The Lean Financial Close: Intelligent Automation In SSCs


Closing the books is stressful and time-consuming. When things such as old data or out-of-date reports are discovered, the hunt to uncover errors that never should have happened in the first place begins. Not only does this waste your time and energy, but it also raises concerns over the quality of your company’s data.

If there are pain points in your closing process, it’s likely that something is missing.

Automated financial software relieves the pain, making financial processes clear and accurate. However, to maximize efficiency, software should have lean management practices built in. Otherwise, automation will simply speed up the creation of waste and reduce profitability.

What is Lean Management?

Lean management, created by Taiichi Ohno with the Toyota Production System, minimizes the time, effort, and cost in business processes. Lean management practices recognize waste in eight key areas, including transport, inventory, motion, waiting, over-processing, defects, and skills. The purpose of lean is to reduce those wastes. Many businesses world-wide have incorporated lean practices to maximize efficiency and profits.

Now, lean business practices can be applied to Finance departments with lean automation.

Lean Automation

Automated financial software may be the future of record-to-report, but not all software is created equal — you need the right support for your R2R processes. With the principles of lean management built into BlackLine Smart Close, the solution innately minimizes time, effort, and cost. Smart Close eliminates four key areas of waste recognized by lean management: waiting, transportation, over-processing, and errors.


Waiting is one of the largest areas of waste for Finance departments, especially for Shared Service Centers. While moving processes to Shared Service Centers (SSCs) is cost efficient and remains a strong business practice, SSCs have made the record-to-report process incredibly time inefficient.

For example, accounts receivable often communicates between different time zones for approvals, notifications that processes are complete, or questions. Operating in different time zones is challenging, but the process itself also causes waiting as work is transferred between employees across several days, if not weeks. This workflow creates process bottlenecks and can easily lead to errors in your information, resulting in poor decisions or audit trouble.

Smart Close reduces waiting with automation, which is essential for achieving optimal process speeds.


Speed and accuracy are essential for Finance departments. Transporting information from diverse systems and independently owned spreadsheets within each Shared Service Center to headquarters for reporting is an essential part of every company’s closing process. Spending excessive time retrieving this information is a waste and leaves little room for analysis or other value-adding activities.

World-leading Shared Service Centers use Smart Close to automatically collect data from multiple places and transport all necessary information on an automated schedule.


Finance departments are often guilty of repetitive work and long task lists that add no value and waste accountants’ time. This is over-processing, and it can also be found in the multiple spreadsheets that are independently owned and used by employees during the record-to-report process.

Independently owned spreadsheets not only cause over-processing by generating multiple recordings of the same information, they also create confusion in the numbers and cause delays to verify accuracy.

Smart Close eliminates redundant documentation and reduces workload through the automation of tasks to bring further efficiency to Shared Service Centers.


It’s essential for a business to have an error-free record-to-report process. The success of a business depends on it.

Smart Close helps organizations establish clear processes and template-driven workflows which drastically reduces errors.  Smart Close is an embedded solution, which means it allows Finance departments to keep their data in SAP and secures one version of the truth. With one area to store all information, Finance departments have live data, anytime they need it.

Smart Close automates matching, clearing, and workflows to bring the record-to-report process to the next level.

Empowering Accountants

Lean management practices emphasize clear processes and eliminate non-value adding activities to simplify and standardize value-adding activities within R2R processes. An integrated approach to lean finance and Smart Close effectively optimizes automation for organizations at all levels.

With Smart Close, Finance and Accounting (F&A) organizations can realize cutting-edge process improvement and achieve continuous improvement in Shared Service Centers — significantly impacting the bottom line and creating a true competitive advantage.