6 minute read
May 17, 2022
6 minute read
Streamlining the close process, providing performance data quickly to leadership, and developing strong partnerships with business units are crucial for the success of any finance leader.
Which is why, after I joined Sensiba San Filippo, one of my first initiatives was automating as much of the finance function as possible and eliminating tasks that were bogging down our team without adding value to the organization.
As a previous BlackLine user, and knowing SSF is a BlackLine Implementation Partner, I was enthusiastic to leverage it again. The BlackLine Task Management module provides an organized structure that helps us complete the month-end close quickly and accurately. The close process, which used to take 10-12 days, is now finished in 4.
Perhaps more importantly, though, is our ability to help the firm's leaders make better business decisions by providing them with month-end performance data sooner. Before adopting BlackLine, we couldn’t offer this data until nearly halfway into the following month. This, of course, is too late for leadership to make any meaningful decisions quickly enough to affect that month's results.
By providing data earlier, we can make more effective decisions about hiring levels or areas of our business that are expanding or not growing as expected.
Similarly, completing the month-end close sooner opens additional time for the finance team to conduct a meaningful analysis of the previous month's results. As we perform our flux analysis, we know that we've completed all our required transactions. That, in turn, makes our analysis of the numbers more effective, because we don't need to worry that any variances could have been caused by mistakes, such as a journal entry not being booked. This makes the downstream implications of our month-end close process a lot easier to understand.
In addition, BlackLine's Task Management dashboard helps us see the status of our completed and pending tasks and what everyone on the team is working on. As the controller, I can see the tasks being prepared, what's in review status, and what's been approved. The dashboard also helps me identify any potential challenges or roadblocks that could impact our month-end close.
Based on this success, we're looking at other finance team functions ripe for automation, such as our payroll, reconciliations, and other routine tasks, plus additional ways to streamline our month-end close even more.
I wanted to share some tips for finance professionals considering initiatives to improve efficiency and build deeper relationships with leadership.
Understand your goals. A faster close is desirable by itself, but the true value lies in helping leadership apply the data to understand business performance, identify opportunities, and make better decisions.
Identify processes and tasks you can automate. Spreadsheets are great for their desired purpose but are less effective as automation or project management tools.
Look for integrations with your existing tools. Being able to flow data automatically from one application to another increases speed and accuracy and frees team members for more valuable tasks.
Consider outside help. As you plan to automate processes, consider bringing in external expertise to help implement and provide ongoing support. This will improve your efficiency and the return on your automation investment.
If you’ve already implemented BlackLine’s Task Management module for your accounting period close, don’t stop there!
The Task Management module can be used to automate numerous tasks across your organization and maximize the value of your investment. Some of the most popular task automations we see include payroll processing, tax compliance reporting, and PBC requests for quarterly and annual audits.
We recommend evaluating your current task list and grouping tasks into two categories—master (parent) tasks with subordinate (child) tasks as dependencies.
For example, preparation and completing of the financial statements would be a master task requiring the completion of subordinate tasks such as drafting financial statements, preparing roll forward and disclosure schedules, reviewing footnote disclosures, reconciling accounts, recording journal entries, etc.
You can create milestones for subordinate tasks so when they’re completed, the parent task can be automatically certified. By organizing tasks in this fashion, you’ll be well on your way to creating sleek process flows.
First, configure your BlackLine instance to be based on custom frequencies. This will require BlackLine to turn on the custom frequencies settings and then create the maintenance tables.
Once configured, any frequency can be used for a process, such as weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly and 4-4-5 accounting periods.
Example: A payroll process can be designed to sync with your payroll service processing calendar. In this scenario, a master task might be Final Submission of Payroll for Check Issuance and subordinate tasks would include completion of time reporting, completion of special pays and commissions, payroll system edit reviews, and funding of payroll account.
Pro Tip: Avoid missing key deadlines by using custom frequencies to create due dates for your federal, international, state tax reporting, Sales and Use Tax, VAT and GST tax reporting.
Sensiba San Filippo LLP (SSF) is BlackLine Partner and award-winning tax, audit, and consulting firm. Our professionals help clients leverage BlackLine’s easy-to-use suite of powerful finance automation tools to improve their finance function’s efficiency and controls. We take the time to understand your goals and work alongside you through every step of the process - from planning and implementation, system optimization, to training your staff. Visit us online to learn more about our BlackLine Software Services.