Transaction data, which affects the cash position of a company, can come from almost anywhere: credit card settlements, point of sale systems, travel and expense reports, and so on. And transactions can come in bunches. It’s not unusual for a business to see 50,000 or more transactions a month.
Reconciling those transactions manually—ticking and tying them on spreadsheets—can eat up endless accounting hours and large chunks of the accounting budget.
This was the setting for Teresa Platt’s breakout session, A Better Way to Unify & Reconcile Data at BeyondTheBlack. Platt, a solution architect for BlackLine, showed customers how BlackLine Transaction Matching can work together with BlackLine’s Data Import Utility to help automate the frustratingly complex process of reconciling high-volume transactions.
“Transaction matching can be applied to lots of tasks,” she says. “I start out by asking my audience to look around their organizations. Do they see intercompany accounts, debits, credits, receivables, payables, clearing, and suspense accounts?
“Each of these transactions needs one side to agree with another side, and automation can do that for you. Then you can spend your time—quality time—analyzing the transactions that don’t agree.”
Building A Claims Payment System
Platt uses an insurance claims processing application for her use case, where she’ll be reconciling payments between the claims system and Accounts Payable, which is responsible for paying the claims.
She logs into BlackLine as a System Administrator so she can see the full palette of tools, opens the Data Import Utility, and then lets the utility guide her through importing, parsing, and modifying data from the claims and payment systems. The utility helps her set the import schedules and offers a breadth of functionality for manipulating and streamlining the new data formats.
The data is now ready to flow into BlackLine’s Transaction Matching solution. Platt goes to the system administrator screen, clicks on Products, then on Match Sets, hits the Add New button, and is ready to set up her matching criteria.
Building the Match Sets
She selects her data sources and chooses the display fields that users will see, then configures them by dragging and dropping the fields shown in a pop-out window. She covers some other functions, such as creating subtotal fields and assigning user roles, then moves to the heart of the matching product: Pass Rules.
“Pass rules hold the accounting logic,” Platt says. “Let’s say some transactions belong together. What are the criteria that make sure a transaction on one side belongs with the transaction on the other side? The pass rules contain those criteria.”
Platt creates three pass rules for the match set. The first pass rule stipulates that claim numbers and policy numbers should be the same, that the amount from the adjuster in the claims system should be the same as the check amount, and, per company policy, that claims should be paid within 30 days of the claim date.
Automatic Matches & Suggested Rules
“If all of these are in agreement, we’re going to pair them up as an automatic match,” she says. “That’s like being married—the match is solid, the transactions are reconciled completely and accurately, and it met all the criteria of the first automatic pass rule.”
The other type of rule, a suggested rule, means that “the match is okay for now,” she says. “But they’re sort of dating and they’ll be affected by any subsequent pass rules.”
As she sets up the other two rules, Platt talks about some of the more advanced matching features. In fact, some BlackLine customers have more than 100 pass rules, which help them focus very tightly on matches—and greatly reduce what would be substantial manual effort.
But for the session, she keeps it simple.
“My session is meant to give customers a look at the basics,” Platt says. “I want them to get a sense of how they might apply these tools in their own work, so they can go back and look for ways to improve efficiencies in their organizations. It’s gratifying to know that some do. I’ve had customers thank me for the presentation and tell me they hadn’t realized how useful Transaction Matching could be.”
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 and stories about these sessions:
Leading with Resilience & Agility: Make the Move to Modern Accounting
Making the Most of Process Automation
Eliminating Spreadsheet Gymnastics in Your Payroll & T&E