How To Smoothly Automate Business Accounting With Technology

How To Smoothly Automate Business Accounting With Technology

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.

Accountant picture from Shutterstock

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.


  • This article seems a little half-baked, Angus…
    a) It doesn’t really read like a “how-to”, more of a vague and brief case study… needs more structure and perhaps a couple of links to other deployment articles / tips / guides…
    b) things like “space reductions can be significant” seems like a misnomer when you then mention it’s basically “multiple spreadsheets, all stored in different folders”… did you mean “Easier workflow management / sharing” or something along those lines? (otherwise how ridiculously HUGE are these spreadsheets???)

    • I wish I stopped reading right after “I attended a media lunch”

      This is just regurgitating whatever spiel he listened to and called it an article.

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