Expert Q&A: How Accounting Can Rise in a Time of Uncertainty [Part 2]

4-minute read

These are unprecedented times, and Accounting and Finance are navigating a host of new challenges, including figuring out a virtual quarter-end close with a distributed workforce. No one can predict how long this will be our new normal, but one thing is certain: we all have a choice in how we respond to this crisis.

We can focus on the roadblocks—and there are many—or we can choose to find the opportunities, and these are abundant, too.

Molly Boyle, one of BlackLine’s finance transformation experts connected with Aimee Leishure, former SVP of transformation at Laureate International Universities to talk about some of the rare opportunities she’s seeing as a result of this pandemic.

This is part 2 of their conversation. You can read part 1 here.

Molly: For organizations that rely on manual processes or tribal knowledge, spreadsheets, emails, and [virtual] meetings are probably even more prevalent now.

How can F&A teams address the challenges associated with managing those processes in a virtual environment?

Aimee: This goes back to your short-term plan: what can you do right now to make things simpler? Are there technology solutions you can implement quickly? Find a cloud-based solution that is best-in-class and easy to implement to give you visibility into data your leaders use to make decisions.

Create a plan and define desired outcomes upfront: what is needed immediately and how can a cloud platform achieve the defined goals? What can be implemented virtually? This approach can unite and advance the team in a time of crisis.

This is also an opportunity for upskilling. Many people are trying to figure out how to stay relevant in the industry, especially with all the new technology that’s available and in a time where job security is going to be at a premium.

If there is a tech solution that can be up and running in six to eight weeks or even less, this is an outstanding investment not only for the company, but also for the team. It will allow team members to navigate change management and demonstrate leadership ability, thus elevating skillsets. 

Molly: Let’s shift to the long-term mindset. After accounting teams work through this next reporting period, what are some of the key things controllers should be thinking about?

Aimee: This will be a really good time to pause, engage with your team, and create a strategy:

  • How can the team make the best of what has been a crisis situation?
  • What do we want to look like a year from now?
  • How can we better align with our auditors?
  • What can we invest in right now to define our future and become better prepared for the next crisis? 
  • How do we cross-train our employees and provide better solutions?
  • What processes and best practices need to be defined and documented?

Molly: Companies are focused on business continuity right now, but at some point, that pendulum will swing back to a more steady state—probably a new normal. What do you think are the characteristics of a successful virtual close and what are the characteristics of a resilient accounting organization?

Aimee: I think this comes back to data again. Data is power and those organizations that can access and communicate reliable information will be best prepared for success.  

To build resiliency, accounting teams should be documenting processes and training others on those processes to ensure multiple people have the knowledge to execute each task. Use technology to automate your account processes, for example, reconciliations and standardized templates.

This is a time when you really want to define repetition, quality, speed, and data so you can achieve a greater level of efficiency, effectiveness, and control.

Molly: Thank you for this conversation, Aimee. This is an interesting time for all of us. Any final thoughts?

Aimee: As difficult as it seems, long-term positive changes with come about. People always rise to the occasion in a crisis. If we can take care of our people, appreciate our people, and understand their circumstances, they’ll pay us back in dividends. Communicate as much as possible and make sure your team has time to take care of their families and themselves.

I’ve run many transformations in my career and have seen how resilient people are. We will get through this moment in our history and come out better on the other side. People and organizations might not look the same as they did six months ago, but we will overcome and business will come back even stronger. People will adapt to change and improve the future.

Read this blog to learn more about how to keep your teams engaged and increase their loyalty during this pandemic.