Accounting software doesn’t get anyone drooling with anticipation, so any automation that can be bought to the process is welcome. Here are some tips to make that journey to automating the process either.
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I attended a media lunch yesterday for finance automation provider BlackLine, which automates the process of closing and reconciliation. Yeah, a horrendous task, but someone has to do it. Ideally those people will receive as much technological assistance as possible.
At the lunch, Ekkehard Kostbahn from Wesley Mission and Marika Botansky from Qantas both discussed how they rolled out the software — lessons that can be useful to any business looking to automate its financial processes.
It’s a gradual process
Wesley Mission began implementing BlackLine 18 months ago, and did its initial roll-out over a 6-week period. Qantas has taken much longer — just 40 per cent of its activity has moved into BlackLine since it began the process in May 2013.
You may also need to gradually transition into the system. Wesley Mission set itself a target of 50 per cent of reconciliations going into the new system in the first month, 75 per cent in the second and 100 per cent in the third. That was more realistic than a total switchover. “Accountants don’t like change,” Kostbahn noted. “It was quite ambitious, but we managed it.” At Qantas, the transition has been planned as a seven-stage process which is ongoing.
Choose the right time to switch
Trying to switch systems right before the end of the financial year is a bad idea. Wesley Mission chose to make the switch over the Christmas period, which is one of its least busy periods.
Accept you may have to pause
Qantas’ transition has been slowed down as a result of a major reorganisation due to its difficult financial year. A decision internally to switch to Oracle 12 has also slowed the process down, since people find it hard to concentrate on multiple transitions at once, Botansky said. Qantas also makes extensive use of shared services, which has proven a challenging area to automate.
Space reductions can be significant
One unexpected benefit of the switch for Wesley Mission was a big saving in storage space — and not only because BlackLine is cloud-based. Its previous reconciliation approach involved multiple spreadsheets, all stored in different folders. “It was getting a bit out of hand,” he said.