6 minute read
July 06, 2022
6 minute read
As organisations increasingly adopt digital solutions, financial accounting is a key area where the right solution can deliver true transformation. Automating month-end and reconciliation processes can free up accountants to focus on more interesting parts of the job, rather than simply crunch the numbers.
At BlackLine’s recent Asia Pacific BeyondTheBlack event, we sat down with four BlackLine customers who have made significant strides in their journeys towards increased efficiency and automation.
Managing finances through separate enterprise resource planning (ERP) instances was becoming complex for CSL, so the team wanted to improve standardisation and compliance. Financial accounting reconciliations were identified as a key area for improvement. The team investigated state-of-the-art solutions and flagged BlackLine as a leading tool.
Mangesh Panshikar, director of finance innovation at CSL, said, “We were happy BlackLine was a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution because that meant it could connect with different ERP systems. With offices and entities all over the world and each location doing things their own way, it was important to bring standardisation across the board.”
Since implementing BlackLine, CSL has strengthened the integrity and compliance of financial accounting and the new solution supports the business’s shared services model. Intercompany reconciliations are important for CSL with numerous legal entities due to how the business operations are structured. As the next milestone, getting intercompany balances reconciled and certified is going to be much easier and more streamlined with BlackLine.
Panshikar said, “A key goal is to optimise month-end processes through automation. This reduces the time needed for reconciliations and lets employees focus on analytics. With automation and efficiency comes compliance but also, just as importantly, employee satisfaction. Freeing up employees from spending time on mundane, manual activities is a big value-add, which CSL is keen to do, and BlackLine is a key driver in that.”
BlackLine integrates with all three versions of SAP ERP in use at CSL. This integration was smooth and seamless, making BlackLine version-agnostic as well as ERP-agnostic.
At Pepper Global, the team was looking for efficiencies around the reconciliation process. There were three key elements required by Pepper Global: agility and ease of being able to move accounts to specific stakeholders within the tool; the ability to contextualise data to enrich the reconciliation process and provide more information to financial accountants; and the ability to centralise processes by providing a single location where accountants could collaborate and get the job done efficiently.
Pepper Global uses BlackLine to group accounts to contextualise specific chart of accounts relationships within the trial balance. This means Pepper Global can have one reconciliation for all those accounts within the trial balance.
Paul Minogue, finance systems manager at Pepper Global, said, “Originally, we standardised within BlackLine based on how we were doing reconciliations at that point. By regrouping the chart of accounts again, and aligning processes to those groupings, we could take advantage of automation around certification and rules within BlackLine to trigger based on criteria within the accounting platform. We were able to automate a great deal of this process with minimal touch in terms of administration of accounts. That frees up a lot of time for the accountants.”
Pepper Global also conducts reconciliations in multiple currencies and can set the currencies for the groups automatically based on predefined logic. This saves a great deal of time since Pepper Global sees 60-70 new account relationships monthly due to unique relationships with subsidiaries.
In the future, Pepper Global intends to continue adding contextual information for reconciliations, especially around intercompany reconciliations. Automating the substantiation of reconciliations can help reduce the burden on accountants around that process.
Minogue said, “It would also be beneficial to use the tasks within BlackLine to manage audit tasks. Currently, we use tasks for month-to-month tasks, so expanding this to audit could deliver benefits.”
ActewAGL was looking for transparency and visibility into the numbers, not just at a management level for better decision-making, but also across different roles to empower the team to do more than just processing work.
Veronica Shehata, manager, financial reporting, and compliance at ActewAGL, said, “For me, going through the ranks as an accountant, I didn’t want to be bogged down going through historical processes and spending my time in spreadsheets. No one does. We gained strong executive buy-in for BlackLine by demonstrating how it would enhance our control and transparency around the numbers and also deliver higher staff engagement by avoiding excessive use of spreadsheets and slow processes.”
Having several finance teams operating within the business, a central repository tool where the team can see at a glance when reconciliations have been completed, and confirm consistencies across the board, was a big win.
ActewAGL also uses BlackLine to streamline the audit process. Rather than laboriously and manually provide audit information, the business provides its auditors with access to BlackLine. This means the team can focus on its daily tasks while the auditors complete their work.
BlackLine assists with cash forecasting through its matching tool. This has been important for ActewAGL, especially over the last couple of years, enabling greater transparency of underlying cashflows to inform the budgeting and forecasting process. The cash matching module provides the team with greater understanding of business unit cashflows and improves the end-to-end cash management cycle.
In the future, ActewAGL will investigate using the journals module in BlackLine to continue its move away from spreadsheets and keep the team focused on value-add activities and providing support to the wider business.
Treasury Wine Estates also wanted to free up the finance team for value-adding activities as well as gain a single source of truth for financial accounting. Treasury Wine Estates uses the BlackLine reconciliations module and has also rolled out the journals module. This was an easy transition since staff members were already familiar with the interface.
Amber Lydiate, global IT director, sales marketing and corporate at Treasury Wine Estates, said, “Our journal entry process was clunky and manual. There was only one clear tool that could help, and that was BlackLine Journals. We automated as many steps along the way as possible, which has given time back to the finance teams to focus on value-adding activities.”
Treasury Wine Estates uses JD Edwards as its ERP solution. The ERP team was initially sceptical that BlackLine would work with this complex solution. However, after speaking with another BlackLine customer who also used JD Edwards, the Treasury Wine Estates team was confident it could be managed.
Lydiate said, “We haven’t had any ERP-related trouble with BlackLine. Our experience has shown that it’s definitely ERP-agnostic.”
Next steps for Treasury Wine Estates will include automating some journals, continuing to strip out the repetitive tasks for accountants, and moving towards a more continuous accounting mode of working.
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