At our annual User Conference this morning, we made one of our biggest announcements yet—we unveiled a new platform to help our customers leverage what we believe is the latest and best accounting and finance technology. Our new Finance Controls and Automation Platform is predicated on our unique concept of Modern Finance. It is designed to help accountants work smarter and more efficiently—to gain a digital edge.
One would imagine that with the proliferation of ERP systems through the years that there would be little digital edge left to gain. This is not the case; not at all. While users already leverage BlackLine to automate various and complex accounting tasks that had previously been executed manually, much more remained to be automated—hence our exciting announcement this morning.
If readers need validation about how impactful automation has been for accounting and finance, let me introduce some eye-opening statistics from Ventana Research: More than half (56 percent) of companies that automate account reconciliations and other financial close tasks close the books within six working days. Thirty percent close within four working days. The rest—well, how long does it take your business to close?
The sobering truth is that only 12 percent of organizations have substantially automated their financial close processes. While Ventana estimates that 51 percent of companies employ some degree of automation, 37 percent still have primarily manual processes in place. Despite an ERP market that exceeds $50 billion, a BI market in the $16 billion range, and a GRC market approaching $7 billion, many automation voids exist that require manual interventions.
Is this any way to gain a digital edge, much less a competitive one?
The answer is obvious. Indeed, automating finance and accounting is more important than ever before. Why? Simply because the world is becoming smaller, our organizations and business processes are becoming infinitely more complex, and we are all awash in cascading streams of internal and exogenous data—literally tens of millions of data sets clogging the Internet. Managing enterprise performance or making an accurate forecast in this environment is like tossing a dart at a dartboard—blindfolded.
As companies widen their global footprints, undertake far-flung acquisitions and create multiple corporate entities, you know what happens—they end up with numerous and disparate ERP, CPM, GRC and BI systems, some on-premises, some in the cloud. The end result is an alphabet soup that somehow Finance & Accounting must navigate. And this is occurring at a time when federal, state and international regulations are accelerating, increasingly complicated and painfully punitive. Nobody wants another accounting compliance scandal, particularly one stemming from a botched spreadsheet. When they occur, we all lose.
Now add to these countless stressors the unyielding pressures internally to slash costs, reduce and manage risks, deliver more strategic value, and operate at the highest levels of integrity, with the greatest degree of financial and accounting accuracy. In my heart of hearts, I empathize with accountants, their unnecessary trials and toils driving our work to fill all those nagging functionality gaps in core systems. Manual processes are taxing and time-consuming, causing accountants undue drudgery as they lurch from one financial close element to the next. There has to be a better way, and there is.
Technology is the solution, substituting predictability and continuous improvement for risk-prone and repetitive manual processes. It is what we are calling Modern Finance—managing core accounting and finance processes to the fullest degree of automation possible, especially when it comes to rote clerical tasks. At its core, Modern Finance embeds the automated analytics, risk mitigation and deep reporting capabilities across all these processes.
Not only does BlackLine’s new Finance Controls and Automation Platform liberate accountants from the labors inherent in their work, it assists their organizations’ CFOs to become more analytical about enterprise performance to improve forecasts and resource allocation decisions. Our goal is to turn bean counters and numbers crunchers into providers of value-added data analytics, and give CFOs all the intellectual help they need as their companies’ stewards of enterprise intelligence.
The platform is 100 percent SaaS, highly scalable and secure. It’s a work in progress, but most of what I have blogged about just now is available today. Above all, I want you to know that we are not trying to replace core systems—we have no intention of becoming an ERP vendor! Our job is to help our customers unlock the value of their existing investments in these systems to operate their businesses better. In my next blog, I’ll talk about one of these newer features—the BlackLine Intercompany Hub.
As I wrote last go-round, Gartner agrees with our direction, finding it sound and needed—even creating a new category of business technology around it. Now, that platform is in the marketplace, there to add balance to accountants’ lives, provide more timely access to accurate balance sheet information, and bring your organization to the highest levels of efficiency and control—to gain its digital edge.