Written by edgaragentsdb on May 1, 2017

Combined pressures have forced finance departments to search for faster, smarter ways to close the books, according to PriceWaterhouse & Cooper but sometimes speed is not enough. Sometimes a better strategy is the solution. We believe the same holds true for financial filings, so we’ve leveraged some of PWC’s strategies for a faster and smarter close and combined them with our best practices to give you a comprehensive list of effective methods that will surely speed up your filing process.

Develop a plan today for next month’s closing

The first step in PWC’s strategy is to develop a plan that focuses on discipline, control and accountability rather than speed. PWC says that this can be achieved by first breaking down the entire process into smaller, incremental steps. By streamlining each work step, you will avoid bottlenecks, duplication of effort, and non-value added activities.

Create internal deadlines  

To file on time, you must obviously be aware of your deadlines. The SEC gives clear deadlines for each form type, but we suggest creating your own internal deadlines for each stage of the process as well. Maybe even create a checklist based on these deadlines. A checklist or a calendar with defined milestones keeps everyone on track and holds everyone accountable for their role in the process.

Communicate expectations

Defining deadlines are a great start to your plan, but deadlines are useless if your expectations are not communicated properly or often. Different departments play an important role in the reporting process, and any miscommunication could result in delays. Additionally, studies show that employees are more likely to complete smaller tasks with clearer expectations than larger ones with vague parameters. Keeping track of each step using your calendar or checklist prevents possible bottlenecks, and each task that is completed and checked off creates small wins for you and your team.

Assign Leaders

PWC suggests assigning leaders to execute your plan. PWC also says leaders should be experienced with the task they are assigned or at least properly trained. We believe leaders could also exist outside of your current office, such as a consultant or agency. Partnering with experienced agencies that hold the necessary experience, tools and resources to deliver on some of these steps will save you time and money. You won’t have to purchase additional resources or waste time training someone. Finally, the end product will most likely exceed your expectations because retaining your business is your partner’s primary concern.

Maximize your current technology

Your in-house technology could be your secret weapon if utilized appropriately. Whenever possible, it is good practice to validate, prioritize and even pursue opportunities that utilize your current technology more effectively. More than likely your existing technology already has the necessary tools to accomplish your goals. Your IT department should therefore be instrumental in setting up a system to keep everyone on track.

Allow for technical difficulties

Technology can save you from unnecessary headaches, but be aware of possible hiccups as well. For instance, filing dangerously close to the deadline could overload the SEC server, causing delays and even crash the system altogether. We recommend filing a few days before the final due date. Although we encourage early filings, if filing early is not an option we suggest filing by 2:30 pm EST on the deadline date at the very latest. This will prevent the chance of being caught in a glitch that is completely out of your control. However, if each of these steps is implemented appropriately, filing too close to the deadline date will most likely not even be a factor.

Work with experienced partners

A successful agency will have systems in place to accommodate any scenario. For instance, Edgar Agents provides customer service 24/7, including holidays, and takes on last minute projects even during heavy filing periods because we understand all the moving parts in financial reporting. Many of our clients work in different time zones and within strict budgets, so we serve them according to their constraints. If your partner is not working around your needs, now would be a good time to look for another partner.

Prioritize Procedures

Your filing agent may be a super-star, but you’ll also want to understand their in-house procedures. With financial filings, statements and notes normally need to be formatted in Edgar while specific information needs to be tagged in XBRL. This could take some time to produce so we recommend submitting your financial statements and notes first.

Proofread! Proofread! And use proofreader’s marks

We HIGHLY recommend proofreading everything, twice, but most importantly double check the submission page to make sure the form type and filing period is accurate, check signatures so they match, and double check dates. Your next priority would be to use standard proofreader’s marks when editing your document. This will avoid misinterpretation. Please do not use ambiguous symbols that neither correct or give direction. Instead, use symbols that clearly request a specific edit. To familiarize yourself with standard proofreader’s marks, refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, AP or Merriam-Webster reference guides. Although some proofreader’s marks vary in these three guides, most symbols are similar enough to be universally recognized.

Submit changes in bulk

Because changes and edits are inevitable even in the final stages of your filing, we suggest submitting all your changes at once. If there is more than one party reviewing the document, submit everyone’s edits, plus your own, in one email or in one proof if possible. This will speed up the alteration process. Also, be sure to work off the latest draft when making edits because working off an older draft will cause confusion and result in missed edits.

Like PWC says, factors across all business dimensions, including strategy, structure, people, process, and technology, creates a close and reporting cycle that is highly sustainable and scalable. We like to believe we are a big part of that cycle and that our filing practices will speed up your filing process.

Call our office at 732-780-5036 to speak with an agent about your next filing or visit our website at www.edgaragents.com.. We’d also love to hear from you on any of our social networks: LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+.