Centralizing Key Finance and Accounting Functions Globally
A publicly traded company, Dun & Bradstreet helps businesses grow valuable relationships by connecting them with the prospects, suppliers, clients, and partners that matter most. Nearly 90% of the Fortune 500, and companies of every size around the world, rely Dun & Bradstreet every day for data, insights, and analytics.
Dun & Bradstreet’s focus on continual growth, while great for the company’s bottom line, put increasing pressure on the finance department. Most challenging was ensuring consistent controls across 70 operating entities worldwide. Each local market’s financial close was still operated separately, severely limiting the visibility and transparency so crucial to maintaining shareholder confidence.
“Our organization is challenged every day to support the business’s concentration on global growth, while still executing the close in the most modern and efficient way. But with our previous system, at any one time we never knew the true status of key financial processes,” said Gretchen Sikora, Senior Finance Leader at Dun & Bradstreet. “We didn’t know if reconciliations were completed, documented, and reviewed properly. There was no mechanism to capture our risks and opportunities in a methodical way. This created environment of many surprises during the financial close, which made us a reactive, instead of a proactive, organization.”
To address the need for better controls and a faster, more accurate month-end close, Dun & Bradstreet’s controller organization designed a new strategy for the creation of a Center of Excellence (CoE). “With CoE, our mission was to ensure that no matter where you were within the organization, the financial close would be standardized and done in a timely manner,” said Sikora.
Yet when Sikora and her team started to transition the balance sheet reconciliation process into the CoE model, the company’s existing networks and data storage hampered them. “We were unable to successfully create a best-in-class reconciliations process on our existing share drives,” said Sikora. “We recognized early on we needed to find a partner who could help us centralize, track, and monitor key functions.”
The organization reviewed numerous solutions designed to automate reconciliations and provide team members instant access to real-time data—from anywhere in the world. “In our review, we found that each vendor provided the same type of solutions, but BlackLine was the one that stood out in terms of sales support and the ease of use,” said Sikora.
To make their final decision, Sikora and her team graded each vendor’s solution on key functionalities and also ran a return-on-investment (ROI) analysis comparing BlackLine to other products and solutions in the same space. “The team rated BlackLine the highest in ease, format, and end results. To me, BlackLine was everything in one bag, and I now had a tool to meet our five key strategies.”
Eliminated non-value work. Prior to BlackLine, Dun & Bradstreet staff spent countless hours manually tracking and monitoring the close process. Today, they have the resources to focus on truly critical work, such as analysis and discrepancies, instead of data entry and gathering information for auditors. “If you ask my team now, they would tell you stories of how it has saved them time and eliminated non-value work, especially with the auditors. They’re always asking ‘Are we going to use BlackLine for that?’ because BlackLine has brought so much automation and improvement in controls to the process,” said Sikora. “I honestly can tell you that Blackline has become the central and most important tool we use in accounting.” saves us so much time. I haven’t worked with a tool better than BlackLine.”
Quickly centralized key functions. With BlackLine, Sikora and her team have been able to support the centralization—and globalization—of key functions. Staff and auditors can now access information and perform tasks from anywhere in the world, at any time. “With BlackLine, we’ve met our five key objectives for rapidly developing our CoE. We’re the leader in implementation, in front of our colleagues in AP and AR,” said Sikora. “BlackLine has enabled us to very quickly standardize and improve the control environment, eliminate redundancies, and implement best practices across the entire organization.”
Increased transparency, visibility, and accuracy during the close process. Previously, the organization lacked visibility into the status of key financial processes, making it difficult to find and correct discrepancies earlier in the close. “With BlackLine, we now have a tool that provides transparencies and insight 24/7, globally, from the preparer standpoint up to the corporate controller. I can sleep at night now. There are no more ‘surprises’ during monthly closes. And Audit and SOX can be 100% comfortable in stating we have sufficient controls and support,” said Sikora. “I wish I would have engaged Blackline years ago. Though I was introduced to BlackLine in 2010, at the time I said—which we all say—that my process was ‘good enough’ and was meeting our needs. Not partnering with BlackLine five years ago is one of the biggest regrets in my accounting career.”