Accounting in the Face of Quickening Change: BeyondTheBlack’s Product Keynote

5-minute read

New investments in BlackLine’s people, products, and connectivity were some of the highlights of this year’s BeyondTheBlack product keynote, The Future of Accounting—2025 & Beyond.

“As our world continues to become more complex, we’re investing in accelerating our pace of innovation so you have a platform that is agile and adapts to changing business and operating conditions,” BlackLine’s Chief Technology Officer Pete Hirsch told customers.

Hirsch said that BlackLine has added more than 100 technologists, expanded the company’s product, architecture, engineering, and cloud teams, and added a new Solution Management team to focus more closely on our customers.

He also said that during 2021, BlackLine will be migrating to the Google Cloud Platform to enhance future scalability and performance.

He noted that these are some of the ways that “we are investing mightily in our platform to give accounting, the controller, and ultimately the CFO a digital, cloud-based foundation to optimize and automate every accounting process.”

BlackLine’s New Product Investments for 2021

Hirsch, Senior Vice President of Product Manoj Narayan, and Solutions Management Vice President Rob Feinstein talked about some of the enhancements customers can expect in 2021.

New solutions will include BlackLine Cash Application and BlackLine Account Analysis.

BlackLine Cash Application is the first solution from BlackLine’s October acquisition of AI-powered, cloud-based Rimilia. BlackLine Cash automates the accounts receivable function, and can dramatically improve cash management—a vital concern for all businesses.

BlackLine Account Analysis helps mitigate risk by automatically categorizing open items, identifying missing transactions, and posting journals to the general ledger. This enables companies to manage and explain exceptions throughout the month, rather than having to rush—and risk making errors—during the close.

An Advanced User Experience

“We’re modernizing our user interface across the entire platform,” says Hirsch. “We’ve looked at our pages to see how they can be redesigned to enable a more intuitive experience, and to simplify the steps to get work done.”

An example is BlackLine’s redesigned Unmatched Transactions page. The new page allows users to customize their views in a number of ways, and includes a “breadcrumb” feature so the user can click directly back into the reconciliation when work is completed. Rob Feinstein covered these and other new features with a video demonstration.

“Transaction matching is just one example,” he says. “All across the platform, we’re implementing a common visual language. The idea is that even when you see a new page for the first time, there’s a lot you already know how to do because you’ve learned it by using parts of the application.”

User experience advances will also extend to mobile devices in 2021. This will put BlackLine in the palm of your hand, for specific tasks that can easily be done on a mobile device or tablet. The vision is to enable you to close from anywhere.

Feinstein also described two recently released template builders for BlackLine’s Journal Entry and Intercompany Hub solutions. These help customers and partners speed up implementation without relying solely on BlackLine implementation teams.

Extending the SAP Roadmap

BlackLine Vice President of Product Management Fred Li pointed out several ways that BlackLine is tightening its relationship with SAP. BlackLine has been an SAP Solution Extension (SolEx) partner since 2018, and BlackLine Smart Close helps SAP customers simplify, standardize, and automate their finance close in SAP.

Among several connector/extractor announcements, Li said BlackLine is developing new Fiori Tiles to seamlessly integrate workflows between SAP and BlackLine. Fiori is the design language used in SAP applications. BlackLine’s new Fiori Tiles can be used to redirect users from the Fiori Launchpad to the BlackLine cloud platform or to Smart Close.

“These new tiles help provide a more integrated, end-to-end approach for our customers who perform closing tasks in both SAP and BlackLine,” says Li.

BlackLine’s new Account Analysis solution will be integrated with SAP, and BlackLine will allow this  direct integration with SAP to bring transaction-level details into BlackLine Account Reconciliations.

Other advances will include:

  • Enhanced connectivity between BlackLine and SAP S/4HANA
  • Enhanced performance of journal entry posting for SAP customers
  • Full integration between BlackLine and the essential multi-tenant and extended single-tenant editions of SAP S/4HANA

Extending BlackLine Connectivity

Extending the quality and scope of its enterprise connectivity is another goal for BlackLine in 2021. Among the announcements are:

  • An integration platform that will support enhanced configurability for ERP data extracts
  • Connector API access to BlackLine, to eliminate the need to schedule file transfers
  • Deepening support for mid-market ERPs
  • Enhancements to Oracle connectivity

Also announced in this keynote is a new developer portal that will let developers take advantage of BlackLine APIs. According to Li, this will “serve as a forum for us and you to drive innovation between BlackLine and other systems. It will create a more seamless exchange of data to drive business processes, deliver results faster, and drive better business decisions.”

A Future-Focused View

Looking into the future, Manoj Narayan gave a sense of where BlackLine’s innovations are heading.

“With the rate at which technology is changing, we will soon be able to realize a new era of Accounting—a day in which we are no longer talking about periodic reporting, but living with a real-time, continuous, and touchless close.

“Almost everything will be in the cloud. Most of the work will be done using mobile devices. Repetitive and labor-intensive tasks will be automated, self service will be the norm, people will have real-time access to data, and spreadsheets will be replaced.

“BlackLine is building solutions that will help your career, your team, and your company,” he told the audience. “We want you to embark with us toward a future that shifts your financial close from high-touch to low-touch, and then to no-touch.”

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, the SAP track, and stories about these sessions:

  • Leading with Resilience & Agility: Make the Move to Modern Accounting
  • A Better Way to Unify & Reconcile Data
  • Eliminating Spreadsheet Gymnastics in Your Payroll & T&E