Finance and accounting teams are constantly on the hunt for ways to streamline processes and boost efficiency so they can add more value to their operations. A case study of two companies that are using BlackLine’s platform to drive improvements.
In today’s competitive and Covid-19 environment, many traditional processes and workflows in the finance realm need evolve to function effectively. Faced with these challenges, financial and accounting teams are making increasing use of technology. Tools and platforms such as BlackLine are being put in place that streamline workflows and significantly increase productivity in a remote-working world.
While some challenges and drivers can vary significantly between organisations, there are others that remain surprisingly consistent. Even when working in different industry sectors, finance professionals find they share the same challenges and are adopting similar strategies to overcome them.
Linda Lee, Corporate Accounting Manager at financial firm IFM Investors, says her firm’s journey with BlackLine (a cloud-based software solution for the financial close process) and Tridant ( a technology consultancy that implements BlackLine’s solutions) began about twelve months ago. At that time, IFM Investors was on the hunt for a tool that could help to improve financial processes.
“The business was looking for a tool to help with reconciliations and put better controls in place,” she says. “Because we operate in a number of countries and deal with multiple currencies, this has become increasingly challenging managing business changes.”
After looking at options in the market, a decision was taken to deploy BlackLine, however Lee says it’s always important to undertake some key steps before starting out. “Before approaching a tool like BlackLine, you need to understand in detail your account and sub-account structures,” she says. “You need to know how you want to manage that structure on an ongoing basis.”
Lee says it’s also important to be realistic about what you are trying to achieve and not end up making too many changes too quickly. This can result in user frustration and not allow the business to enjoy all the expected benefits.
Once BlackLine was in place, IFM Investors’ finance team was quickly seeing a number of advantages. Workflows were streamlined and a number of manual processes either removed or automated.
“It has improved our ability to attend to items within reconciliations,” she says. “BlackLine highlights where you have variances and brings that to the fore. The finance team then sees and actions items rather than needing to be chased.” Lee says the firm’s external auditors also embraced the change. They are now able to self-serve when it comes to obtaining financial data rather than having to make constant requests.
“We’re also enjoying the Teams functionality,” she says. “People can easily monitor what others in the finance team are doing and lend a hand when required. It’s become more of a group process.”
Looking ahead, Lee says she will be focused on bedding down a number of projects and ensuring the businesses making the best possible use of all the functionality that Blackline has to offer.
Spirit of Tasmania
Anthea White, Business Improvements Project Lead at shipping company Spirit of Tasmania, says that, while she had been aware of BlackLine for some time, it took a while to fully understand all the value it could deliver.
“The catalyst for us was the risks associated with errors that can occur within Excel spreadsheets,” she says. “We had one master spreadsheet covering off more than 90 balance sheet reconciliations, and there were just too many ways that things could potentially go wrong.”
After completing a BlackLine implementation with Tridant in March of this year, White says it quickly became clear it had been the right move. With the pandemic requiring staff to work from home, BlackLine was able to provide reliable remote access to core functions such as invoice management and account reconciliations.
“We’ve also enjoyed time savings due to functionality improvements and the removal of a number of manual processes,” she says. “BlackLine’s notifications and workflows are great.”
Like Lee, White says her external auditors also like the platform and found it very easy to adopt. This took further workload off the finance team and will allow audits to be completed much more quickly. “We also now have much better visibility of what has been completed and what still needs more work,” she says.
Commenting on both case studies, Claudia Pirko, ANZ Regional Vice President at BlackLine, said: “We look forward to continuing our work with IFM Investors and Spirit of Tasmania in order to help them ensure they are getting maximum value from the platform.”