The most common opportunity we see to enhance efficiency is to throw the accounts payable process out the window and start over. Technology prices have come down enough that our clients of all sizes can add on systems to make great strides in automating accounts payable.

4. Get out of manual reporting

While many have made the process more efficient over time by using formulas and macros, a manual process is never as fast as we think it will be and leaves so much room for human error. Building out reporting in general ledger systems can be cumbersome at the outset, but, with a good system, good data structure, and a little elbow grease up front, the rewards can be significant.

5. Align your priorities

If your No. 1 goal is to get a clean audit, but your management team never sees financials and has to fly blind to make decisions, the priorities of the team may not be fully aligned with organizational goals.

Define your goals and objectives as a full finance and accounting team and share those with your colleagues. Get their insight into how your team can help them do their jobs better.

For more information about receiving a finance department assessment in Cedar Rapids, contact Brian Roth at or (319) 558-0268.

This article, originally written by Kelsey Vatsaas and published on, was shortened for this publication. The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, accounting, investment, or tax advice or opinion provided by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CliftonLarsonAllen) to the reader. For more information, visit

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