October 07, 2021

The Shift to Modern Accounting: Moving From Manual Processes to Automation

5-minute read

As businesses across the spectrum continue to look for ways to drive growth and improve processes, modern, automated accounting systems are coming to the fore. The finance function is poised to increase its strategic value to the business, but it is still hamstrung by manual processes.

Those traditional, manual accounting processes take time away from the real value that accounting teams can add, which is the analysis of data and strategic advice that can be provided based on that data.

With this in mind, finance teams are moving away from the traditional, labour-intensive approach to Accounting towards modern, automated solutions.

At a recent panel discussion hosted by Tridant, BlackLine customers IFM Investors and Spirit of Tasmania discussed their impetus for adopting automated accounting and the benefits they have achieved following the implementation of BlackLine.

Modern Accounting in Practice at Spirit of Tasmania

Spirit of Tasmania transports passengers, passenger vehicles, and freight between Melbourne and Tasmania. Established in 1985, Spirit of Tasmania carried more than 350,000 passengers in the 2019/20 financial year, despite COVID-19 restrictions, and carried record volumes of freight for the year.

Spirit of Tasmania’s Business Improvements Project Lead, Anthea White, was concerned about the inherent errors that can occur in Excel spreadsheets. They previously relied on a single master spreadsheet covering more than 90 balance sheet reconciliations, creating a significant risk.

Anthea says, “When the pandemic hit, Spirit of Tasmania needed staff to be able to work remotely, which would not have been possible before implementing BlackLine.”

Since implementing BlackLine, Spirit of Tasmania has seen significant benefits around time savings. By turning manual processes such as maintaining a task register into automated workflows within BlackLine, they have freed up staff members’ time to focus on more valuable work. With notifications, workflows, and audit trails, the team is confident that no task will be overlooked.

“The automated process also improves visibility across the board. With visibility available to the top level of reviewer, people are spurred to act on outstanding items and check on project status without having to ask team members for an update,” says Anthea.

For Spirit of Tasmania, the big-ticket item was BlackLine’s self-service audit function. By letting external audit teams pull information as needed on-demand through the BlackLine portal, their teams can spend less time providing data to auditors and more time acting on their recommendations. Meanwhile, the auditors don’t have to wait for them to provide the required information, so they can complete their audit more efficiently.

Anthea says, “At Spirit of Tasmania, we want to be more efficient in what we do, automate more, and deliver quality reporting so we can spend our time more effectively on the analysis side of things. Inherent in that is making sure we have a considered approach to integration, bringing everything together to work seamlessly.”

Automation Delivers Efficiencies & Streamlined Workflows at IFM Investors

IFM Investors represents more than 30 million pension fund members with more than $172 billion funds under management, and offices in 10 major cities around the world.

IFM Investors Manager Corporate Accounting, Linda Lee, was looking for a way to manage the growing complexity of the business, which operates internationally and in multiple currencies. The finance team needed to understand what was happening at multidimensional levels and across currencies.

Linda says, “Having worked with BlackLine previously at NAB, I knew the advantages it could offer, delivering a more streamlined outcome through automated and self-service capabilities. IFM Investors started using BlackLine as a reconciliation accounting tool. However, we’ve expanded our use to include more business and compliance processes.”

The benefits of implementing BlackLine include:

  • Increased effectiveness: automatically highlighted variances let team members action them immediately.
  • Time savings: reconciliation is automated and more accurate, including complexities around currencies, pre-payments, depreciation schedules, and more.
  • Improved visibility: the ability to group particular accounts delivers vastly increased visibility at multiple levels, including visualising the relationships between accounts.
  • Streamlined auditing: the self-service portal lets external auditors pull the information they need as they need it, without requiring input from the IFM Investors team.
  • Better collaboration: task management is more transparent and easier to manage, with everyone in the team able to see what others are working on for improved collaboration.
  • Comprehensive management: less frequent activities can be stored as tasks in BlackLine, ensuring these tasks are completed at the appropriate time and not forgotten.

“Reconciliation is much easier and it automatically certifies. All things being equal, users simply click and forget. That’s a big benefit for the accounting team,” says Linda.  

“Meanwhile, the auditors have taken on the self-service capability of BlackLine, and it’s been great. When we don’t have as much back and forth with the auditors regarding information, we can answer more important questions around analysis.”

Learn more about how your F&A organisation can move to modern accounting with automated solutions in as little as five weeks.

Claudia Pirko

Modern Accounting