The goals for accounting and finance transformation are well known: increase visibility, improve speed and accuracy, and mitigate risk. With automation comes greater efficiency, freeing accounting and finance teams to become stronger business partners and contribute strategic insights.
Yet getting there can be a challenging journey. Some finance teams make the mistake of simply throwing technology at a problem. They might automate a bad process without first fixing underlying process flaws, or expect a single technology platform—like an ERP—to fulfill all their needs.
Others neglect the essential element for accounting transformation: strong executive backing and engaged employees who can thrive with modern tools.
World Fuel Services Corporation (World Fuel) is an example of a company that’s getting it right. Headquartered in Miami with nearly $40 billion in revenue, World Fuel has charted a strategic roadmap to accounting transformation that’s extending competitive advantage in an industry that’s been traditionally conservative.
The Fortune 500 company (NYSE: INT) provides fuel, logistics, and technology solutions to aviation, marine, and land customers at 8,000 locations across 200 countries and territories. Founded in 1984, it’s grown organically and through acquisition into a global powerhouse with 150 offices and regional centers in Miami, London, and Singapore.
World Fuel recognized that its visibility and automation objectives couldn’t be realized with a single solution. Instead, the company is taking a best-of-breed approach.
Selected over Oracle and other competitors, BlackLine is the solution of choice to meet World Fuel’s need to bring automation to cash account reconciliations and high-volume transaction matching—for both the finance and vendor reconciliations teams.
BlackLine’s ability to bring in data from multiple ERP systems and other data sources was a differentiator for World Fuel. So was the speed and ease of implementation, and the capacity of BlackLine Account Reconciliations and Transaction Matching to work in tandem to achieve higher degrees of automation.
“BlackLine is a piece of the puzzle that will eventually get us to full automation,” Herrera says. “You might never be 100% automated, but our vision is to automate as much as we can, simplify our processes, and standardize across our entities and segments. Then you can become that analytical accountant that people don’t have the time to be right now.”
Another key to World Fuel’s success with BlackLine was the selection of a proven consulting partner for an on-time, on-budget implementation. The company chose Vaco, a Nashville, Tennessee-based Professional
Services firm that has implemented and optimized BlackLine at nearly 200 companies around the world.
“Vaco was heavily involved in getting us live with BlackLine, ensuring that it all went very smoothly, and helping us with on-site training at our shared services centers in Miami and Costa Rica,” Herrera says. “The Vaco team was really great at being very responsive and has deep expertise beyond just account reconciliations.”
“Our BlackLine project standardized our data and gave us visibility to do more timely reconciliations,” says Herrera. “In the past, we only reconciled cash at month end—now we’re doing it twice a month, and have cut 40 to 50% of the time from monthly auditing of cash reconciliations.”
As Herrera notes, modern platforms like BlackLine have enabled World Fuel to energize their teams to pursue innovations and new value.
With BlackLine and other technologies, Herrera and her team can conduct a holistic analysis of processes and technology solutions to fine-tune their approach. “We don’t want to automate something for the sake of automating it,” Herrera says. “The question is, what’s the ROI? Is the process stable, or do we need to fix the process first?”
Herrera also champions benchmarking and networking with other leading companies, throughout the year and at events such as BlackLine’s annual InTheBlack user conference, to learn and share best practices.
In addition to BlackLine, World Fuel is now exploring how other BlackLine solutions, including Intercompany Hub and Variance Analysis, might fit into its landscape.