Making the Most of Process Automation


Automating bank reconciliations, transaction matching, and the end-to-end journal entry process—these are just a few of the ways BlackLine helps companies turn their accounting aspirations into real-world benefits and transform spreadsheet-bound Accounting to higher-value financial analysis.

Director Sean Bennett and Senior Manager Joshua Baldwin of BlackLine’s Strategic Innovation group explained how in the BeyondTheBlack presentation, Art of the Possible.

In an ideal world, “accounting teams will have the time to challenge the work they’re doing, rather than having to work as fast as they can to get it done,” says Bennett.

Teams will have greater visibility into accounting processes, they’ll produce more accurate results for better decision making, audits will be smoother and more efficient, they’ll be freed from time-consuming manual tasks, and they’ll finally have time to offer proactive help to other parts of the business.

Overcoming the Uphill Battle of Manual F&A Processes

“All of this is possible today, yet many businesses are still struggling to get there,” says Bennett.

“Many accountants are still working in organizations with disparate systems that prevent you from seeing where everything is. You’re getting information from one party in an Excel spreadsheet, another in a TXT file. There are no uniform processes, which leads to control risks. And those detail-heavy spreadsheets increase the risk of mistakes and financial inaccuracies.”

BlackLine’s purpose-built accounting software starts by taking disparate information from banks and other financial sources, Excel, Salesforce, various ERPs, and other systems, and organizing that data into data sources. From there, BlackLine can automate reconciliations, transaction matching, and journal entry processes.

“We can take those roll-forwards that you’re doing today and put them in a platform that can generate those roll-forwards for your teams,” says Bennett. “This lets them analyze the work rather than doing the work.”

Organization-Wide Benefits of Finance Automation

According to Joshua Baldwin, automated functions like these can deliver benefits to many parts of the organization, in addition to Accounting, including Treasury, controls governance, intercompany operations, and the business in general.

To provide a few examples:

  • In Accounting, BlackLine can help with commission accrual, T&E reconciliation, GRIR, and open items management

  • For Treasury, with bank reconciliations, cash applications, and unapplied cash

  • Controls governance includes audit management and SOX

  • For intercompany processes such as netting and settling, VAT tax and reporting, and transfer pricing

  • For day-to-day operations, BlackLine can help with system-to-system balancing, POS daily sales reconciliation, and inventory management

“These types of systems can all be fed into BlackLine,” says Baldwin. “That frees up your people to focus on important work, rather than having to spend time compiling and putting it all together.”

Turning Automation Possibilities Into Real-World Benefits

Baldwin points to a list of organizations as examples of how to turn automation possibilities into real-world benefits. Among them is a healthcare company that is now able to perform 99% of its close process remotely, and an energy company that has automated 79% of cash reconciliations and now spends 50% less time on monthly and annual auditing.

“Sean asked you to imagine a new world,” Baldwin told the BeyondTheBlack audience. “We hope we’ve shown how BlackLine can help you make that world a reality.”

Read our BeyondTheBlack issue of BlackLine Quarterly for more stories like this. We dive into some of the highlights from our annual event, including inspiring keynotes, the SAP track, and stories about these sessions:

  • Leading with Resilience & Agility: Make the Move to Modern Accounting

  • A Better Way to Unify & Reconcile Data

  • Eliminating Spreadsheet Gymnastics in Your Payroll & T&E

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