How to Transition to a Seamless & Automated Virtual Close

This article originally appeared in Acuity Magazine. It’s a 4-minute read.

Adaption is essential to survival during a crisis, which is why accounting teams should be moving to cloud-based systems to finalise reports.  

Australia Post manages more than $6.8 billion in annual revenue across diverse lines of business. Although its accounting strategy involves having the best technology embedded in its culture, closing its books was taking 15 days because it was manually reconciling hundreds of bank accounts.

Using Excel was labour intensive and time-consuming, and there was a lack of visibility and control across the group. Accounting teams were regularly putting in significant overtime. It was clear something needed to change.

In 2014, Australia Post teamed up with BlackLine to automate and standardise its reconciliations, with an iterative rollout across four subsidiaries. A reconciliation process that was once slow and cumbersome became streamlined and automated.

“BlackLine offers a lot more control and visibility for account reconciliations, without having a person pulling information from team members and putting together a report,” says Catherine Phan, Australia Post’s senior manager of general accounting.

Today, BlackLine enables Australia Post to automate approximately 750 account reconciliations every month. The month-end close takes just two days instead of 15 and it completes audits in one week instead of two.

Remarkably, Australia Post has also achieved cost savings of one million dollars over the course of three years.

Accuracy is Vital—and Virtual

With a workforce disrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, decades-old accounting processes have become unsustainable. Even under normal circumstances, a close that involves manual tasks, such as contrasting checklists, lengthy emails, and never-ending status meetings is a drain on efficiency and resources.

And with millions of Australian employees now working from home in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, persisting with labour-intensive closing processes becomes even more onerous for employees.

While we may be living in challenging times, accuracy is no less vital. Producing real-time financial reports that are representative of a company’s true financial position remains essential.

BlackLine’s cloud-based solutions can help organisations adopt virtual close processes, ensuring that accounting and finance teams unify data and processes across disparate systems.

At the same time, a number of common bottleneck and shortcomings will be eliminated, such as delays in obtaining critical information from other departments, a lack of visibility into the accounting close calendar and status, and the silos that spring up within finance and accounting teams.

By automating repetitive work, accounting and finance teams can turn their attention to value-added tasks.

Step-By-Step or a Single Leap

Some organisations opt to build a foundation for a future digital finance transformation, rather than taking the leap straight away. This involves identifying which tasks are ready for automation, and which tasks can be performed earlier in the month.

BlackLine works with organisations by discussing a few tasks each week and offers the opportunity to implement a less rigid accounting calendar. Then, when the time comes to implement full automation, a solid foundation will already be in place.

Save the date: BlackLine’s APAC Virtual Event

Register for BlackLine’s APAC Virtual Event on 28 May to learn more about how your organisation can achieve a seamless and automated quarter-end close.

This free event is part of BlackLine’s Finance Transformation Series and brings together your finance peers, industry experts, and the BlackLine team.