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image of sheep eating hay | accountingweb | making hay while the sun shines
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All quiet on the accounting front? Make hay!

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Springtime and year end can bring a welcome lull in proceedings. Makbul Patel has some ideas for ways to make hay while the sun shines.

3rd Apr 2024
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Spring is a funny time of the year. Assuming year end is in March, managers and staff avoid eye contact as we all know it’s an idle month. During the two to three weeks leading up to year end a creeping fatigue sets in. 

The relentless push on accurate forecasting concludes, budgets for the new year have been shared, all that then remains is the sandstorm on the horizon of pulling off another year end. In the run-up to that the moments of quiet bliss are to be savoured.

I’m at risk of sounding like a bossy school teacher but it’s an opportune time to turn our attention to the things we have been putting off, or little mini projects, or some prep for year end. 

The fact that our group accountant casually quipped in a meeting: “Make hay while the sun shines” basically let us loose to indulge in some off-the-beaten-track management accounting. Here are some of my suggestions for making hay.

Organise and plan

It’s time to do a review of the year and to take stock of what was done well and what could be improved. 

I certainly know that link-ups with my managers could have been more assertive, instead of being easily fobbed off with meeting declines at the last minute. Schedule the meetings in advance in future.

Professional development

Use quiet periods to invest in your professional development. You know that email you keep getting from learning and development about outstanding and overdue courses? Well, perhaps this is a good time to get them done. And remember, there is always the assessment at the end so you can’t whizz through them that easily and evidence your learning.

Research and innovation

I really enjoy this bit. Management accounting is appealing to me because of its less rigid structure. Whereas treasury and financial management is restrained by regulation to a certain extent, management accounting reporting can be played about with.

Many of my reports go through an evolution. What worked last year can work even better.

For example, for the new financial year I have linked up with the health and safety department to provide live reporting on purchase orders they raise, so they can keep track where they are up to with their targets and key performance indicators.

Process improvement

Evaluate your current workflows and processes. Identify areas that could be optimised or streamlined to improve efficiency. Propose and implement changes that could enhance productivity or reduce unnecessary work.

This is, of course, an on-going process. You shouldn’t just be having annual reviews. Reporting will be improved and changed in an instant. However, by having a sincere dialogue with managers in a language they can connect with will always bring results.

Creative projects

If your role allows for it, use quiet periods to work on creative projects or initiatives. This could be investigating areas that shine light on work where it previously wasn’t reported.

Working with building surveyors directly is part of my management accounting role. Understanding the challenges on the ground is essential. 

One new area of work I have developed is working out the time and cost variance of fitting windows and doors on “void” properties (properties where there is no social housing tenant and it was left in a bad state of repair). The repair of these void properties is time-critical as it is seen as lost rent, so resources are pumped towards it but then have to be compared to the future benefits received. Also known as “value for money”.

Training and documentation

Create or update documentation for processes, procedures or best practices relevant to your role or team. Develop training materials or tutorials to help onboard new team members or educate existing ones on specific tasks or tools.

This may seem a bit far fetched. Who on earth wants to write up processes and procedures for what they currently do? But it is quite handy for you yourself. Take time now to document your work, especially work you don’t do that often, such as year-end reports and tasks.

Health and wellness

Take breaks to prioritise your wellbeing. Use quiet periods to go for a walk, practice mindfulness or meditation, or engage in activities that help you relax and recharge. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for long-term productivity and happiness.

We are quite lucky at my work as we have a counsellor to promote wellbeing as well as having activities such as painting and yoga. Well, it is the 21st century after all.

As the days trundle on to another month end, it helps if there is a valuable lull before the storm where we can hear the birds sing outside and the monotony is broken up with a chance to be creative. Every job needs quiet periods to re-energise.

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