Accounting automation helps organizations of all shapes and sizes bring their numbers under control and into analysis. But as data and accounting processes grow more complex, the challenge of making all of that information available to the right person at the right time becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.
This was the challenge that Rob Leesberg took on when he was a finance process architect for SAP. Asked to consolidate the closing tasks for a large customer’s businesses in 32 countries, he created what became a solution that standardizes closing in SAP.
Several years later, that solution grew to form the core of a new company. And last year that company was acquired by BlackLine.
Today, the product is known as BlackLine Smart Close for SAP, and it succeeds by putting critical information before the eyes of F&A managers in ways that bring previously unimaginable levels of control, automation, and visibility to the largest, most complex organizations in the world.
A Monster Spreadsheet
At SAP, Leesberg’s challenge was daunting.
“The customer’s business entities were locally managed,” he says, “and they averaged about 600 tasks each. That’s almost 20,000 tasks every month. We created a monster – a monster spreadsheet – but it was way too big to produce timely and reliable information. We looked for a better way.”
Leesberg’s team created intelligent tables to connect with the relevant SAP applications and built some early-generation automated workflows. The application was now able to deliver information in a standardized, usable form to executive management.
“We knew then that consolidating and standardizing processes was essential to handling large amounts of fast-changing data,” Leesberg says, “not to mention getting that data before the eyes of management while it was still fresh.”
Now with BlackLine, Leesberg’s product, Smart Close for SAP, automates the entire close process, from task and job scheduling to execution of close tasks. It performs technical reconciliations among different SAP applications, and validates report accuracy – all transparent to the user. Smart Close lets even the largest enterprises standardize their close process across multiple systems, business entities and countries.
KPIs for Process Tuning
True to its original design intent, Smart Close makes all of this activity visible to management through standard and customizable KPIs based on live, real-time data. Standard KPIs include Close Progress, Automation Rate, Automation Success Rate, Manual Overrides, Late Tasks, and Late Milestones. Custom KPIs can combine criteria to deliver volumes of drillable information, all via manager-friendly graphic displays (see illustration).
“As every manager knows, getting up-to-the-minute KPIs can make a huge impact on company performance,” says Leesberg, currently BlackLine’s managing director for SAP technology and integration.
As the product evolves, Leesberg says future KPIs will make use of BlackLine’s Insights technology to help management continually fine-tune their finance processes based on real-world peer comparisons. “But the best thing is that, to the customer, none of the underlying complexity will matter, since the information will be ready, waiting, easily accessible and immediately actionable.”
Learn more about how BlackLine Smart Close can orchestrate and automate your SAP close activities.