Unlock Greater Value with Your BlackLine Investment
This article first appeared in BlackLine Magazine.
Automation technology is transforming the way companies do business, empowering them to shed outdated, manual procedures and focus on more strategic initiatives. For companies with inefficient close processes, investing in digitized systems can be crucial to gain insight into financial data more quickly and accurately than ever before.
But what about the companies that are already using automation technology to streamline their financial close process? Is there more they can do to further accelerate their finance and accounting function and reach their long-term organizational goals?
At this year’s InTheBlack conference, we met with many current BlackLine customers to learn more about how they are using automation technology to meet the evolving needs of their business. From automating mundane tasks to bolstering the internal control environment, BlackLine is overhauling not only these customers’ finance functions, but their overall understanding of the health of their businesses and whether they are efficiently operating.
But while the number of companies using digitized finance and accounting processes is on the rise, many are not taking full advantage of everything the automation technology has to offer.
Several customers at InTheBlack acknowledged that they use BlackLine as a data repository and approval workflow for documents in their monthly close process, rather than leveraging the tool’s full capabilities. Others deploy one or two solutions but don’t utilize the breadth of functionality that comes from the integration between BlackLine’s advanced products.
In short, there’s much more that companies can do to realize the technology’s true potential.
Based on our experience, here are some key ways that BlackLine users can maximize their technology investment to reveal a more efficient and streamlined finance function.
While automation technology can be a powerful way to improve a company’s existing finance function, it is not a salve for broken or inefficient processes. Companies should look at their existing finance and accounting procedures to determine whether they are effectively supporting their technology investment.
We’ve seen firsthand, for instance, how establishing a creative organizational structure and account segment combination to capture account reconciliations and variance analysis helped one company unlock the true value of its BlackLine investment. With a few key changes made, this customer was better able to deploy BlackLine and redesign its variance process to gain process efficiency and insight into account fluctuations at a more granular level.
Assess Project Success
Many existing BlackLine customers referred to an unclear understanding of BlackLine solutions and benefits, or a lack of expertise when it comes to developing a strategic roadmap, as reasons for not expanding their technology usage. Often, a company may have even lost sight of its initial reasons for beginning its BlackLine journey or has let implementation efforts fall to the wayside at the onset of other projects.
Revisiting a company’s reasons for undertaking a BlackLine implementation, understanding its goals, desired business outcomes, and charting the right path forward can be a powerful way to ensure that BlackLine is being deployed to meet the company’s unique and evolving needs.
This strategic planning process should document all relevant roles and responsibilities and provide a step-by-step list of procedures that must be taken in a given timeframe. Engaging a third-party specialist to assist in this assessment can be valuable for companies that are not sure where to begin.
Reviewing the original business case and project status will identify areas where additional improvement can be achieved. This can be especially helpful for companies looking to continue their financial transformation journey.
User Training & Adoption
No matter how dedicated a company is to selecting and implementing the right automation technology, its efforts will likely be for naught if its users are not adequately trained on how to work with the new system. For new users, this means having a contextual understanding of BlackLine’s score functionality and capabilities, while empowering existing users to further hone their skills and increase ongoing user adoption.
This development will not only lead to a more seamless BlackLine experience, but will ensure that staff has a greater understanding of the system’s benefits, and subsequently, can become internal champions during and after the transition.
During our conversations, several customers pointed to the financial commitment involved in a technology implementation as a prohibitive factor. While process automation can indeed be costly, it is important to understand that maximizing automation ROI can save thousands if not millions of dollars in labor, audit fees, and accounting errors. Companies may even take advantage of the option to capitalize on various implementation costs to spread the expense over future periods.
Most importantly, by truly taking advantage of finance automation technology, companies can acquire crucial insight into the business, giving management and other key stakeholders the information they need to make timely and informed decisions that accelerate operations and further drive growth.