When Brooke Egging joined Naropa University as their staff accountant, she discovered that bank reconciliations were a year and a half behind schedule thanks to the pandemic.
“We were doing everything with spreadsheets. It was all very manual, and we were spending a lot of time doing archaic, redundant work when we could have been doing more value-added and strategic work. It really wasn’t a good representation of what a finance department should be producing.”
The university’s payment gateway and ERP also required significant workarounds and left staff with little visibility.
“Our ERP isn’t really an accounting tool. It was designed by consultants with computer science degrees, not consultants experienced in finance. There was a tremendous lack of transparency. We later discovered we weren’t even seeing all transactions, such as garnishments, through any standard reports.”
While smaller universities may have smaller budgets, their finance and accounting needs are anything but small. That’s one of the reasons Egging was ready to implement BlackLine. BlackLine not only reduces time to close and increases productivity—it also adapts to any size business and enables scalability as the business grows.
However, Egging did her due diligence before presenting BlackLine to the CFO. “I’ve been taught to get three references any time I’m looking into new tech. I Googled ‘best banking reconciliation software programs’ and found two other companies. We did demos with both of them, as well as with BlackLine. Honestly, the other companies were just terrible. The platforms weren’t able to adapt to our needs.”
Despite her efforts, the CFO said ‘no’ to BlackLine—at first. “We were in the middle of a deficit. He was also concerned about giving transparency to auditors,” says Egging.
In a board meeting a few weeks later, Egging’s boss also advocated for BlackLine. “She told everyone that we needed BlackLine because we were in a deficit: we had to reallocate our time to address our books and that meant streamlining our manual processes. The CFO finally said ‘yes.’”
Egging implemented BlackLine herself with the help of a BlackLine implementation consultant. During the same time, the university experienced several staff changes.
“There was a transition in our accounting leadership, and thanks to the help of our BlackLine implementation consultant, we were able to move forward with our implementation without any disruptions. From day one, she has been amazing, as has been our CSM. We’ve had such a good experience.”
Egging now encourages other higher education organizations to advocate for the switch to BlackLine. “Don’t be scared of change,” she advises. “And because change starts from the top, it’s important to help leadership understand why BlackLine is critical for you to do your job.”
Increased visibility. Prior to BlackLine, the university lacked good visibility into its close process.
“BlackLine helped us see what was missing, what we needed to fix, and what accounts hadn’t been used since we implemented our ERP years ago,” says Egging. “During implementation, we discovered 2,000 GLs that we weren’t using. BlackLine has been instrumental in helping us clean that up.”
Reporting is also simpler—and more informative. “In the past, I had to have my IT person create an Argos report that pulled the tender type method for the cash receipt and so on. With BlackLine, everything is already visible. It’s transparent. There’s no playing the guessing game that you get when you use spreadsheets.”
Freed employees to focus on value-added activities. One of the challenges of a manual reconciliations process is that it steals time from more strategic work.
“The more times you have to put your hand on something, the more money you lose. That’s how it is with spreadsheets,” says Egging. “But with BlackLine, instead of spending my day updating spreadsheets, I can now focus on what my balance sheet and P&L looks like.”
As a result, Egging has the time to investigate and understand Naropa’s financial shortfall. “BlackLine is going to help us turn our deficit into a surplus. We’re starting to see it already. For that reason, it’s not just a tool for the finance department but for the entire university. Everyone benefits from BlackLine, whether they use it or not.”
Enabled employee growth. With BlackLine, Egging has the opportunity to learn more about accounting and grow her career.
“With BlackLine, I’ve been able to work outside my scope. Instead of doing all that redundant, manual work, I’m more focused on true accounting work. It’s also helped me get a promotion and a salary increase.”