Caspar Deman, Tyro’s Finance Project Lead, shares his top four tips when considering Blackline Reconciliation. Caspar offers practical advice for Financial Controllers and Financial Accountants, looking to make financial transformation in their organisations.
Caspar advises companies adopting Blackline to think about the following:
- Get rid of error-prone manual consolidations
- Make it scalable (as early on as possible)
- Be ready for one-off integration challenges
- Manage expectations and timeline
Download the full case study at the end of this article.
1. Get rid of error-prone manual consolidations
At Tyro, the month-end financial close and consolidation was a complex and time-consuming task for the finance team. The growing business strained the team while closing the books manually with tight deadlines. It wasn’t really sustainable with such a thinly stretched team. Casper tells us how they were struggling with multiple versions of truth inside their organisation:
“All the balance sheet recs were housed in one shared document but the document was too big for more than one person to work on it at once so everyone had their own mini versions of the document.”
Casper recalls how it was like when all the reconciliations were prepared in Excel:
“We would download the trial balance from Workday, our ERP. All of it would be copied and pasted into the individual reconciliations. Once everyone had done their recs, we had to then wait until the master document was available. So that we could go in and then copy and paste all our recs out of our own documents into the main working document.”
After Blackline Reconciliation, Casper’s finance team has achieved time efficiency, accuracy, and speed. They were able to create a single truth for real-time reporting across all the functions. Casper says:
“With Blackline, you can very clearly know from your dashboards that you are reporting on 120 recs and how many of them have reconciling items over a certain age and whom they belong to. You can drill into it to see what action plan they've actually set up within Blackline to get it cleared enabling you to know and pinpoint issues and fix them quickly.”
2. Make it scalable (as early on as possible)
Casper suggests not waiting too long, to the point you're already in the mess. Organisations don't want to invest in financial transformation systems too early. They tend to come behind the investment in customer-facing systems and front-end systems.
But if you've got the opportunity and if you're going to be a growing business, start looking at Blackline or other productivity tools and try to get on board early. And then you can set yourself up with a solid set of standard processes that you can build on rather than trying to migrate once you outgrow the Excel spreadsheets. Casper pinpoints the problem with trying to make it work with Excel:
“We've around 100 balance sheet recs. You might think well that's not that many. I think for Tyro, we sort of chose to go a bit to an inflection point where we could have probably coped with our Excel process. But if we're gonna grow as a business, it would have quickly become unscalable and unmanageable.”
With Blackline software implementation, Tyro’s finance team is confident that they will be able to manage the high influx of data and still be able to automate consolidations moving forward.
3. Be ready for one-off integration challenges
Casper warns about the integration challenges while implementing Blackline:
“I think working out the integration between Blackline and our ERP–Workday was tricky. Because Blackline has to ingest the data in a certain format and it wasn't a standard reporting format that came out of Workday.”
So Tyro had to work on their side to figure out how to get the data in the appropriate format to ingest it into Blackline. Casper lays out a proper outline for the businesses looking into Blackline implementation:
“Understand that it's not just about the Blackline guys doing all the work to do the implementation. There is work to do on our side as well. Dealing with the tech people or the systems analysts on our side was relatively new to me. I didn't have such relationships and I had to build those relationships up and figure out whom to go to in order to get these all done. That was also a challenging component of the implementation on our side.”
4. Manage expectations and timeline
The best way to go about Blackline implementation is to first have a plan. Casper suggests you take control:
“As an implementation manager, you’ll have to establish a timeline based on your expectations. Try and carve out a plan that you'll follow throughout the process of configuration and providing your test data while implementing Blackline Software.”
Setting up everything along with security and assigning staff members the roles and activities during the implementation will take another huge chunk of time. So, your team needs to acknowledge everything while carving out the timeline ensuring the team members understand your expectations upfront. Casper is upfront about some of his shortcomings and what he learned throughout the process of Blackline implementation:
“Because I had not worked in a financial services environment before, I had to get an awful lot of internal sign-offs even before we could move to the implementation phase. Particularly in cyber security and risk compliance.”
As they were taking their general ledger data and sending it outside the building, there were a lot of checks that they had to do while taking clearances and filing up contracts upfront. It was a new experience for Casper.
“If you are looking into Blackline implementation would be to take these things into consideration while thinking about the timeline for implementation.”
Amendra Pratap, Managing Director at Octane backs Casper’s insight about planning:
“One thing that we found worked quite well with the tyro implementation was having a project plan and also having the agility to move around the project plan.”