What Is Accounting Automation, Really?


If someone asked if your accounting processes were automated, how would you respond? What about your month-end close process? Or your account reconciliation process?

The need to automate is top of mind for Accounting and Finance, but the definition of automation can vary widely as technologies like Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and even Excel-based macros are all considered types of automation.

It’s no wonder finance professionals have different interpretations of “automation” and feel overwhelmed by the possibilities.

So, how should you determine what type of automation is best for your business?

In short, there’s no right answer. First, companies range in size, in terms of both revenue and budget. A company with significant revenue might not have the budget or need for accounting close automation.

Second, companies span many different industries. This means that accounting processes can be specialized based on the core operations of a business, and therefore require different capabilities.

Although there is no “accounting automation fits all” solution, here are three things to consider when exploring automation for your accounting and finance processes.

Don’t Just “Throw a Bot” on Something

In accounting, if you haven’t heard your manager or colleague say “throw a bot on it,” trust me―they’re thinking it. Although robotic process automation (RPA) is no longer a new concept, organizations are still struggling to figure out why and when to embed automation into a process.

RPA frees up human resources by automating manual, repetitive tasks, and it works—when it’s embedded in the right process. When looking for automation solutions for accounting, be careful of embedding bots in processes that require human intervention or are changing in the future.

Bots are good at following preconfigured steps, if those steps stay the same.

Be Cautious of Point-Solutions

A point solution is implemented to solve a problem quickly, without thinking about the entire process or related issues. There are hundreds of point solutions available for Accounting and Finance, ranging from a close checklist solution to replace Excel to a highly automated matching engine for large volumes of data.

But if automating high-volume transactions and replacing Excel are two areas you want to improve, wouldn’t you want a solution that can do both?

This is exactly what end-to-end accounting automation solutions are designed to do. So, when your team identifies the need for process improvement, take the time to really assess solutions that will help you achieve all your goals. Not just one.

Configurable Automation, Not Customizable

Although you might be thinking they’re the same, they’re not. Customizable software involves changing the software coding, and is typically developed for a specific use. Configurable software already has built-in functionality that the end user can change themselves.

There is a time and place for both customizable and configurable automation in software. But for accounting, the use case for configurable automation is greater.

Customizable software requires technical support from internal IT or the software vendor itself, in addition to ongoing maintenance and fees. Configurable does not.

As businesses grow and new accounting regulations are introduced, having a technology solution with configurable automation is crucial for process efficiency and control.

A Solution That Will Scale

These three considerations have a common theme: choosing accounting automation that will scale with change. And BlackLine can help you do just that.

BlackLine delivers purpose-built automation, which is directed and supported by you―not a bot. It’s also configurable to meet your business needs, as well as generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

BlackLine is an end-to-end automation solution―not a point-solution―that helps accounting teams address key areas of the financial close process by embedding controls and centralizing data.

Next week’s blog will dive into the key differentiators between point-solutions and end-to-end solutions.

In the meantime, read this white paper for seven powerful ways to begin evolving your accounting processes.