BlackLine: The Fast Track to Achieve Modern Finance

BlackLine: The Fast Track to Achieve Modern Finance

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Therese Tucker, Founder & CEO, BlackLineTherese Tucker, Founder & CEO  
Fortune truly favors the brave. When Therese Tucker, founder and CEO of BlackLine quit her stable engineering job, it was a mix of confidence, persistence, and grit that helped her pursue freelance work as a programmer and get to where she is now. Using her stock options from a previous company where she had served as CTO, Therese founded BlackLine, a leading provider of cloud software that automates and controls the entire financial close process. Her fintech cloud software company BlackLine now boasts over 196,000 users in 150 countries, but what helped start it all was just one customer 17 years ago. It is a testament to how Therese built her business, and simultaneously her credibility, one customer at a time.

BlackLine provides cloud-based solutions that transform finance and accounting (F&A) by automating, centralizing and streamlining financial close operations, intercompany accounting processes, and other key F&A processes for large and midsize organizations. Recognized as a leading provider for cloud financial close solutions, BlackLine is also accredited as a pioneer in the cloud market for enhanced financial control and automation. BlackLine’s Finance Controls and Automation Platform, designed entirely in the cloud from the ground up, is a single, unified platform that increases operational efficiency, real-time visibility, control and compliance to ensure end-to-end financial close management and accounting automation. BlackLine helps companies modernize accounting operations with intelligent automation, enabling customers to move beyond outdated processes and point solutions to a continuous accounting model, ensuring more accurate and insightful financial statements and a more efficient financial close.

”The integration of Host Analytics and BlackLine solutions is meant to form an unbeatable combination that allows the finance industry to focus on strategic growth opportunities by escaping the burden of manual, error-prone and inefficient close processes”

With Blackline’s comprehensive finance controls and automation platform, users can enjoy a consistent experience with single sign-on and avoid constantly switching between multiple systems. Organizations can manage the entire accounting and finance lifecycle with a global view into tasks and processes, all in a centralized, secure, and reliable system built specifically for finance and accounting.

Falling into Step with Change

It is a well-known fact that accounting and finance professionals obsess over quantification and audits. Digital transformation is set to change this key business support function into a valuable strategic function. Keeping in mind that a critical driver of this transformation is trust, Therese believes in the critical balancing act of building and maintaining trust at all levels of the industry.

Other than having the right people with the core competencies in place, excellent communication, transparency, culture, consistency, and empathy are vital aspects of setting a foundation of trust to launch digital transformation. Therese pointed out that loving what we do is what gives meaning to our work life, and digital transformation can bring out the meaning in finance and accounting to everyone in the organization, instead of people considering the function as a necessary burden.

Success with a Dash of Chocolate

With BlackLine having customers of all sizes across every industry, one of them was Hershey who kissed their dated account reconciliations processes goodbye with BlackLine. Having started out with the production of hand-wrapped chocolate kisses in a rural area of Pennsylvania in 1894, the Hershey Company has now become a global entity with 18,000 employees, 70 locations, and 80 brands of candy and snacks — including the 70 million Hershey’s Kisses it produces every day. For a company with the zeal to grow on a global scale while increasing market penetration in North America, financial operations have to be smooth and reliable. Following years of expansion, Hershey realized that its systems and processes, which tracked approximately 4,000 general ledgers across one chart of accounts, required a lot of work to get the insight it needed. As they were working without a central repository, they found the reconciliation of accounts to be particularly problematic, with 4,104 active account reconciliations, prepared by 121 people, and 77 people approving them, all with varying styles, formats, and deadlines. Seeing that they needed a different approach to account reconciliation, Hershey decided to upgrade its financial systems for better visibility and oversight into balance sheets, as well as journal entry preparation and reconciliation processes.

Other than having the right people with the core competencies in place, good communication, transparency, culture, consistency, and empathy are key aspects of setting a foundation of trust on which to launch digital transformation

When the company sent out request for proposals to vendors, BlackLine proved to be the vendor of choice among the companies that responded. Hershey decided to implement five products of BlackLine in a staged approach: account reconciliation, task management, consolidation integrity manager, journal entry, and transaction matching. Simultaneously, the company worked with BlackLine to establish the connectors between the SAP and BlackLine systems as well as to define the necessary information to use account reconciliation. After implementation, Hershey gained visibility to the account reconciliations the organization was performing in a central repository allowing them to capture the specific certifications of the preparers and approvers. They were ultimately able to have a better set of reconciliations with more comprehensive and consistent documentation.

The More the Merrier

Building on several longstanding alliances with industry leaders such as SAP, Oracle NetSuite, and Sage Intacct, BlackLine is expanding its technology partner ecosystem in order to be able increase customer value.

They aim to do so by making it easier than ever for enterprise resource planning (ERP), robotic process automation (RPA), integration and best-of-breed financial application software providers to connect their solutions to the company’s market-leading cloud platform for financial controls and automation. In line with the expansion, BlackLine is enhancing connectivity and integration alongside key ERP partners, RPA providers and integration platforms including Dell Boomi, OneCloud and Workato. The partnership with Workato enabled seamless end-to-end financial processes as businesses were able to connect BlackLine with their most critical business applications, including Workday, NetSuite and SAP. Integration partners extend Blackline’s reach across the entire software ecosystem, providing customers with enhanced capabilities to bring their financial data into BlackLine. OneCloud allowed Blackline to have a conduit with key planning and consolidation technologies that include Oracle Hyperion Financial Management and Essbase, Oracle Enterprise Performance Management Cloud, Workiva, Anaplan, Host Analytics and IBM Planning Analytics, to provide a comprehensive financial picture.

In the present financial scenario, BlackLine has noticed customers increasingly engage with a growing list of best-of-breed cloud solution providers in their finance and accounting departments. The reason is mounting global competitive pressures, a rapidly transforming regulatory landscape, the growing complexity of financial processes and heightened demand for greater visibility into balance sheet data. As more companies are leveraging cloud-based tools while undergoing large scale digital financial transformation projects, BlackLine recently introduced a new technology partner program designed to ease integration with complementary applications used in the financial close, consolidation and reporting processes. The program is an ecosystem of software companies committed to providing high-quality solutions tailored to finance and accounting teams. They provide guidance and best practices on how applications should be used harmoniously with each other while enabling customers to automate workflows across systems seamlessly. The innovative solutions that they provide help finance and accounting teams achieve shorter close cycles and better controls, enabling them to drive better decision-making across the company. Organizations are eager for the transformation of finance to squeeze every inefficiency and inaccuracy out of financial processes. One of the first ones to sign up for BlackLine’s program was Host Analytics, a leading provider of cloud-based enterprise performance management solutions. The integration of Host Analytics and BlackLine solutions is meant to form an unbeatable combination that allows the finance industry to focus on strategic growth opportunities by escaping the burden of manual, error-prone, and inefficient close processes.

BlackLine, with the help of its partners, is providing end-to-end financial close management and intelligent accounting automation solutions that result in shorter close cycles with better controls. The end goal is to enable customers with these integrations to drive better decision-making across the business. And it is not without reason that over 2,600 customers with users around the world trust BlackLine to help ensure balance sheet integrity and confidence in their financial statements.

- Sarah Dawson
    July 12, 2019