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Close, Plan, and Run Faster - Manage your Accounting and Finance Operations...without excel!

Published December 10 2021
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To make an accounting or finance process efficient, you need to define the steps in the process, measure them, and continuously drive delays and bottlenecks out of the process. Toyota pioneered the continuous reduction waste [of time & resources] from their manufacturing processes. Toyota’s processes evolved into the Lean Six Sigma Approaches that are used widely today to simplify business processes. You can apply these strategies to optimize your Accounting and Finance ops!

Ask yourself: Are you managing your monthly accounting close or your quarterly forecast using an Excel spreadsheet?

You are not alone! Most accounting and finance teams managing their recurring business cycles using spreadsheet checklists, many phone calls, and lots of emails. It does not have to be this way – you can start optimizing these processes today – and you can start by getting these checklists into a tool that can assign ownership and monitor the process automatically.

Oracle’s EPM Cloud has several capabilities woven into its platform to document tasks and drive efficiency today. Here are some examples of where we see Controllers and CFOs take the first step to optimize their business processes:

  • Managing & monitoring the period or quarter accounting close.
  • Managing sub-ledger closing procedures like accounts receivable or projects.
  • Keeping a pulse on a monthly or quarterly forecasting cycle ensures all areas are on schedule.
  • Managing the list of account reconciliations that need to be closed before the organization can report earnings.
  • Managing the preparation, review, and distribution of a complex document like an earning’s release or annual report.

You can do this today!

Business process management is built right into Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud to help you manage the process while completing your close, plan, or another objective.

As we walk through the different tools, the process is generally the same to get started: add tasks, assign people to complete those tasks, and track their progress in real-time. Typically, assignees get email reminders when there is a task to complete. For example, Tasklists get added directly to Microsoft Outlook’s tasklists keeping their work front and center. And, Task Manager coordinates tasks across people, teams, and tools, and as someone completes a manual task, subsequent tasks can execute automatically like running a report or closing a ledger. Cool stuff!

Let’s run down the various capabilities in the Oracle EPM Cloud:

  1. Reporting Workflow in Oracle EPM Cloud Narrative Reporting
  2. Tasklists in Oracle EPM Cloud Planning
  3. Process Approvals in Oracle EPM Cloud Planning
  4. Worklists in Oracle EPM Cloud Account Reconciliation
  5. Task Manager in Oracle EPM Cloud Financial Close & Consolidation

#1 Reporting Workflow in Oracle EPM Cloud Narrative Reporting

Narrative Reporting subdivides a complex reporting deliverable in PowerPoint, Word, or PDF like a management briefing, earnings release, or annual report into its distinct pieces. First, you break your “report package” into “doclets” representing each report element: chart, table, graph, paragraph, or comment. Second, once you have all the pieces itemized, you can assign owners, reviewers, and approvers.

With a large document broken into its components and each piece assigned, you define a calendar to get the report compiled by your deadline. When the process kick-offs, each person receives an alert to start working on their piece.   The system dynamically stitches each person’s contribution together. Once the report is compiled, it’ll move through a review & approval workflow before being published.

We have seen our clients cut up to 40% of the effort to prepare big documents using Oracle EPM’s Narrative Reporting. Narrative Reporting manages the process, removing wasted time, effort, and lags.

Figure: In Narrative Reporting, you can break a complex document into its pieces and then manage the author, review, and distribution process in a project-plan-like workflow. Blog Image 1-1

#2 Tasklists in Oracle EPM Cloud Planning

Tasklists provide your budgeteers and forecasters a real-time job-aide to step a planner through the planning processes, e.g., review last month’s actuals, update volumes, enter expenses, and so on.

Tasklists are a step-by-step job-aide that takes someone through the steps to complete a budget. Tasks can have start & end dates, repeat on a schedule, and send email reminders for assigned tasks.

Tasklists can reduce the training participants need to complete a process they only do a few times a year. A Tasklist steps a planner through the process by providing instructions and commentary as they go.

Planners can access tasks in three places:

  1. Within the Oracle EPM Planning web application – you can follow a tasklist as you work within the application.
  2. Within Microsoft Excel – you can step through each part of a planning process through a pane on the right side of your screen.
  3. From Microsoft Outlook – planning tasks integrate directly into your “to-do” list within Outlook.

As all of your planners complete their tasks, the FP&A quarterback can monitor the overall process through built-in progress dashboards and reports.

Figure: Planning tasklists are easy-to-follow job-aides you can follow on the web, in Excel, or Outlook.

Blog Image 2-1


#3 Process Approvals in Oracle EPM Cloud Planning

Once your team completes their forecast, it's time to gain approval!

Oracle EPM Planning includes a built-in workflow engine to take a completed forecast or budget through an administrative review.

As a forecaster completes their budget, they will promote their department or functional area for approval. Each portion of the budget will matriculate through an approval workflow – being reviewed, commented on, rejected, or approved.

The system is flexible and allows each organization to define a promotional workflow.

Planning’s built-in workflow sends email notifications and alerts to let approvers know a unit is complete and requires review. If anyone is out on vacation, they can use out-of-office rules to prevent the process from getting jammed while they are out.

From a big-picture perspective, those managing the overall process can see where each area of the organization is in the approval cycle.

Figure: Planning Approvals is a built-in workflow to coordinate the review of budget and forecast submissions.

Blog 3


#4 Worklists in Oracle EPM Cloud Account Reconciliation

You probably have hundreds or thousands of GL accounts and sub-ledgers that must reconcile before you can close the books and report earnings. Most accounting organizations manage their account recs using Excel checklists, email, and status calls. But, there’s a better way!

Oracle’s Account Reconciliation Cloud Service inventories all of your account reconciliations in one place and provides an online task list and workflow for everyone to work from. Once you load your list of account reconciliations into the tool, you assign owners and deadlines to the account rec burn-down list. The tool manages the process by providing visibility on what recs are completed and/or falling behind.

Accountants can work down their list of assigned reconciliations, attach documentation, and submit completed reconciliations for approvals. If someone needs help, they can flag a specific rec for management attention. And managers can monitor the process and help resolve bottlenecks.

Figure: Using Account Reconciliation’s worklist you can assign each account reconciliation to a team member and monitor progress.

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 #5 Task Manager in Oracle EPM Cloud Financial Close & Consolidation

Task Manager is the muscle 💪to streamline your Accounting and Finance operations! Task Manager documents ALL of the tasks, manual and system, by building a comprehensive project plan to complete any operational business cycle like a sub-ledger close, reporting cycle, budget, or another business process. Assign tasks to people, organizations, and calendars.

Calendars align to different organizations (e.g., country, team, or geo) adapting to their holidays & other scheduling events.

Once a process kicks off, managers can watch the process unfold in real-time, showing bottlenecks, and allowing real-time intervention to get the process done.   Over time you can harness the tool to look for optimizations and remove inefficiencies.

At its heart, Task Manager combines and interweaves manual tasks and system-based events together. This dependency-based automation saves time by eliminating the lags between steps. An example might be: “When the GL team completes the AP to GL reconciliation, automatically check off the reconciliations in the close calendar.” Likewise, having the next task kick-off and notify the next person in line saves time, phone calls, and emails.

Figure: Task manager’s Worklist view makes sure everyone involved understands their tasks and deadlines

Blog Image 5

One subscription – many ways to improve your Accounting and Finance Ops!

The Oracle EPM Cloud makes it easy to improve your process continuously. Your Oracle EPM Cloud subscription includes all of these capabilities.

So, how do these capabilities compare?

  1. Reporting Workflow in Oracle EPM Cloud Narrative Reporting
  2. Tasklists in Oracle EPM Cloud Planning
  3. Process Approvals in Oracle EPM Cloud Planning
  4. Worklists in Oracle EPM Cloud Account Reconciliation
  5. Task Manager in Oracle EPM Cloud Financial Close & Consolidation

Improvement starts today!

Streamlining a business process is a journey – it’s better to start today – versus never starting! Make a list, assign owners, and track progress. Each time you run through the list, the process will improve.


David Pabst is a Director at Alithya and an Oracle ACE ♠ who recently wrote the book The Nine Principles of Agile Planning: Create Nimble and Dynamic Forecasting in Your Organization.  Contact us if you're interested in more details about connected planning or how to obtain a copy of the book.

For comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics, please reach out to us at  Visit our blog regularly for new posts about Cloud updates and other Oracle Cloud Services such as Planning and Budgeting, Financial Consolidation, Account Reconciliation, and Enterprise Data Management.  Follow Alithya on social media for the latest information about EPM, ERP, and Analytics solutions to meet your business needs.