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Ascension Commits to the Health of Their Financial Close

Ascension is the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system. Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, especially those that are struggling the most. In 2015, Ascension provided nearly $2 billion in care to persons living in poverty and other community benefit programs. It has approximately 160,000 associates and 36,000 providers that operate at 2,500 sites of care in 24 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to healthcare delivery, Ascension subsidiaries provide a variety of services and solutions to healthcare professionals and organizations.

The Challenge

Ascension was using a decentralized finance model with various divisions using many different enterprise resource planning systems. The accounting team for headquarters faced the task of 20,000 to 25,000 reconciliations that were typically tracked and shared on spreadsheets. As part of its larger strategy to improve its financial controls and automate processes, Ascension undertook the challenge of centralizing and standardizing its finance and accounting department in a shared service center.

Why BlackLine

After putting out a request for proposal, Ascension considered a few different accounting and reconciliation solutions before selecting BlackLine in October 2012. Ascension chose BlackLine for a number of reasons, including:

  • BlackLine’s ability to provide integrated products.
  • BlackLine's software-as-a-service delivery model and its web-based interface, which eliminate many IT barriers to implementation and user adoption. Ascension went live on BlackLine in only 90 days.
  • BlackLine’s focus on delivering its software and its client-centric approach meant Ascension didn’t need to hire any outside consultants to implement the solution and could quickly get support for any issues that arose.

Ascension deployed BlackLine’s financials controls and automation platform to centralize and simplify its financial reconciliations. Nucleus Research found that Ascension was able to stand up BlackLine quickly and create an improved controls environment while realizing cost savings and increasing productivity. By leveraging BlackLine's automation capabilities, Ascension is positioned to expand its operations without corresponding workforce expansions.

The Results

Deploying BlackLine streamlined and simplified Ascension’s reconciliations and audits. Key benefits of the project include:

  • Eliminating the need for IT resources. Ascension deployed BlackLine without using any IT resources, making the implementation a business project rather than an IT project.
  • Reducing audit time. Ascension can perform audits in a fraction of the time with BlackLine, shortening the process by as much as 400 personnel hours.
  • Improving employee productivity. Despite rapid growth, Ascension employees in the finance and accounting department could handle the additional accounts and reconciliations due to the scalability of the BlackLine software.
  • Adoption of industry standard templates, such as the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission 2013 framework, and laying the foundation for further productivity with the application of intelligent process automation tools.

Ascension implemented BlackLine as a cloud-based solution and leveraged the ease of installation in order to eliminate IT involvement, which reduced deployment costs and time. Additionally, Ascension took advantage of the low maintenance the solution required and devoted one administrator to find and recommend process improvements to management. By leveraging BlackLine’s automation capabilities, Ascension is now able to onboard large new clients without hiring additional staff.