Transforming the finance function can sound daunting, but it’s doable and even mandatory for business survival. During a panel at InTheBlack Singapore, the speakers traded success stories and tips on how to handle challenges and minimize mistakes in the long-term journey of digitally-transformed finance.
The panel included Petra Putzier, Finance Manager at Dyson Singapore; Carmeli Briones, Head of Financial Control and Shiela Marie Jimenez, Head of Collection Audit, Group Finance at Globe Telecom, Philippines; and Tammy Coley, Chief Transformation Officer at BlackLine.
Focusing on BlackLine’s automation capabilities, the panelists noted how the tedious manual work of financial processes is now history. Improvements in accuracy, trackability, and efficiency now allow their teams to focus on the customer, both internally and externally.
In place of time spent handling the perennial headaches of audit and compliance, staff now use dashboards to keep tabs on every project within their purview, obtain a big-picture overview of any problems that crop up, and quickly collaborate with cross-functional teams in the company to solve them satisfactorily.
Instead of working in silos, every department can now be tightly linked with each other, boosting agility and resilience. Instead of being just a controller function, finance teams are using BlackLine to add value to other business units’ planning and strategic goals.
The panel noted that while BlackLine is a great DX platform, migrating to such a powerful system requires proper planning. Teams also must be willing to move away from legacy practices that may be treasured, but are ultimately untenable in a cloud-based automation environment.
Throughout the event, the InTheBlack audience gained insights into how companies like theirs approached their DX goals and priorities differently when integrating BlackLine into their digitalization strategy.
Understanding Robotic Process Automation in Finance
Automation using robotic systems (RPA) helps integrate legacy systems into the latest cloud-based platforms. However, RPA is not a panacea, and has to be applied with foresight about the “where, when, and how” of DX planning.
BlackLine’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, Zach Deming, stressed that “bots” cannot yet perform the complex financial analyses that trained humans can. What they can do is facilitate process automation of simple, repetitive tasks required at high speed.
By freeing up finance personnel to perform value-added work, RPA complements the workflow and enhances productivity.
What does BlackLine add to the RPA trend in the finance sector? Its machine learning functionality can help by speeding up detail-heavy reconciliations, such as credit card matching or invoice-to-PO matching. In turn, speeding up such transaction matching tasks cuts the errors and delays in the critical month-end close.
According to Zach, RPA tools reduce risk, increase accuracy, and improve visibility, all while freeing accountants from the mind-numbing drudgery of manual closing activities.
Talent can then be freed to focus on what really matters to the health and wealth of the business: forecasting, analysis, and strategy.
While there are fears of RPA resulting in staff redundancy, Zach counters that these risks can be mitigated as long as professionals remain willing to uptrain and remain relevant.
Clarity of Purpose: Using New Reporting & Dashboards
Users of BlackLine’s reporting functionality can gain sharp insights into the progress, results, and risks of their financial closing processes. Elaborating on this was Solutions Consultant Alex Chai of BlackLine. The new dashboards in the platform now provide users with role-based intelligence so that everyone can take intuitive action and streamline their workflows.
Using Motor Sports as an example, Alex noted that winning teams bank on timely access to critical and accurate information, in addition to fast and tight team collaboration.
Similarly, BlackLine’s succinct dashboards help visualize key data for users to facilitate fast decision-making based on reliable financial data and insights. When needed, users can drill down into detailed data in multiple dimensions to see what requires attention or reconciliation.
In the area of reporting, BlackLine allows variance analysis to be done during a close and not after, as is the norm in traditional workflows using spreadsheets. Using dynamic actual-vs-budget reports, users can set variance thresholds to detect situations that require attention.
BlackLine’s dynamic tracking of time-sensitive assets also prevents surprises, such as excessive stocks of perishable products nearing expiry dates. Preventing urgent intervention in operations can only lead to fewer human errors and improved clarity for management overview.
Finally, Alex touched on the process improvements that could be identified when rejections in certifications occur. Such a bird’s-eye view allows organizations to improve staff training and morale, leading to a strong and trusting business culture.
Attend InTheBlack 2019 in Los Angeles to gain even more insights like these, through inspiring keynotes, education, networking, and professional development.