Live From InTheBlack 2019: Innovation & Transformation


It's Time to Get Ready for the BlackLine 80's Bash!

Pull out your craziest 80s attire and can come prepared to dance the "Cabbage Patch" before you glide into "The Moonwalk" at this year's BlackLine Bash—featuring the Spazmatics!

This fun-loving cover band combines outstanding musicianship with creative flair and style for an evening of high energy and entertainment.

7 Key Success Factors to Optimize BlackLine for Finance Transformation

Speakers: Jaap van Iersel, VP of CFO Transformation Services, Genpact, Tammy Coley, CTO, BlackLine & Sean Bennett, Director of Accounting Innovation, BlackLine

BlackLine AIT Framework

  • What is your end game?

  • Identify KPIs to track progress

  • Gather data to determine current state and goals

  • Collaborate across your teams to build your roadmap

  • Execute your roadmap

  • Monitor progress toward goals

Phases of finance and accounting innovation progress:

  • Manual: Inefficient & Inconsistent

  • Clarity: Visibility & Transparency

  • Control: Accountability, Accuracy & Governance

  • Efficiency: Automation & Scale

  • Trust: Business Partner

Jaap of Genpact said, “The majority of opportunities can be realized in less than 30 days." This means that you’ll see your ROI early on.

7 Key Success Factors

  1. Partner up!

  2. Apply a process framework

  3. Set focus

  4. Optimize both The Core and BlackLine

  5. Ensure prioritization in a roadmap to realize quick value

  6. Put significant attention on change management

  7. Ensure proper governance

Women in Business Panel: Grit, Balance, Success & Growth

Speakers: Brianna Inghram, Clearsulting, Heather Vertin, BlackLine, Kelly Blasiman, CNH Industrial, and Rebecca Harrell, Home Depot

Studies show that female leadership results in better performance, better results, and greater profit.

But it’s no secret that female professionals face a unique set of challenges. Brianna Inghram of Clearsulting led a panel of four inspiring women to discuss growth, grit, work/life balance, setting expectations, and core values.

Here are some of the key takeaways.

Kelly Blasiman, Chief Accounting Officer, CNH Industrial

Kelly started at CNH Industrial as an intern and grew into her current position as CAO. Formal and informal mentors helped her along the way—along with a good dose of grit, which she defines as passion, perseverance, and patience.

Kelly says, “You’re going to get knocked down and there are tough personalities to deal with, but keep going.”

She continues, “To achieve balance, you need to have people around you that you can trust—and to be that person for others as well. Maintain visibility into everything you need to get done, and don’t lose sight of the big picture.”

Kelly also said that part of accountability is understanding the big picture: what are we here to do, why are we doing it, and how do we want to measure it? Share in the successes and learning opportunities and maintain an open dialogue.

Finally, she identified her core value as passion—about being present, about her job, and about her team.

Rebecca Harrell, Director of Financial Reporting, Home Depot

Rebecca believes that feedback is a gift that you can learn from, and advised the women in this session to “surround yourself with good people who will give you honest feedback.”

She defines grit as the thing that gets you up when you’ve been knocked down. “There’s no other option but to keep going. Don’t let the critical get in the way of accomplishing what’s important. Grit is building up people over and over again, so you can work together toward a long-term goal.”

Rebecca views balance as the wrong problem to solve, and says that instead, it’s all about priorities. “I’ve never worked for a company that didn’t take as much as you’d give. You need to balance your calendar and determine what’s important, at what time—and keep it there.

The success of her team is one of her highest priorities. She shares her vision with her team and ensures they have a clear understanding of what’s expected. “You’re not successful by yourself—we all make the team and organization better. If you don’t understand the why, there’s no reason to come to work.”

One of her core values is bringing out the best in people and building relationships. She strives to create an environment where people can be their best, and help them succeed.

Heather Vertin, VP of Sales, BlackLine

When it comes to growth, Heather recommends finding someone to push you and believe in you. Grit also contributed to her growth, and to her, “this means operating with passion and figuring out how to conquer the mountains. It’s all about being creative and coming up with ways to take initiative and get things done.”

Heather defines work/life balance as being present wherever you are. “When I’m with my family, I’m fully there—especially during short windows, like dinner with my kids and evenings with my husband. BlackLine is supportive of work/life balance, and I encourage my team to preserve this as well. It’s essential to foster a culture that supports balance.”

She continues, “I foster an environment where everyone works together, which isn’t a natural thing in sales. This required getting the right people on board who would share information and create an environment where they feel safe. The most important criteria for BlackLine salespeople is how you treat people.”

One of Heather’s core values is embracing life, from a job she’s passionate about and people she loves working with to realizing that life is short. “Embrace the now by making the most of the work environment in as well as your personal life.

Blueprint for Success: Connor Group in Conversation with SurveyMonkey CAO Dharti Patel

Speakers: Deepika Sandhu, Partner, Connor Group & Dharti Patel, Chief Accounting Officer, SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey recently transitioned from a high-growth private company to a successful public company. Deepika Sandhu sat down with Dharti Patel to discuss the incremental changes they experienced after implementing BlackLine, that made a significant impact for the team.

Dharti began by talking about reaching SurveyMonkey’s IPO goal. She said, “In a small team, you have folks who have a wide skillset and can wear a lot of hats. This made it easier to build the bridge between their current and future state.”

Deepika added the importance of hiring early and hiring more expertise than you think you need. When you have a lean team and no resources to add bodies, you have to get creative about how to alleviate the pressure during the month-end close.

Task Management is the first solution that SurveyMonkey implemented. This helped them populate what every single person was responsible for during the close process. It gave them visibility across the organization, into people who had too much on their plate or processes that had too many people assigned to them. As a result, they were able to sequence activities and adjust workloads.

They no longer have to worry about losing institutional knowledge with turnover, because it’s all stored in BlackLine, and they can easily cross-train.

They’ve increased their accuracy when it comes to accruals and have reduced their financial close from 10 days to 5. They’ve done this by performing multiple processes earlier in the month, and they’re able to generate the numbers earlier as well.

Dharti outlined the biggest takeaways from their finance transformation journey:

  • Building out the team was critical.

  • Having that next-level ability to think ahead and be proactive instead of reactive helped us meet our very aggressive IPO deadline.

  • We didn’t always have the perfect end-state for every solution, but we had an end-goal in mind and understood the importance of continually improving.

A Foreman’s Trade: Turning Dreams Into Reality

It takes forever to manage the financial close with Excel and email—but it’s still difficult to figure out where to start. How can we even begin to start this process?

Adding BlackLine to Your Tool Belt

If you think about your accounting and finance organization like home construction or a remodel, implementing BlackLine is like adding a power tool to your tool belt. It provides additional features like Matching, automated journals, and templates, but the next essential question is: do you understand and know how to use this tool, so you’re getting the maximum benefit?

In order to manage unexpected Obstacles, like lack of visibility or an underutilized product, it’s vital to bring in an expert.

Terri Hall and Angela Seaborn joined Bob Davenport on stage to talk about their first-hand experience, working with UHY.

Terri Hall, VP of Special Projects, Fresenius Kidney Care

In early 2016, Terri’s organization wanted to standardize. They went through a thorough RFP process, and chose BlackLine.

Initially, there was a lot of resistance from the field. Their accounting and finance professionals were proud of their work and excited because they’d done reporting through Excel and Access—but they weren’t doing a proper reconciliation. They were doing the best with the tools the company had provided.

Terri said emphatically, “You need the backing of your managers and bosses for that support to trickle down.”

UHY asked the right questions, and helped them see the vision for their journey because of their extensive knowledge of BlackLine solutions. They also helped with the compliance piece, and were heavily involved with getting their IT department the information they needed.

Terri said, “UHY doesn’t just do the task. There’s a significant knowledge transfer that happens. They extensively train and teach you, giving you background and understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

They also help you look at the big picture: how do all of BlackLine’s solutions work together? How can we leverage the full functionality and take full advantage of all that BlackLine has to offer?

Angela Seaborn, Global Internal Controls Manager, Nexteer Automotive

When Angela started her finance transformation journey, she wanted to get back to the basics and fix their foundation. Nexteer Automotive chose BlackLine because it’s a comprehensive solution that provided the agility and accountability the organization needed, along with discipline for the process.

UHY helped her eventually get everyone’s buy in and change the conversation from “this is the way it’s always been done” to seeing results and the automation that was happening. They also helped identify the right players and gain user acceptance by showing them the value of BlackLine.

After Angela got that user acceptance, her colleagues began bringing ideas to the table for other ways to use BlackLine—and now she’s at the point where she needs a process to funnel those ideas!

Angela was able to tell UHY where she wanted to go, and they helped her understand all of the capabilities of the application to help her get there. Her teams are now seeing a huge reduction in their work.

Bob ended the session by providing these helpful tips to consider before you build:

1.     Be ready for change

2.     Know your current process

3.     Gain executive-level sponsorship

4.     Know your data

5.     Line up your team

6.     Identify the appropriate foreman

Xperience the Difference

Speaker: David Roberts, SAP

When F&A professionals were asked to describe their organization’s adoption of technology in Finance and Accounting with one word, the top three results were:

  1. Automate/Automation

  2. Enable

  3. Data

Three key things came out of SAP’s research. The first is that accounting and finance professionals have insufficient resources.

A few years ago, everything was fairly manual and required a large team. Now, the number of resources available in Accounting and Finance has shrunk. They’re expected to do more with less.

The second finding is that they don’t have enough people or the right tools, and thirdly, there is still a disconnect between what takes place within the F&A department and the rest of the enterprise. Additionally, only 37% of those surveyed say they experience joy.

So, what is SAP doing for their customers to help solve these pain points? The partnership between SAP and BlackLine is unique, and Tata Steel Limited’s finance transformation success story is evidence of its effectiveness.

With BlackLine and SAP, they’ve improved the quality of their Account Reconciliations and have greater visibility and control, allowing them to do a better job of capital allocation. They’ve also created a more efficient audit process, providing a greater return on investment to the broader organization.

Most importantly, they’ve increased the happiness of their employees by 800 basis points.

David concluded by asking the question: Are you looking to move from the past to the future?

Dell’s Digital Transformation Journey

Speakers: Geoffrey Hopkins - Deloitte & Touche LLC & Diane Pappas - Dell Technologies

“Dell is a little bit complex.”

Michael Dell is passionate about technology and helping people thrive. When it came to their finance and accounting division, Dell started to think about what that could mean in the last few years. After making a major acquisition in 2016 and going public again in 2017, they thought about how to integrate the new company’s accounting processes. The answer was Account Reconciliations and they decided to move forward with Deloitte to implement BlackLine.

Diane Pappas with Deloitte helped Dell Technologies go live with a bang in 2018. It was a challenge, but it made sense for Dell. And they found that it worked despite the difficulty. Deloitte was able to identify some opportunities for Dell to become even more effective BlackLine.

They set a foundation by getting everyone in the management organization to buy in. And that gave them the space and resources to move forward.

When they first started with BlackLine, Dell had 45,000 reconciliations a quarter and now they’re down to nine. They’ve began using Transaction Matching and while they’ve only recently started, they are happy with what they’ve seen and can’t wait to see what it can do. They also implemented the SAP Connector, and even though it doesn’t sound very exciting, Dell’s accounting and finance and organization has been happy with what it can do.

One of the questions that Deloitte gets as a BlackLine partner is, “how do [they] bring this all together?”

Dell Technologies wanted to get a process in place, and that’s what they were able to do. By implementing a Center of Excellence, it gave them a structure which includes effort to increase visibility and scalability, among other things. While they want to work from the bottom up to make sure everything is moving, they’ve also found that they need to work in both directions to help it move along.

Diane wants everyone to know that “no transformation effort is perfect.” You may take slightly different paths each quarter or find something new, but as long as you understand where you’re going, you can get there.

Blowing the Whistle at Theranos: A Discussion with Tyler Shultz

Speakers: Tyler Shultz - Theranos Whistleblower & Entreprenuer & Karole Morgan-Prager - BlackLine

At this point, if you haven’t heard of Theranos, you must be highly skilled at managing your screen time.

For the rest of the population, the story of Theranos’ dramatic rise and fall has captivated our attention, and honestly doesn’t seem to ever get old.

Today at InTheBlack, we welcomed Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz, who gave a detailed account of his time at the company, its culture of secrecy, its ineffectual product, and its enigmatic leader, Elizabeth Holmes.

Introduced and interviewed by BlackLine’s Karole Morgan-Prager, Tyler started by explaining that in order for a company’s founder to perpetrate a fraud of such magnitude, a number of systems of checks and balances needed to fail.

The media failed in its reporting on Elizabeth and Theranos by avoiding hard-hitting questions and abdicating their responsibility of due diligence. Regulatory bodies accepted less transparency than is customary or advisable. Theranos’ own employees succumbed to a culture of secrecy and fear.

Elizabeth was a motivating and charismatic leader. Even while witnessing the falsification of validation tests, she could convince Tyler that Theranos was going to change the world with just a few words of encouragement.

When he started becoming concerned with the inaccuracy of the device—marketed to perform dozens of diagnostic tests with just a single drop of blood—Tyler tried to facilitate open and honest communication with Elizabeth and other coworkers.

But at a certain point, Tyler became disillusioned as the company and its leaders continuously misrepresented what the technology could do.

The board, the media, regulatory bodies, and the public were told that the technology had been tested and was effective in doing diagnostic testing in a number of settings—battlefields, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.

This was false, but certain members of the Board were former government officials, who were assumed to have done their due diligence, but instead, were swept up in a sort of paternal affection for the manipulative, young Holmes.

At the end of the day, the story of Theranos is a story of failure, not just by the people who perpetrated the fraud, but by the people who enabled it with their incompetence.

Tyler’s story brings an important lesson to light: due diligence is everyone’s responsibility, and no one is too minor of a player to speak up.

Customer Innovation Showcase with Therese Tucker

What makes BlackLine so special is our customers. This is why we created the Finance & Accounting Innovation Awards. Our 2019 recipients joined BlackLine Founder and CEO Therese Tucker to discuss their powerful transformation stories.

Michael Hubbard & Davina Van Splunter, Home Depot

Home Depot’s accounting and finance team is now saving nearly 8 hours per week with BlackLine. Michael said that BlackLine now gives her teams time to do the fun parts of Accounting.

She also said, “We grow the most when we’re a little bit uncomfortable.”

Michael has plenty of experience with this, as she’s been very involved in the change management aspect of Home Depot’s finance transformation.

Therese asked how she managed the change involved with new software implementation, and Michael replied, “People get tied to the way they do things, especially if they think it’s working. We’ve done workshops, trained them in a lot of different ways, and got them used to the visibility. That’s been very helpful.”

“We provided information in as many ways as the team learned,” said Davina. This included training in a classroom environment and also working in the tool.

Home Depot has experienced some powerful results—largely because they’ve implemented five modules during the past 18 months. Michael said, “We’re goal oriented when it comes to doing what we need to get it done. We’re rolling out S/4HANA next year, in addition to matching, automated journals and Smart Close.”

Finally, Michael gave this advice about process, talking about the importance of knowing where the process starts and why they’re doing it. Therese added, “A lot of times, when projects go wrong, people don’t know the end goal.”

Sarah Pflug, Domino's

Therese Tucker calls Sarah Pflug the epitome of an exceptional accountant.

According to Sarah, Domino’s did a competitive RFP to determine the best tool in the market. They chose BlackLine because it’s the most flexible, configurable option.

Sarah said, “The first time I loaded up real data into the sandbox and got a 70% match rate, I saw a glimmer of hope.” This was a huge win, given that their F&A teams were doing 40 million transactions per month and importing data for 6,000 locations.

BlackLine’s matching solution has made a significant difference in the way her teams work, creating the time they need value adding activities.

Sarah said, “A lot of teams have one accountant on the team who is really into the details. Others want a complete answer immediately. Implementing Matching is like cloning your accountants.”

Michael Heeney & Pablo Baez, Quest Diagnostics

Next, Michael Heeney and Pablo Baez of Quest Diagnostics joined Therese on stage to talk about how Quest had benefited from BlackLine.

When asked whether he was a “normal” accountant, Pablo noted that he wasn’t because he was excited by change, and accountants are not normally known for their love of change.

To help manifest their accounting transformation, Quest looked to BlackLine. They recognized that BlackLine’s SaaS nature would benefit them.

Pablo was brought on to Quest Diagnostics to start centralizing their accounting function. With the support of everyone at Quest and BlackLine, as well as his own drive for change, Quest Diagnostics was able to accomplish significant transformation in only four and a half years. In fact, they were able to achieve a 52% auto-certification rate.

As they grew, they started to acquire more businesses. Acquisitions are hard to do well, but BlackLine was instrumental in this part of Quest Diagnostic’s journey as well.

After a quick implementation, Quest Diagnostics saw that some people wanted to hold on to their Excel spreadsheets, but eventually realized BlackLine could do everything they needed to. They were willing to make the change and let go of Excel to move towards BlackLine.

They started saving 500 hours a month across a team of 36. The additional resources let them continue their acquisitions.

The next step Quest would like to take is to implement BlackLine Compliance.

Mike Gruehl, SiriusXM

Mike Gruehl of SiriusXM was up next on the stage. He started in the accounting department at SiriusXM when everything was on paper or in Excel and provided little room for flexibility. But now, with BlackLine in place, he doesn’t need all that paper on his desk any more. It has added more flexibility and even though he sometimes logs into BlackLine at home, Mike thinks that it actually makes his work-life balance easier because he can quickly check in with his team to make sure close processes are moving along.

With the shift to Continuous Accounting, SiriusXM has seen more freedom in their schedules. They’re personal lives are no longer tied so closely to the month-end close.

Mike wants Sirius XM’s next steps to be towards wrapping up Continuous Accounting and towards Real-Time Accounting. He even thinks that their future points towards predictive accounting. He wants to be able to close the month of October in August.

BlackLine has made a big change in Mike’s life. It doesn’t just mean time saved at work, it means time saved at home. And that time means he can have pancakes and muffins with his kids.

Tony Klimas, EY & Jane Saunders, Duracell

Jane began by saying, “We’ve taken leaps and bounds in our journey on a global scale.”

Duracell is using Account Reconciliations globally, they’ve implemented Task Management in North America and Latin American, and just went live with Transaction Matching. They’ve implemented Journals in North America and will soon be used in Latin America as well.

Next up, they’ll be implementing Transaction Matching for Intercompany accounting.

Getting buy in at Duracell was difficult, and their partnership with EY began at the very beginning, before the project even existed. EY shared implementation success stories from other customers to prove the value of BlackLine to their upper management.

Duracell didn’t have the resources or experience to implement a platform like BlackLine, and EY has been with them every step of the way.

Duracell’s mantra is Truth is Power, which aligns with BlackLine’s tagline, Trust is in the Balance.