BlackLine Blog

April 11, 2023

How to Accelerate Your Close in SAP

Intelligent Automation
4 Minute Read

Katherine Becraft

Senior Manager of SAP Solutions

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There’s a hard truth making its way through the world of financial close management: relying on manual processes to execute financial close activities is not sustainable, particularly for large enterprises.

And yet to close the books, many companies are manually executing activities that occur within the ERP—even for corporations using the most sophisticated ERP solutions, such as SAP.

In complex operating environments, financial close processes are often segregated and siloed, and repeatedly touched by different departments and regions. Finance and accounting teams perform a host of manual tasks, such as running SAP cost-center reports, downloading reports into Excel spreadsheets, performing analysis and validations, and signing off on tasks so dependent processes can be initiated.

As a result, accountants encounter errors after running a transaction, leading to a string of communications and activities in an attempt to triage the issue and rectify it. Sometimes, errors are missed completely and are carried through to the close, at which time—if they are discovered—accountants don’t have adequate time to properly analyze and validate the business results. Due to the high-stakes pressure, it’s no wonder that many staffers feel they’re one close away from burnout.

The bottom-line issue is the financial close simply takes much too long. According to a recent survey by FSN Modern Finance Forum, 97% of CFOs reported that their biggest concern is that F&A won’t meet reporting deadlines.

It’s therefore essential that organizations implement SAP financial close automation solutions designed to accelerate the close now. Putting this decision off, such as waiting for a migration to SAP S4/HANA, will result in increased risk and cost.

The Best Strategy for SAP Financial Close Automation

As much as they would like to, businesses won’t find an effective solution within their traditional financial close solutions. While some features in SAP may provide checklists and scheduling, they automate only a small percentage of tasks—20% or less. For example, staff may schedule transaction codes and report, but they must manually validate results, review the exceptions, coordinate with other team members, and verify that every close-related task has been completed. At the end of the process, they must manually capture activities performed during the close and create the audit trail.

What’s needed is a proven close strategy, one that leverages native SAP technology, allowing organizations to simplify, standardize, and automate the financial close process, optimize decision making, and minimize touch points with minimal intervention. This strategy requires that organizations address five key pillars:

Pillar 1: Purpose-built automation.

When the mission is improving the close, priority actions become clear. Manual processes are removed from close-related tasks, such as scheduling, executing, and monitoring financial close activities, along with validations and workflow, allowing staff to manage by exception.

Pillar 2: Standardized close processes.

All financial close activities are managed the same way throughout the organization, to ensure global consistency with local flexibility.

Pillar 3: Real-time compliance.

Internal control processes are automated, and issues are flagged and resolved, as business is executed.

Pillar 4: End-to-end visibility.

Accounting teams can view the close status at any time to see what work has been, or has not yet been, completed.

Pillar 5: Seamless ERP connectivity.

Businesses can’t afford friction and delays when adopting new solutions, so it’s essential that technologies can be seamlessly connected, or better yet, embedded in SAP for optimal performance, security, and customization. Given that SAP is the market leader in enterprise application software, proven connectivity with SAP is a must whether an organization is using ECC or S/4 HANA—or is in the process of migrating.

The Smart Close Solution

By way of example, BlackLine’s Smart Close is an SAP-embedded solution that’s designed to accelerate the close by simplifying, standardizing, and automating traditionally manual close activities. It gives finance and accounting teams increased visibility and control—directly within SAP (download the Smart Close data sheet).

Unlike other solutions, Smart Close can fully automate hundreds of otherwise manual steps, resulting in a 60% reduction in time to close. In addition to automating tasks and job scheduling, it can verify the correctness of closing transactions and take action, such as raising alerts, making corrections, or pushing the closing process to the next step.

Smart Close enables accounting to make changes to process flow, business rules, workflows, tolerances, and conditional logic all on their own. In addition, it offers these attributes:

Accelerated close. Smart Close’s purpose-built automation engine allows organizations to automate up to 80% of their close processes.

Streamlined workflows. Smart Close can schedule and execute tasks, checking that everything meets accounting’s criteria before scheduling the next task.

Real-time visibility. Accounting gets a clear, real-time perspective on the status of the close, any roadblocks, and the power to overcome them—all from within the Smart Close solution.

No/low disruption. The technology behind Smart Close works with your SAP environment, including all of IT’s existing tools, and because it’s designed to achieve desired business outcomes, it has a quick time to value, allowing the business to scale across business units.

Compatibility. Smart Close works across your current and future SAP landscape, integrating with SAP ECC 6.0, SAP BS 7.0, SAP S/4HANA, and SAP S/4HANA for central finance.

Business owned. With its “click-not-code” environment, accounting teams can create task automations and rules, create dependencies, setup workflow, and make any necessary changes.

Enhanced user experience. Smart Close completely mirrors SAP, running directly on real-time SAP data, so there’s nothing new to learn. Users don’t need to sign into a separate app or switch between apps.

Tight security. Because it’s an embedded solution, organizations utilize their existing SAP user management engine (UME) and role-based security. Furthermore, the solution resides behind the client’s own firewall/VPN, so no outside access is permitted.

Ready for SAP S/4HANA. Smart Close is embedded across your SAP technology landscape, so when you’re ready to migrate to S/4HANA, it seamlessly moves with you.

Proven Results

Smart Close has a proven track record of automating at least 80% of more than 3,500 tasks performed by shared service centers.

Here are some real-world scenarios in which Smart Close has improved business outcomes:

  • Philips Medical System was able to increase efficiencies helping the company streamline data collection, task monitoring, and follow-ups.

  • Linde Material Handling saw an accelerated close and increased visibility. With the resulting time savings, the company was able to focus on analyzing financial data and gain a competitive advantage.

  • Vaillant transformed its processes from manual spreadsheet management to executing activities quickly and without the need for rework. What’s more, upper management can now monitor close progress in real-time.


Accelerate Your Close Now … with Confidence

It’s critical to simplify, standardize, and automate your financial close directly in SAP, especially if your enterprise manages complex close schedules. With macroeconomic pressures, budget cuts, and hiring freezes, waiting to make this move could jeopardize your ability to report and perform optimally.

Accelerate your close with purpose-built automation and financial close intelligence for SAP with Smart Close.

This white paper provides a practical perspective on the challenges organizations face and the opportunities to rethink the technology and process barriers to achieve a better, smarter close across your SAP landscape. Download your copy.

About the Author


Katherine Becraft

Senior Manager of SAP Solutions ,