Founded in 1898, the Arizona Cardinals Football Club is a charter member of the National Football League and the oldest continuously run professional football franchise in the nation. The Club, in tandem with Rojo Hospitality Group, caters to football fans nationwide.
For the Arizona Cardinals Football Club’s small finance department, monthly closes were incredibly challenging. Not only did the eight-person team have to manage more than 600 reconciliations every month, but also the entire process was paper and spreadsheet based—with reconciliations stored in more than 60 binders. According to Christine Harms, Controller, “We used Excel templates, which were saved on the server. Paper copies of spreadsheets were then kept in binders on shelves and in boxes. It was virtually impossible to find anything in a timely manner, and storage and paper costs were continually increasing.”
The Club’s biggest concern was maintaining this inefficient process during periods of anticipated expansion. “Our plans for growth had us asking questions about how technology could help us be more efficient and earth friendly during the close,” said Harms. “There were so many obstacles with our current process. We knew that as we grew, there was no way we could keep the same headcount and yet perform more reconciliations each month.”
The Club’s finance team knew they needed to increase efficiency, accuracy, usability, and stability during the financial close. This meant retiring their time-consuming, paper-based system and implementing technology designed to simplify and streamline the process. “We wanted a solution that would allow for standardization,” said Harms. “To move away from paper storage, we knew we needed a system that was cloud-based. We also wanted journal entry functions, reconciliation self-certification, and the ability to manage tasks to see where we were at any time during the close.”
After an intensive vendor selection process, the Club implemented BlackLine’s Finance Controls and Automation platform. “We chose BlackLine for numerous reasons, but one of the biggest was its well-organized approach to reconciliations,” said Harms. “Even better, it integrated seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics and was cost effective.”
While the team had budgeted six weeks for implementation and rollout, the entire process took only four weeks. “We used the free BlackLine U training to ensure our users were really familiar with the platform,” said Harms. “In addition, five members of our eight-person team were actually on the implementation calls every week. This helped ensured everyone was on the same page—from beginning to end.”
Avoided hiring additional staff during periods of growth. The Club grew from five companies to 16 in just a few years; the number of reconciliations increased by 500%, from 600 to more than 3000 every month. Yet with BlackLine, the finance team was able to maintain the same headcount. “Our volume of reconciliations increased dramatically, but because of BlackLine, we didn’t have to increase headcount to manage the new volume,” said Harms. “People ask me if they’re going to get their financial statements sooner. And I say no, but I’m going to keep five people off of your headcount and get you financials on the same day—instead of five—for 16 companies.”
Increased productivity and accountability. With BlackLine, the Club’s finance team can process five times the number of reconciliations in the same amount of time. Additionally, via Task Management, the team is improving workflow and controls. “With Task Management, we have incredible visibility across the entire process. We know which items are completed and which are still outstanding. There is increased accountability and productivity,” said Harms.
Reduced auditor wait time. With BlackLine, internal and external auditors can access the files they need, when they need them, from anywhere. “BlackLine has really reduced auditor wait time, and as a result, our staff’s time, as information is available immediately,” said Harms. “The auditors love it. They don’t have to ask for anything, and they don’t have to wait for anything. Everything is there. We’re keeping our auditors happy.”
Eliminated the need for binders. Prior to BlackLine, the Club’s 600 monthly reconciliations were printed and stored in more than 60 binders spread throughout five companies. Today, the Club is binder free. “With BlackLine, everything is stored in the cloud. There’s no need to search through binders or pay for storage. We’ve also reduced our paper costs,” said Harms.