BlackLine CEO and founder Therese Tucker kicked off Day Two of InTheBlack, and her keynote had an uplifting theme: People Matter. “We’ve been so successful because of our customers. Our journey starts with you and is about you.” She continued with this inspiring statement, “We have the ability to change how the entire industry operates. That’s what gets me up in the morning.”
Therese built BlackLine through this transformative mentality and encouraged each attendee to adopt this mindset as well. Her challenge to accounting and finance professionals is to continually ask, “’How can I get better? What are the things I can do in my life that will make me a better human being?’ A transforming mindset spills into other areas of our lives.”
Therese closed with a quote from Moneyball by Michael Lewis, who spoke next: “No matter how successful you are, change is always good. There can never be a status quo.”
Q&A with Best-Selling Author Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis engaged the audience with stories about his kids, his own childhood, and how he got his start on Wall Street. He grew up in New Orleans and likens his childhood to Huckleberry Fin’s, and he brought this contrasting approach to life into Wall Street’s ambition, materialism, and smarts. He brought a unique perspective to today’s interview as well, as made evident with his response to this question:
Q: If you could change one rule in baseball, what would it be?
A: What if you could run either direction around the bases? Runners would collide and people would appreciate the quality of the collision or how they evaded each other.
Lewis gave us a sneak peek into his new book, The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, which dives into behavioral psychology and making judgments in the midst of uncertainty. The book hits shelves in December.
He also revealed his process to determine whether or not to write a particular story. “I ask myself, ‘Do I feel an emotion about the material I’m looking at that is so strong that I can’t not write about it? Do I feel like I’ll be doing the world a disservice if I don’t write this book?’ If I don’t feel that strongly about it, I don’t write it. It starts with an emotion and that feeling is the touchstone that makes the decision to move forward or not. The goal is to unburden myself of this story I’ve been entrusted with.”
SAP & Under Armour: Driving Continuous Improvement with BlackLine & SAP Software
Ivo Bauermann, Global Vice President and General Manager EPM & ERP Financials, SAP Software cited the big changes in business as the reason more companies are moving to digital and identified technology as the key enabler that is driving finance transformation. With new business models such as Netflix and Uber changing entire industries, SAP believes it is time to reimagine strategy, business performance, efficiency, and compliance through a Continuous Accounting lens. This looks like:
- Architecting new business models instead of responding to them
- Bringing all of the data together to create an integrated view of your business
- Automating your processes to avoid wasting time and resources
Under Armour is using BlackLine and SAP to help them realize their Corporate Accounting vision of having more time to analyze results. They began their Continuous Accounting journey two years ago, and these are their key wins so far:
- We’re not doing less work, we’re doing smarter work and focusing on the right areas
- Increased visibility results in fewer post-close adjustments
- Reduced monthly certifications for reconciliations and journals by less than 25%
- Scalable, global processes allows for seamless onboarding
- Corporate and executive visibility to items prepared outside headquarters
- More time spent performing analytics and adding value
- “Push-button” reporting of close status increases confidence
The Future of Finance Panel
Manny Korakis, Chief Financial Officer, S&P Dow Jones Indicies; Shakora Derixson, Vice President Accounting Operations, SunTrust Bank; Bill Thomas, Practice Leader, Ernst & Young; Susan Parcells, Senior Director of Finance Transformation, BlackLine
This panel was a wonderful way to end the morning with a wealth of information about the emerging trends these experts see ahead of us. Two themes emerged: 1) High-volume data, analysis of data, and predictive analytics are going to grow, and 2) It is imperative that we train our teams to leverage technology and begin breaking down the silos within companies. Finance has often been viewed as a silo, and an impediment to business processes. It’s time to forge relationships, eliminate these boundaries, and build a community so that teams are working together and sharing data.
When asked what accounting and finance professionals should individually take away from their predictions, the panel talked about the importance of becoming an innovator and a change agent. Susan Parcells urged, “Don’t be complacent. Don’t stop at a little bit of improvement. Keep going back and look at different ways to continue to add value to your organization. “
Bill Thomas encouraged, “Challenge the art of what’s possible. We tend to accept things as the status quo, but finance is changing so our thoughts about what’s possible need to change as well. ‘Why are we doing it this way? Why can’t this be done?’ Ask those questions and continue to have the mindset of change.”
You’re Only as Good As Your Users – How to Foster User Adoption to Increase ROI
Susanna Metzler, Senior Analyst/NA COE Controllership of Johnson Controls, understands the power of championing her accounting team. Her managerial approach is inspired by her Dad, who motivated, mentored, encouraged, and believed in her from a young age. She continues to be influenced by great leaders and role models within her organization and is focused on creating a culture worthy of celebration. It sounds like she has more than accomplished this. She uses quick morale boosters to empower and engage her team, and always celebrates the wins.
This approach is aligned with their accounting vision: Growth Is Fun. Susanna knows that growth comes from making customers successful, it happens when you love what you do and the people you work with, and it is the result of teams working in unison.
She closed with this thought-provoking message: “Who are your champions? It does not take special skills to champion your teams. It does take patience, time and passion for what you do.”
We’re looking forward to The Close Party tonight. It’s going to be a beautiful rooftop event featuring live entertainment, dinner inspired by local flavors, and a performance by America’s Got Talent judge Howie Mandel.