January 28, 2021

Eliminating Spreadsheet Gymnastics in Your Payroll & T&E

Eliminating Spreadsheet Gymnastics in Your Payroll & T&E Image | BlackLine Magazine

Too many people have been doing gymnastics for far too long—not with balance beams or uneven bars, but with Excel spreadsheets. Living by the adage “we’ve always done it that way” is no longer sustainable for accounting organizations. In the BeyondTheBlack session, Eliminating Spreadsheet Gymnastics in Your Payroll & T&E, two former controllers who now work at BlackLine explained why.

“With both of us having controllership in our backgrounds, we love our spreadsheets,” says BlackLine Senior Manager for Strategic Innovation, Kim Corbin. But spreadsheets can be difficult. They waste precious time and effort and can add risk to accounting processes.

Let’s dive into two use-case examples: payroll and T&E accounting.

Payroll Challenges

“With payroll, data is coming from everywhere—from HR, Accounting, Payroll, and other departments,” says BlackLine Strategic Innovation Manager Sharhonda Rush. “So at the end of the period, accountants are trying to execute different data matching scenarios and they’re going across different departments in the company.

“What happens then is what we call ‘spreadsheet gymnastics.’ They have elaborate VLOOKUPS, macros, and nested formulas. And those are open to error—and to delays. What if a link breaks? What if you can’t automate something because there’s a maximum of rows and columns like you have in Excel?

“So, you have this password-protected file,” Rush says. “You have it saved in a few places. It has a ton of formulas and it takes a long time to open. And it may work. But in the long term, it’s not sustainable.”

T&E Challenges

As with payroll, travel and entertainment accounting also faces a host of data complexities.

Corbin says, “With the onset of COVID, we have new expenses from working from home, from setting up your home office, from WiFi, printers, and anything else. There are the human factors, where workers are late to file their expenses.

“There’s also the risk of missing a large expense item. Missing this item can impact not just our current financial reporting but also our forecasts.”

The Power of Matching

In this BeyondTheBlack session, Corbin and Rush showed how BlackLine can help resolve these issues by automating reconciliations and using other solutions like BlackLine Transaction Matching.  

Corbin and Rush demonstrated how automated matching works in payroll and T&E to apply sophisticated, multi-dimensional filters—called pass rules—as a means of replacing the ticking-and-tying associated with “rainbow” spreadsheets.

In one example, Rush shows how BlackLine quickly matches more than 300 GL transactions down to just 20 payroll transactions. In payroll, T&E, and other processes, matching saves substantial time and risk since the accountant doesn’t have to spend time on pivot tables or elaborate formulas.

This frees your accounting teams to focus on managing exceptions and becoming a valued strategic partner across the business.

Own Your Data

How do you get there? Where do you start? You start by taking ownership of your data. Once that data is in BlackLine, there are endless ways to make that data usable. And by bringing it all into one centralized source of truth, you can build automation into the logic of your processes.

“You don’t need IT and you don’t need to know SQL. The only expense is 30 to 60 minutes of your time upfront, and then you can see the power of the various processes in the BlackLine solution.”

Read our BeyondTheBlack issue of BlackLine Quarterly for more stories like this. We dive into some of the highlights from our annual event, including our inspiring keynotes and stories about these sessions:

  • Leading with Resilience & Agility: Make the Move to Modern Accounting
  • Making the Most of Process Automation
  • A Better Way to Unify & Reconcile Data

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