Manual to Modernized: A Journey from Excel to BlackLine
A version of this article first appeared in Blackline Magazine.
Despite the evolution of traditional finance functions, many companies are still behind in modernizing processes in their finance organization. Ongoing pressures remain for finance executives and their teams to engage cross-functionally as a business partner, continually evolve their skillsets to remain modern and relevant, and enable strategic decision making that helps the organization uncover and realize its potential.
The need for automation and efficiency is more important now than ever, yet these solutions are not always easily envisioned or implemented.
Accounting and finance software solutions with the ability to transform organizations provide a number of crucial benefits—although these technologies come with an added level of complexity to processes and responsibility on resources. When rolling out new and improved system responsibilities and an expansive list of features, companies often leave valuable functionality untapped.
At the 2021 virtual BeyondTheBlack event, experts from Riveron explored how companies can create efficiencies and a more robust control structure, and the related importance of modernizing finance and accounting processes via a fully leveraged BlackLine platform. By reducing manual processes, companies can maximize their workforce, obtain access to accurate and timely data, and achieve the greatest return on their system investment.
Many Accounts, Limited Visibility: One Global Organization’s Challenge
When Riveron partnered with BlackLine to transform the finance function at Blackhawk Network, a global e-commerce and payments organization, the team observed challenges that commonly arise when seeking to create efficiencies.
Initial discussions with the pre-paid card solutions company indicated that—among its customer base comprised of merchants, retailers, and digital resellers—it had 3,000 existing accounts that needed to be reconciled. Management was using an Excel checklist which had all reconciliations and manually rolled the checklist forward every month to show completeness of the balance sheet reconciliation process.
Using BlackLine, the company’s management can operate in a streamlined fashion, having instant reporting at their fingertips delivered at a custom frequency aligned to the company’s specifications.
When extracting data from the ERP system, Microsoft Dynamics 365, the team discovered the total number of accounts to be reconciled at 6000-plus, amounting to double the initial estimates. Of those accounts, 4600 needed to be reconciled.
The remaining 1,800 accounts were technically not active, but some still presented a balance and an unfinished backlog of work. This brought to light the organization’s lack of visibility into its accounts that were unclosed and unreconciled.
Additionally, challenges arose with general ledger imbalances, highly customized reporting, and many ad-hoc reporting requests due to the volume of reconciliations performed during a quarterly operation frequency.
The new custom structure provides standardization across all regions and evenly spreads users’ workloads over each quarter. Using BlackLine allows these frequencies to be easily adjusted over time as an organization’s workload changes.
How the Technology Journey Enabled Customized, User-Friendly Success
Post-implementation, Blackhawk Network has implemented a modern approach that has significantly reduced its manual processes. The company is now able to reconcile 4,600+ accounts across 28 countries and 100 business units, an 80% increase from the number of accounts previously maintained manually exclusively on Excel.
To ensure ease of adoption, users and administrators received virtual live training sessions and customized detailed user guides. These elements, along with BlackLine’s vast resources available in the online community, provided effective change management. Using BlackLine, the company’s management can operate in a streamlined fashion, having instant reporting at their fingertips delivered at a custom frequency aligned to the company’s specifications.
As with any finance automation project, the key to success is ensuring system setup joins seamlessly with a company’s processes to best accommodate the new technology and increase user adoption and understanding. By modernizing finance and accounting functions, companies can make the most of their information, use technology to support timely business decisions, and equip the organization for long-term success.
To explore other ways that accounting and finance functions are being reshaped by organizations, browse Riveron’s recent success stories.