Coping with COVID: How to Make Technology Work for You

If your finance transformation initiative has stalled, or if manual processes are challenging you and your remote team, look for some quick wins. That’s the advice of Molly Boyle, BlackLine’s director of solutions marketing, for coping with the new reality of COVID-19.

“As with all business, the accounting world is dealing with significant challenges,” she says.

“There are logistical issues, like do I have the equipment I need? Can I access my data? Can I communicate with my colleagues? Do I have visibility into what’s happening?

“Then there are the more technical accounting considerations, like am I confident in the integrity of my balance sheet? Can I identify errors in a timely manner in this environment? Can I properly account for the impacts of the virus and communicate those to executive leadership?

“Fortunately, we have the Internet and other modern technology to help with the first set of challenges. The second is less clear cut, since accounting teams are in different stages of their accounting process evolutions. Some teams are worried they can’t get it all done in time.”

Still, she says, there are ways that organizations can make the most of purpose-built accounting solutions to score some quick wins—and help clear the path for future improvements.

Simplify & Streamline

Now is the time to focus on the short term, Boyle notes, and to use automation to deal with the routine aspects of Accounting. This way, you can put your time and energy into more complex challenges, like assessing what the financial impact will be on your business.

This is a time to look for some quick wins. For BlackLine customers, that might mean turning on or better utilizing Task Management, which gives accountants a consolidated view of their close checklist—or any checklist.

“In a single view, you can see exactly what’s happening, who’s responsible, and what their deadlines are,” Boyle says.

For businesses still using spreadsheets, Task Management is an ideal entry into simple and configurable automation. It can be up and running in a matter of days, or for more complex scenarios, weeks.

Keeping Auditors Happy

Auditors, now also working remotely, are facing their own challenges. Getting timely access to files and documentation of the PBC items becomes more difficult than ever.

Again, cloud solutions like BlackLine can help. For instance, BlackLine customers can simply turn on auditor access, giving auditors a self-service model for accessing supporting documentation and other evidence remotely.

“This is another benefit for businesses that want to start with Task Management,” says Boyle. “They can use Task Management to accept and respond to auditor requests, and both accountants and auditors can accept and sign off on tasks or milestones with a single source of truth.”

BlackLine can help in other ways as well. Turning on some more advanced rules can help lessen the degree of human intervention. Re-evaluating materiality thresholds can help reduce the volume or frequency of sign-offs, opening up opportunities for more strategic thinking or focusing on higher-risk activities.

A Runway Into the Future of Finance

What is needed most right now is to focus on the short term, Boyle notes. But any optimization decisions made today can prepare you for the future.

“It’s important to keep the future in mind, even today,” she says. “When we get through this, businesses that made smart, targeted choices will be well ahead of those that didn’t. Every accounting team can benefit from technology today—it’s critical for survival.

“But for BlackLine customers, it’s also important to note that they’re getting a solution with a long runway for future optimization and further automation. So they won’t outgrow our platform and the benefits it can bring to their organizations.”

Visit our Virtual Close hub for more resources to help you adapt to working with a distributed workforce in these uncertain times.