The UK’s leading sustainable building-materials and construction business faced a daunting challenge. Recent mergers had saddled the company’s shared services center with a requirement to service multiple financial close processes and support five different ERPs.
But when it was acquired by CRH in 2015, the company, Tarmac, saw an opportunity to upgrade its manual close processes with automation software from BlackLine.
“All reconciliations were completed manually,” says Andrew Parris, Tarmac’s director of shared services, “and different business practices were used across the business. We had little control over reconciliation quality, and there was considerable variability in the quality of evidence to support reconciliations and journals.”
Parris says the company used a spreadsheet to keep track of reconciliations. “We had little to no visibility over the status of reconciliations except at the end of the month, so we had no insight into risks or opportunities in the balance sheet.”
With the CRH acquisition, Tarmac finally had a chance to regroup and bring order and stability to its accounting processes, technology, and people.
“We wanted technology that would create an accurate and controlled month-end process,” says Parris. “That meant, at a minimum, balance sheet reconciliations, journals, and month-end task management. Ideally, we’d also have access to analytics, dashboards, and alerts.”
BlackLine was rolled out over seven months to accommodate the company’s 6,800 GL accounts and five ERPs. Tarmac was taking the opportunity to migrate to a single SAP ERP, so considered it essential that BlackLine would integrate with all of the company’s ERPs.
According to Parris, Tarmac focused not just on process and technology, but on people as well. “We impact-assessed systems to ensure minimal disruption, and we created a communication program and followed a standard change methodology to sustain buy-in.”
Saving Time & Reducing Risk
Parris estimates that Tarmac is now saving up to 450 hours a month, while still ensuring that all key account reconciliations are completed by the fourth working day.
By automating the approval chain and streamlining workflow, the company has also reduced the use of spreadsheets to manage reconciliations and month-end tasks.
“The increase in efficiency has allowed us to redeploy resources to more value-added tasks, like analysis and addressing risk. We can go faster because we have more control and visibility with BlackLine,” Parris says.
Tarmac has also been able to standardize processes across all business units and gained real-time control and visibility over tasks – not possible before, when spreadsheets were used to track task completion. Perhaps most importantly, the upgrade has now set the stage for Continuous Accounting.
“BlackLine is helping us transition to a soft close and Continuous Accounting,” says Parris. “We have instant insight, which allows for immediate decisions. We’ve improved management and control of our operations. “The bottom line is that we no longer need spreadsheet jockeys, since BlackLine gives us improved control, benchmarking, analytics, and automation.”
To learn more about Tarmac's finance transformation journey, read their full story here.