Journal entry automation can greatly reduce much of the time—and risk—associated with the financial close. But moving to an automated model can be challenging, particularly in today’s work-from-home accounting environment.
In their Getting Started with Automated Journals in an Oracle Environment session at BeyondTheBlack, Ansys Accounting Systems and Integration Manager Amy Fallon revealed an effective strategy for bringing journal automation into a large and diverse global business.
Ansys, a leader in engineering simulation software for 50 years, certainly fits the definition of a large global corporation. The company posted 2019 revenues of more than $1.5 billion with more than 40 subsidiaries in North America, EMEA, and APAC regions.
Ansys brought in BlackLine Account Reconciliations in 2018, Automated Journals and Transaction Matching in 2019, and added Variance Analysis in 2020. The company now has 120 BlackLine users and is planning for additional BlackLine implementations in the future.
Before the company started with BlackLine, Ansys was using manual methods—spreadsheets and binders—for reconciliations and journal entries, and then manually posting data to their Oracle ERP system.
“Our reliance on spreadsheets risked data entry and formula errors that might not have been identified based on our closing schedule,” says Fallon. “Journal sign-offs—sometimes three sign-offs were required—cost staff members significant time and effort. In general, we were a large company operating as a small one.”
An Automation Strategy
BlackLine Journal Entry implementation began in July 2019. Global rollout of 40 to 50 automated journals took place in February 2020. Fallon says the success of the rollout came largely as a result of the company’s implementation strategy, which began with upper management’s commitment to the project.
“Our automation journey has been driven by management,” she says. “They prioritize and set an expectation and tone at the top that automation is a priority.”
Fallon then formed teams for corporate and subsidiaries, and started with simpler projects to build confidence.
She notes, “We started with easier, more straight-forward reconciliations, like intangibles, prepaid rent, accounting fees, and restoration fees. These helped build confidence in the solution and showed immediate benefits.”
Additionally, Fallon’s team has produced a considerable amount of training materials in multiple languages.
“Our training PowerPoints are heavy in pictures and appendices with detailed instructions,” she says. “Training videos have closed captioning capabilities, and we’ve recorded specific account reconciliation and journal trainings in shorter and more direct videos, separate from our global training.
“We’ve held training in smaller groups with similar language speakers to increase our team’s comprehension and drive more productive dialogue,” says Fallon. “We’ve created a monthly newsletter with deadlines, announcements, links, and tips, and we’ve publicly recognized and rewarded users who exceeded expectations.”
Reduced Workloads & Improved Visibility
As of August 2020, Ansys has automated more than 40 journals and saved accountants, managers, and other employees substantial time.
Fallon notes that users are seeing more rewards as they leverage BlackLine, and the questions she’s receiving are trending toward the more technical. She also says approvers are seeing their workloads reduced as the company implements Automated Journals. Auditors have also been able to leverage the tool successfully.
“The best news I can share is that our team has received fewer direct requests or inquiries in the past few quarters,” she says. “Thinking back to that picture of our stacks of binders, we would have struggled to work from home in the current environment.
“BlackLine has really eased our transition to work from home, and we have visibility and accountability that are important for our managers and corporate finance team.”
Read our BeyondTheBlack issue of BlackLine Quarterly for more stories like this. We dive into some of the highlights from our annual event, including our inspiring keynotes, the SAP track, and stories about these sessions:
Leading with Resilience & Agility: Make the Move to Modern Accounting
A Better Way to Unify & Reconcile Data
Eliminating Spreadsheet Gymnastics in Your Payroll & T&E