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Reducing Close Time by 50% & Freeing Resources for More Strategic Work

THE CHALLENGE

A global organization in business since 1933, Finning prioritizes both delivering values to customers and running a lean organization.

“We’re always looking for ways to generate efficiencies and produce quality information to better inform decisions,” says Sherisse Thiyagarajan, Senior Manager, Global Financial Reporting Transformation, at Finning.

However, Finning’s Accounting and Finance organization had been relying on tools that weren’t designed to effectively manage the month-end close.

“We were using SharePoint and had many different repositories for all of our accounting information. It was challenging to manage,” says Jorge Lopez-Basulto, Global Lead Enterprise Support Manager at Finning. “It also made it difficult to standardize our processes and procedures across the organization, especially as we rely on several different ERPs.”

In 2015, as part of a record-to-report project, leadership performed a comprehensive review of the existing close. “The drive towards not just a shorter close but a lower effort close was and is an ongoing priority for the company,” says Catherine Braeuer, Director, Global Financial Reporting Transformation, at Finning.

WHY BLACKLINE

The team reviewed several vendors during the search for a more centralized, automated close solution. For the accounting leadership team, as well as for stakeholders in Finance, IT, and Audit, BlackLine fulfilled key criteria.

At the time, potential users questioned why reconciliations couldn’t just be performed in the company’s existing SAP ERP. But leadership understood that BlackLine complements and extends both SAP and non-SAP ERPs and addresses areas that ERPs do not.

“That was one of the early challenges. Business units that relied on SAP wondered why they needed BlackLine,” says Thiyagarajan. “But BlackLine’s capability around establishing robust controls and capacity to automate really made it stand apart from the native functionality in the ERP systems.”

Adds Lopez-Basulto, “We already had controls in place, but most of them were maintained manually. We knew BlackLine could help us automate more of our controls for audit purposes.”

THE RESULTS

Reduced close time by 50%. Blackline enabled the business to gain visibility into the month-end close and make process changes.

“We’ve shortened our close time from seven days to three and a half,” says Thiyagarajan. “By next year, we’ll have reduced it to three days.”

Automated manual work. Previously, staff matched transactions manually. Today, transactions are matched automatically—and in minutes—within BlackLine.

“BlackLine Transaction Matching has saved our users so much time. They no longer have to download all of that information, manually tick and tie, or explain any discrepancies,” says Thiyagarajan. “In other regions, we’ve also brought open item management into BlackLine to automatically clear records, records that would normally have to be cleared manually.” 

Freed staff for more value-added work. Automated transaction matching, along with auto certification of account reconciliations, has also enabled staff to focus on more strategic activities.

“With BlackLine, it’s not just a shorter close, it's a more efficient close,” says Braeuer. “We’re auto certifying 40% of accounts. The benefit is that people are focusing on things that they should be focusing on, like improving the quality of information and ensuring reconciliations are complete.” 

Adds Thiyagarajan, “By automating redundant processes in BlackLine, we’ve improved the quality and accuracy of our financial information. People are now able to spend more time performing analysis. Our approach is to have continuous optimization by tackling one account at a time, cleaning them up, and producing better quality reconciliations and financials.”

Standardized processes. Previously, close processes lacked standardization, a significant challenge for a global organization using multiple ERPs.

“BlackLine provides tools for standardization and control across all our regions, a key objective not just in our financial close but in other processes, as well,” says Braeuer. “With BlackLine, we can be more global and less regional in how we operate.”

Centralized all accounting information. Prior to BlackLine, Finning relied on SharePoint during the close. Account information was stored in multiple repositories, a process that was “challenging.”

“With BlackLine, we’ve centralized all of our data,” says Lopez-Basulto. “Everything users need for reconciliations is now in one place.”

INDUSTRY

Retail

ERP

Infor M3, Rentalman, CODA, DBS (2 instances), Sage, SAP (3 instances)

REGION

Global

COMPANY SIZE

Midsize

BUSINESS IMPACT

Reduced close time by 50%, automated repetitive work, freed staff for more value-added work, standardized processes, centralized all accounting information.

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