Balancing Accountant Workloads
and Strengthening Internal Controls
Accountant Brian Muratore had used BlackLine for five years at Shire Pharmaceuticals. He was responsible for preparation, approval, and system administration. But when the CPA joined Synergy Pharmaceuticals as a director, he found an accounting department still reliant on spreadsheets and manual processes for much of the monthly close.
“There’s life before BlackLine, and life after BlackLine,” said Muratore. “At Shire, I relied on BlackLine every day. When I suddenly had to go back to using a spreadsheet, I felt kind of lost. I wanted to implement BlackLine at Synergy because I had experienced firsthand all the things BlackLine can do.”
Muratore knew that the BlackLine platform would help Synergy’s accountants meet monthly close times more efficiently and increase accuracy and standardization. Yet he also realized
that getting buy-in from a staff accustomed to relying on Excel could be challenging.
“Everybody’s comfortable in Excel, and we all get used to doing things the way we’ve always done them,” said Muratore. “I felt the same way before I started using BlackLine. I was accustomed to doing my reconciliations on paper, but I learned very quickly, while at Shire, that BlackLine made my life as a preparer much easier. And I knew from personal experience that it’s very easy to learn and to use.”
Muratore made the case for BlackLine by highlighting how using the platform would strengthen internal controls and simplify accounting tasks specific to the pharmaceutical industry. He also emphasized the robust training made available through BlackLine University. “The courses in BlackLine U are really helpful. In fact, for anyone new to BlackLine, I would highly recommend using BlackLine U.”
Synergy Pharmaceuticals implemented BlackLine’s Account Reconciliations and Tasks in 2017, with an eye toward adding other capabilities. “BlackLine makes it very
easy to add on modules as you go—and as you grow as a company,” said Muratore.
Enabled managers to better balance workloads. The team now has greater visibility into individual accountant workloads. “With BlackLine, I can view all of my team’s tasks and instantly see who has a heavier workload. For example, is someone responsible for 20 account reconciliations while someone else has only five?” said Muratore. “Task Management
gives me a better appreciation of what my team is doing, helps me understand how I can better balance workloads, and shows me how I can help them be better at their jobs.”
Simplified accounting tasks specific to the pharmaceutical industry. Synergy and Shire accounting teams rely on BlackLine to manage gross-to-net reconciliations, as well as R&D payments and accruals. “Gross-to-net is very complicated. Getting the auditors comfortable with it is even more complicated,” said Muratore. “We use BlackLine’s general template, which allows us to attach the documents we want to attach, put line items in as much detail as we can, and leave comments or other descriptions to really help the auditors. We’re able to give them that base level knowledge they need before we go into a meeting to discuss the gross-to-net.”
The team also uses BlackLine to manage site payments, prepaid site payments, and other accruals. “BlackLine is very helpful with R&D studies. Every month, BlackLine will amortize on the account reconciliation, so if the balance doesn’t change from month-to-month, that reconciliation is already done for that period. There’s nothing else that we need to do except certify it.”
Strengthened internal controls. BlackLine’s centralized data, templates, and automated workflows have increased both transparency and standardization. “In an Excel environment, anyone can delete or add tasks. You never know who may have changed a file,” said Muratore. “With BlackLine, no one can add or remove tasks without you knowing. Everything is visible.”
Streamlined audits. Instead of tasking staff with aggregating hundreds of paper files or emailing spreadsheets, Muratore simply gives auditors direct access to BlackLine. Auditors can only see accounts that are certified, approved, and ready for viewing. “We always have positive feedback from the audit teams, both internal and external. They’re able to get their questions answered much more quickly. Using BlackLine has removed a lot of the basic back and forth that you have with an audit team throughout a close.”
Enabled business continuity. BlackLine also makes it easier for new employees to step into accounting roles. New hires can take training within BlackLine U, and because all data is within BlackLine, employees don’t have to search for the former employee’s spreadsheets or files. “Employee transitions are much simpler with Task Management. I just transfer tasks to the new employee. It’s very quick and easy.”