Advanced Reporting & Process Tuning: Adding Muscle to Financial Health


Given the popularity of enterprise data warehouses, multidimensional OLAP cubes, and other analytics resources available to today’s businesses, you’d think CFOs and analysts would be in finance reporting heaven.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true, because the progress of reporting and analytics has been badly flawed.

Worse, the adage that holds true for most technology advances – that important innovations typically start with the largest, most successful businesses and then trickle down to their smaller, less well-endowed counterparts – doesn’t always apply to reporting and analytics for finance and accounting systems.

That’s because of the inherent antagonisms of mixing ERP and GL systems that come from acquisitions or just years of unplanned growth, where today’s systems must now mix with yesterday’s legacies.

Another problem is that historically, finance and accounting (F&A) reporting has been regarded as an afterthought. Reports had to be ordered up from IT, finally hitting the CFO’s desk after a day, week, or month. Looking for improvement, enterprises nurtured a culture where spreadsheets grew so large and unwieldy that they – once the solution – became the new problem.

The rise of cloud-based automation has signaled an end to tardy and error-prone F&A reporting in organizations with complex financial architectures.

BlackLine reporting, for instance, uses the same single, central code base of all BlackLine applications to ensure data consistency at all times, even with fast-changing financial processes and business scenarios. It underpins BlackLine’s commitment to Continuous Accounting by delivering real-time reports on everything from account reconciliations and task management to account balance fluctuations and intercompany transactions.

Pivot Tables With Live Data

BlackLine reporting not only supports fully accurate, multi-system reports on demand, it can also handle massive reports, even what-if reports using pivot tables, that are based on live data.

For instance, BlackLine’s patented Atlas Grid framework makes it possible for users to search million-plus records in a matter of seconds without exiting their own applications. This is a feature that helps lift the benefits of small-company agility up to today’s largest and most complex global enterprises.

“Being able to explore different scenarios without having to leave the original application is a massive benefit to F&A professionals,” says Stephen Wolfman, product platform management director for BlackLine. “The user can look at different views quickly without backing out of one application to start up a separate reporting application. That’s a waste of time and concentration, and it can kill creative thinking. And any time you pull data out of one application and push it to another, there’s a risk of corrupting or losing some data.”

Process Tuning For Organizational Health

Not only is BlackLine reporting bringing new levels of agility and creativity to medium and large enterprises, it’s also a step ahead of conventional reporting by providing an added dimension to F&A reporting, says Wolfman.

“Of course we capture the core financial data,” he says, “but we’re also capturing data around the process itself. This data adds valuable context information to our reporting.

Process data also informs our BlackLine Insights product. With BlackLine Insights, we collect a wealth of productivity data on F&A processes for businesses across all industries. We can then show a client how well their processes are working at any point in time. And we can show how they compare to their industry peers.

“This helps our clients continuously tune their processes as a way of maximizing the efficacy of their F&A group. We find that this has a direct effect on the health of their business, and on the well-being of the CFO.”