Upgrade Your Finance and Accounting Processes with BlackLine

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Meet the Authors

Key Takeaways

⇨ When it comes to reconciliations and other necessary functions, finance teams should look for ways to automate simple and repeatable functions.

⇨ Companies should target specific, achievable goals that provide real business value.

⇨ SAP customers should try, when possible, to use SAP-approved Solution Extensions to ensure connectivity and functionality.

The macroeconomic realities of the day are putting finance teams under significant pressure. As financial conditions tighten, business plans are threatened. Finance and accounting need to be able to provide more real-time data about how the business is progressing to help decision-makers guide the company.

To help companies find the solutions they are looking for, SAPinsider recently sat down with Michael Polaha, Senior Vice President of Finance at BlackLine. He touched on some of the topics that BlackLine’s customers have highlighted as the most pressing issues throughout the finance space for SAP users.

Be Aggressive in Leveraging Automation

One of the key talking points for finance professionals is the need for real-time analytics. Organizations are under significant pressure to deliver decision-makers with critical data points that allow them to guide organizations based on up-to-date market conditions.

“My observations from speaking with our customers about the finance industry is that finance and accounting teams are being challenged to turn data into information more rapidly. We would all agree that the compliance part of accounting is really table stakes and many of our customers are feeling that pressure to support the business in a real-time, differentiated way,” said Polaha.

As the cost of labor rises, automation provides an inflationary hedge, allowing workers to perform tasks more efficiently. Companies have a certain number of transactions that they need to reconcile and align. This number is only going to keep growing as the company expands. Automation allows users to perform all necessary reconciliations in a fraction of the time. By saving time on repeatable tasks, finance professionals can spend their time on other work that adds value to the organization.

These automatable processes only become more important as companies merge with and acquire other businesses. This not only increases the total number of transactions, but also adds layers of complexity into the overall new financial landscape of the combined organization.

“Many companies grow through acquisition. It’s a normal part of a growth strategy, especially for the enterprise and mega enterprise. There’s an organic element, and there’s an inorganic element to this process, so the ability to have a technology platform that allows for the agility needed to integrate, standardize, and automate activities quickly to get to scale, I think is so important for many CFOs,” said Polaha.

Companies are increasingly turning to automation-based solutions, such as the Accounts Receivable Automation and Intercompany tools offered by BlackLine. These solutions not only help increase time to value but improve accuracy and help provide business leaders with the intelligence they need to drive better outcomes.

Tap into Next-Level Intelligence

Companies need to be able to prioritize the actions that will be most impactful for their business. By adopting a “continuous improvement mindset,” businesses can analyze their own internal data to find targeted areas for improvement. For instance, businesses can turn raw data into actionable information by focusing priorities on the accounts that are that are making a difference to overall balance sheet risk.

“At a previous position, we were doing 30,000 reconciliations in one quarter, but 9% of those reconciliations covered 99% of our balance sheet, so we could really focus our efforts much more intelligently. The way we think of journal entry management and automation is no different. Our ability as a platform to help understand the root cause analysis of a manual journal issue. We look at how we might either eliminate it, standardize it, or calculate the entry itself in an automated way through the integration to the underlying data source and have it run through an automated workflow process,” said Polaha.

Polaha also discussed how BlackLine is working to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its solutions as a way to support end-to-end business processes. AI is not a one-size-fits-all proposition – companies should look for AI solutions with proven, specific goals in mind. AI can be a force multiplier as long as it is applied in the right way. These scenarios can only be determined and fine-tuned over time, relying on the benefits of practical experience.

“It’s very important to us to intelligently incorporate AI into our comprehensive platform. We’ve already worked to identify use cases within the different solution pillars and offerings to be able to move that needle forward in a way that our customers can optimally benefit. It is incumbent upon us to do that because it’s the promise of software-as-a-service to be able to deliver that capability at scale to our customers in a way that they can continually benefit from,” said Polaha.

Part of the promise of a SaaS model is that the technology delivered should be road tested and scalable. Working with a partner like BlackLine brings extensive experience in developing and upgrading solutions within the SAP space.

Trusted Partners

SAP organizations are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest capabilities. Many push for advanced analytics and AI capabilities, sometimes attempting to develop them in-house. However, this can lead to more problems than solutions. Often, these IT teams build solutions that will work for just the moment, but lack scalability.

“At some point corporations realized that they’re not a software development company. Their teams should not be in building software. The BlackLines and SAPs of the world are much better positioned to be able to deliver that technology at scale and then also support it,” said Polaha.

BlackLine is an SAP platinum partner and many of its offerings are certified SAP Solution Extensions. This means they are specially designed to help SAP customers meet their specific business needs. Users can leverage these Solution Extensions to improve performance and ensure a strong integration with their SAP landscape.

“Our Solution Extension relationship with SAP is so special because the way we work together to qualify our development makes it upgrade-proof. The joint customers that we have can put their head on the pillow at night knowing that as we release this new capability, that is insulated on both our side and SAP’s side and it’s not going break. That’s the that’s very important, especially in the world of finance and accounting,” said Polaha.

What this Means for SAPinsiders

Automate where possible. When it comes to reconciliations and other necessary functions, finance teams should look for ways to automate simple and repeatable functions. This saves time and effort while reducing the possibility of errors.

Prioritize solutions. Finance and accounting teams face increasing workloads. Yet they often lack increased workforces or resources to help them accomplish what they need to. In these instances, companies should target specific, achievable goals that provide real business value.

Find options and offerings that can be easily integrated. While custom solutions can meet some needs, they often lack scalability and easy integration options. SAP customers should try, when possible, to use SAP-approved Solution Extensions to ensure connectivity and functionality.

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