November 19, 2020

Live From BeyondTheBlack: Turning the Page on 2020

Live From BeyondTheBlack: Turning the Page on 2020

13 days ago

Building a Better Business Case: Getting Your Executives on Board with Modern Accounting

Emily Perkins

Speakers: Molly Boyle, Director, Solutions Marketing, and Steve Sutton, SAP Value Architect, both from BlackLine

In order to modernize, accounting organizations must automate the manual, repetitive processes that are holding them back. But for F&A teams across the globe, securing budget for technology can be a tall task. A compelling and robust business case is a critical requirement to starting your finance transformation, and this shouldn't be overlooked.

When champions are building a business case, they might be competing against the status quo—maybe it isn’t broken, but the company has failed to modernize. This can be an uphill battle, especially if there isn’t a compelling business event to move things forward.

The good thing? 82% of CFOs believe leading edge technology is essential to finance function transformation. Focus on the competitive advantage this transformation will provide and build into your business case from there.

Why Some Business Cases Fail

A business case is meant to make management confident that a future investment will be successful. But when business cases and their corresponding projects fail, it’s often for one of these reasons:

  1. Tunnel vision. Analysis and the business case is developed in a vacuum without input from a broader group.
  2. Unnecessary complexity. The business case consists primarily of spreadsheets with detailed calculations and formulas.
  3. Roadblock denial. Project champions fail to acknowledge or anticipate potential roadblocks or challenges.
  4. Abandoning the business case. The business case is no longer used after initially presented to stakeholders.

And, some of the questions that failed business cases don’t consider: how do we know we’ll actually see these results? How do we know multiple options were considered fairly? What’s the likelihood that the outcomes will be less favorable than predicted?

Leading Practices for an Effective Business Case

Automation isn’t coming, it’s already here. And CFOs are uniquely positioned to lead the transformation. Finance leaders can drive change by inspiring others to work smarter and faster. So, when crafting your business case, consider the following:

  • Strategic objectives – how does your project align to the organization’s strategic objectives and key results?
  • Business persona – What is your organization’s business persona? How mature is your organization? Is leadership focused on growth? Stability? M&A?
  • Industry benchmarks – How does your organization’s current state compare to similar companies? Do you lag competitors? What are the industry standards?

Key components to include when building your business case are:

  • Document current state and emphasize key challenges or pain points. Pain sells.
  • Highlight how the proposed initiative complements existing investments. Many companies have a very expensive IT infrastructure—explain how this new solution will complement what already exists.
  • Recommend a project timeline, roadmap, and deployment strategy. This makes the entire business case more digestible, and sends the message that, “we have a plan” and you understand the art of the possible.
  • Include quantitative and qualitative components. Tell a story by connecting the two and focusing on the end goal.

It’s okay to acknowledge the areas of the business case where you might need some help to fill in the gaps. Engage with other experts in your organization to map out all considerations, and along the way you’ll find some fellow champions for the transformation.

Make sure to also ask yourself some important questions as you move through this process: What key assumptions did you make? Have you garnered internal support? And, did you seek constructive feedback?

The Best Practices Checklist:

  • Invest time in gathering data to document time, cost, risk, and morale impacts of doing nothing.
  • Clearly define how you will measure success.
  • Identify and highlight relevant case studies.
  • Practice your delivery.
  • Present your business case in person and involve multiple stakeholders.

Demonstrating BlackLine’s Value

According to KPMG, 69% of CAOs say transformational work is necessary, because ongoing business change requires active accounting input. Business area subject matter expertise is becoming more and more critical in technology decisions, and driving a business case positions the F&A team as a strategic business partner in the organization.

So how can you demonstrate BlackLine’s value in your business case? Focus on these important BlackLine benefits:

Time – reduce days and hours needed to complete close tasks, repurpose time spent on other initiatives, and achieve faster speed to results without compromising quality.

Talent – recruit, develop, and retain top talent, minimize mundane activities, and redirect headcount to more important areas of the business.

Process – real-time processes, streamlined and more agile flow of information, an enhanced and intuitive user experience, and continuous assessment drives toward the “desired state”.

Controls – higher reliance on preventive, automated controls, improved monitoring results in fewer surprises, and the stronger control environment reduces risk.

Cost – lower-cost accounting function, minimize spend without compromising quality, scale processes without additional investment, leverage back-office spend, and optimize costs of systems and audit.

Policy – connect recurring activities to controls and governance, automate compliance with key policies, and centralize documentation of policies and procedures.

Output – higher accuracy and confidence in financial results, and trusted financials tell a more cohesive and clear story.

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13 days ago

Change Management: It’s a Team Sport

Shannon Maynard

Speakers:

  • Annette Strenge, Senior Manager, Consolidations, Knowles
  • Brandee Bible, Senior Director, Strategic Innovation, BlackLine
  • Jennifer Ryan, Strategic Innovation Manager, BlackLine

What exactly is change management? A product management plan transformation your process and technology. A change management plan transforms your teams. It's not a one and done activity—it's a disciplined and intentional effort that's infused into your project plan. It encompasses so much more than communication and training.

Two key pillars:

1) Change management prepares, equips, and supports individuals through the changes to their jobs

2) It focuses on ensuring employees use, adopt, and optimize the change being introduced

Brandee shared her favorite change management methodology, ADKAR:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • What you hear: "I understand why..."
  • Without it, employees ask the same question over and over, and you see hoarding of information and resources
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • What you hear: "I have decided to..."
  • Without it, you see lower productivity, increased turnover, and delays in implementation
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • What you hear: "I know how to..."
  • Without it, you experience lower utilization or incorrect usage of new systems, sustained reduction in productivity
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • What you hear: "I am able to..."
  • Without it, employees worry whether they can be successful in the future, and revert back to old methods or misuse new change
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change
  • What you hear: "I will continue to..."
  • Without it, employees revert back to old ways of doing work, ultimate utilization is less than anticipated, the organization creates a history of poorly managed change

The Importance of Having a Sponsor

An effective sponsor influences the success of a project and change. They need to have:

  • Power
  • Urgency
  • Vision
  • Leverage
  • Influence

73% of individuals being impacted by change in an enterprise want to hear about the impact of the change from leadership, and 78% want to hear what's in it for them.

With a strong sponsor, project manager, and change manager, you'll meet your objectives on time and on budget while also optimizing ROI.

Building the Case for Sponsorship of Change Management

Projects that have a change management sponsor are six times or 93% more likely to meet or exceed project objectives. A change management sponsor ensures that you capture the people dependent portion of ROI, and provides a focus to sustain the change.

Change Management at Knowles

Annette Strenge, Senior Manager of Consolidations at Knowles, talked about how they achieved successful change management.

For starters, they didn't add any new people. Their people took on this change on top of their already full workloads, so their initial goal was to look for the really quick wins.

As an example, they automated account recs for their shared services, which freed up some enough of their time to allocate to their change management initiatives. By automating some of their close processes, they no longer have the late nights during the close or have to spend time answering their auditor's questions.

Getting that time back is a huge success and why they were able to get more employee adoption.

They also tried to answer the why early on, so their people knew the value it would bring to them in the long run. They have key support from their management team, and their excitement about BlackLine is also key.

Superheroes Needed

Change management is a team sport, There are four more critical roles that are necessary to drive successful organizational change:

  • Visionary - transformational, motivational, evangelist, create ideas, build intrigue, and praise milestone achievement
  • Strategist - Plans the transformation, organizes the resources, focuses on the how, communicates the plan, and celebrates contributors
  • Innovator - Listens to the pain and challenges and then designs the solution, solicits input and feedback, converts desire to adoption, offers knowledge, and documents process success
  • Optimizer - Leads, adopts, and applies the change, transforms their desk and pushes new ideas

The top two roles are more idea oriented, while the bottom two roles are more task oriented—and all four roles work together to drive successful organizational change.

How do you identify the right people to drive these roles and enable successful change?

At Knowles, Annette says that the people who fill the visionary and strategist roles understand what BlackLine can do, have a desire to learn, understand the current versus future state, and go beyond just training their people. That's not enough. Give them the why, and what they're going to get out of it.

People who fill their innovator and optimizer roles build out and test ideas, have a process-driven mindset, are system savvy, are supported by the Knowles BlackLine Team, shares knowledge with their internal team, develops end user resources and training, and communicates information to help encourage, guide, and support their teams.

Change management is a team sport:

  • It requires coordination across different people to drive change
  • It must be intentional
  • It's essential not to leave change to chance
  • It's just as important to ensure desired use, adoption, and optimization to deliver desired results
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13 days ago

Turning the Page on 2020: Interactive Panel with Deloitte, EY, SAP, and BlackLine’s CAO

Shannon Maynard

Host: Soledad O'Brien, Award-Winning Journalist & Entrepreneur

Panelists:

  • Bhavna Chadbury, Senior Manager, Consulting, EY
  • Susan Hogan, Principal, Deloitte US Finance Transformation Leader, Deloitte
  • Stephanie Miller, Vice President of the SAP North America S/4HANA Finance COE
  • Patrick Villanova, Chief Accounting Officer, BlackLine 

Soledad O'Brien sat down with leaders from BlackLine, Deloitte, EY, and SAP to discuss leading practices for the virtual close and remote audits, the post-pandemic future of work, and what CFOs and CAOs see as the future of Finance and Accounting. I think we can all agree: it’s time to look forward and turn the page on 2020.

Soledad: What has been the biggest challenge of this year?

Susan: It's been a year of challenges, to say the least. What's been impressive is how resilient our clients have been as they've persevered through the challenges and disruptions. Most made the switch to virtual seamlessly. Significant cash flow issues and having to plan and forecast in an ever-changing and unpredictable world has been very challenging. Managing through all the uncertainty has been the greatest challenge, along with how to best position the company for growth.

Bhavna: Collaboration was also a big challenge for us. We've been using a lot of virtual tools, but the human factor is still missing and our teams are trying to find creative ways to connect. Tech and IT departments took a hit and were put to the test when they had to suddenly support virtual work, and all teams had to figure out not only how to survive, but thrive.

Stephanie: We had to learn how to be much sharper in our education, as we no longer have the luxury of spending more than 30 minutes at a time with our customers. We've learned how to work together as a team, and learn how to host our events virtually. Overall, we've been focused on making sure we're giving our customers what they need to make better decisions.

Patrick: I think every company, no matter how prepared you were, faced challenges going into this pandemic. No matter how automated you were, every company had to adjust, and those who were the most prepared were the most successful. Back in March, every strategy changed literally overnight. So, all the processes and automation you had in place had to handle new forecasts, pricing, and go-to-market strategies overnight. The biggest challenge was reevaluating your entire system and process of controls, and making sure that this immediately new strategy could be accommodated by what's in place.

Soledad: Was there something you saw in companies that were able to pull this off and companies that weren't able to navigate this as seamlessly?

Patrick: It all starts at the top. You have to have a mentality of automation, digitization, agility, and the ability to react positively. If you have that tune at the top, and this mentality as an F&A organization, you are wildly more successful and equipped to respond to this disruption.

Bhavna: The tone at the top was very key. Leadership having a sense of direction, even in the midst of uncertainty, allows the company as a whole to move forward. Companies that were able to put a lot of laser focus on the core priorities, and bring in digital tools where it makes sense, allowed them to prepare for the future and be successful. The last thing is putting your people first. Companies that have a good pulse on their people and are able to more proactively address these challenges have been able to keep them engaged.

Susan: Being fast is key. What many organizations struggled with was broken links between different people groups—some groups were able to move to virtual and some weren't. The CFOs and finance organizations that not only reacted fast but also supported the overall business, helping supply chain for example, really helped drive overall performance.

Soledad: What's the biggest pandemic-driven change you see outlasting the current crisis?

Stephanie: Less manual and less paper-based processes. There used to be so much wasted time to move around a piece of paper, and I remember years ago, working until 10:00 pm every night during the close, plus weekends. That was just a given. We've proven during the last several months that we can close from home, and we've actually been more efficient. But people miss that connection in the office, so I don't think we'll maintain the same level of working from home.

Patrick: I think the way that accountants do their day to day job right now, with automation and digitization, will change the way we work more than it has during the last 40 years. I guarantee that a few years from now, we're going to look back and marvel at how dependent we were on spreadsheets and manual processes. Our careers are going to change forever.

Soledad: How have you seen companies changing their digital strategy now, considering the two change agents that are now pressing upon us?

Stephanie: There are a lot of companies that are optimistic about the future, and they've made investments in technology. Our cloud growth has been phenomenal, and we've been seeing a lot of net-new customers joining SAP. They've needed to get the quick wins along the journey. Getting value five years down the road doesn't work anymore. Business processes and technology have to work together - changing processes in parallel with their technology - and we have to understand the value that technology can bring before changing our processes.

Susan: Automation is not an option anymore. It's, 'I am going to automate, how do I automate, what works best in the virtual world, and how do I get the savings quickly?' Streamlining your processes is going to be critical to survive.

Soledad: How has the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic positively impacted F&A organizations?

Bhavna: Before the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on business partnership and delivering value. The pandemic has amplified that, and there's a renewed focus on delivering short- and long-term value. There's also been a focus on making sure your people are change agents for transforming processes and people. Companies are finding, very rapidly, that it's important to look outside the traditional KPIs. They're also looking to outsource more and augment their workforce with what we're calling 'digital robots.' We're also seeing a shift in mindset to be more agile and tech savvy because they know that's what's needed to prepare for the future.

Patrick: I've been seeing a shift in mentality. Finance and accounting professionals are typically process people, and in this environment, people are looking to us even more. CFOs are taking on a bigger leadership role and there's a greater dependency on them. They're feeling like a great partner, with the opportunity to weigh in more.

Soledad: What does modern accounting mean for the future of Accounting and Finance?

Susan: Modern accounting means shifting Finance from a function to a true dynamic catalyst and strategist, driving the organization's strategic decision making. People in F&A are way more tech savvy than they used to be, with all the automation and AI and tools out there. The largest investments organizations are making are in technology. The CFO is at the table and has to understand all those investments and be an advisor to the organization. There's been a recent shift for the CFO to truly advise. I've also been seeing recently that the CFO is usually driving transformation within their function and also driving broader transformation within the entire organization.

Bhavna: Modern accounting is more responsive and efficient. The pandemic has amplified the need for Finance and Accounting of the future, and the ability to adapt and respond to changes in regulations, business models, etc. There's a lot of focus on near real-time closing and predictive analytics, and we need to bring in the technology that allows us to make better decisions.

Stephanie: To be modern in our F&A processes, we need to be able to leverage the latest technologies to improve efficiencies, reduce risk, and give accountants exactly what they need to do their jobs. Robotics is getting a lot more attention, and only recently are customers beginning to entertain the idea of robotics. If I can have a bot handling the most basic requests, then I can free my accountants to handle the exceptions and do more value-adding work.

Soledad: What recommendations would you make to customers to think about as we move forward toward 2021?

Patrick: If you came into 2020 without a mindset of automation and transformation, and weren't making those investments, I'm assuming that 2020 led to a lot of disruption in your business and hard conversations with upper management. For those that were ill prepared, the disruption can't happen again—you should be developing a game plan - what are the tools I need to invest in, how do I need to upskill and retrain my people—then get executive buy in.

For those who were prepared, you can't know everything. Reflect back on 2020 and think about what went well, what didn't, where do you see yourself in the next year or two, and what processes and what do you have to get in place to get there and scale? Conversations about investments and budget should be happening now.

Susan: If you haven't already, now is the time to challenge the status quo—the way you've been doing things and how you can optimize the human and digital workforce. Use the disruption of this pandemic to fuel your business case for automation and digital finance transformation.

Invest in your people. It's a difficult time right now. People have zero work/life balance and are working around the clock even more than before. Figure out the right mix of being virtual and being in the office. People are burnt out right now, and that will have to be dealt with as we move forward.

Bhavna: Be resilient and agile. The future shifts rapidly. If we've learned anything from the pandemic, it's that change is constant. Being nimble and agile will go a long way. A lot of companies are realizing the need for digitization—don't lose focus on change management. Bring people along the journey so the change will stick goes a long way.

Stephanie: For me, the number one takeaway is to invest in your people. Life is overwhelming right now. People are being asked to do a lot more, never turn off, and juggle a lot more pressures. How can you engage the people on your teams to help pivot your own organizations? Anonymous surveys are a great way to get a pulse on what people are thinking, and use that feedback to make changes that impact your people in the right way. Invest in their well being, give them mental health days—that's really, really important.

Updated: 13 days ago

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13 days ago

Customer-Driven Evolution: Innovating Modern Solutions to Legacy Accounting Challenges

Olivia.Marcey

Speakers: Tammy Coley, Chief Transformation Officer, BlackLine

Sue Mozdzer, Finance Transformation Leader - Record to Report, Hubbell Incorporated

Chris Downey, Senior Director of Accounting & Financial Reporting, Breakthru Beverage Group

Gina Johnson, Accounting Manager, James Hardie Building Products

Andy Pearson, Director of Internal Controls, Advance Auto Parts

To kick off Day 3 of BeyondTheBlack 2020, Tammy Coley, BlackLine’s Chief Transformation Officer, welcomes four impressive panelists to discuss some different use cases for BlackLine that have helped them in their companies’ finance transformation journeys.

Travel & Expenses

Sue Mozdzer discusses how BlackLine has helped Hubbell save roughly 20 hours per month across all of the different business units when it comes to T&E accounts.

Lease Accounting

Pearson talks about how Advance Auto Parts used to have a single person whose entire job it was to manage lease accounting, and how BlackLine has helped them to create three days per month in time savings.

Payroll

Johnson discusses how BlackLine takes raw data and gets it in shape to use in James Hardie’s payroll accounting processes.

Another example, given by Chris Downey of Breakthru Beverage, shows how BlackLine was able to give back 52 working days per year to one of their employees by automating so much of the work around payroll accounting.

Automating Roll Forwards

Accountants can automatically roll-forward items, attach support, and eliminate formula errors. For example, an amortizable prepaid template guides the preparer to enter specific details, including the prepaid name, total amount, and to and from dates, which automatically create an online amortization schedule in BlackLine.

Accounts Payable Invoice Accruals

Accounting teams spend a ton of time combing through invoices and figuring out what needs to be accrued for the period – one of the most manual and time-consuming processes during the close.

BlackLine allows companies to upload invoices throughout the period, getting them ready to match when the transactions come in, and then automatically creating a journal when there’s a discrepancy that needs to be recorded.

In addition to the use cases that BlackLine enables, the relationships between Tammy (and others at BlackLine) and our customers really comes through in this session. It’s clear that what the platform does to increase efficiency and automate rote, manual tasks really makes a difference in the lived experience of our customers.

All of the panelists champion the importance of implementing automation throughout the close, but Sue Mozdzer brings home the value of BlackLine’s Transaction Matching solution, calling it “the Golden Ticket” to creating more control, efficiency, and transparency during the close.

Consistently, when asked, the panelists credit BlackLine for making the new virtual close seamless, and painless during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tammy asks, “Do you have any lessons learned from implementing and getting started on BlackLine?”

Across the panel, it’s understood that the people doing reconciliations need to learn how to use the system – people need to learn not to attach Excel spreadsheets to reconciliations, and really get the software to do the work it’s meant to do.

Preparers’ time should be spent on determining the most useful template for the account in question and making use of the automation and standardization available to them.

Pearson and Downey also highlight the importance of change management. Getting people on board with change and innovation can be difficult, but it’s worth it to find and implement strategies to get everyone on board.

At the end of the day, BlackLine’s motto is “Think. Create. Serve.” From the stories and thought leadership in this panel, it seems as though those concepts permeate throughout the BlackLine customer ecosystem to create a perfect fit for accounting automation.

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13 days ago

We'll be here live today for Day 3 of BeyondTheBlack

Shannon Maynard

We’re bringing you the highlights of the third and final day of BeyondTheBlack, from the general sessions to the breakouts. Check back all day for updates.

Shannon Maynard
Senior Content Marketing Manager

Future of Work