July 2, 2018
Resort Hotel Set to Halve Monthly Financial Close With BlackLine
Posted by Armanino Financial Advisory Team
A large resort hotel perched near the Grand Canyon had contracted Armanino to help them implement Sage Intacct ERP, with the goal of automating many of their financial processes. As we began that project, we soon realized that their monthly financial close was manual and Excel-driven, with a painful amount of inefficiency.
It took 12 long days for the hotel’s two-person finance team to close the books every month, each stretching past the 15-hour mark. With their heads buried in spreadsheets, they weren’t even able to take in the stunning desert scenery right outside their door.
The team was doing their monthly financial close the way most businesses have historically done it: using paper checklists, manually reconciling accounts across multiple static spreadsheets and verifying third-party accounts. They had to go back to reconciliations two or three times to review, cross-check and verify them.
All this effort was preventing them from doing other important tasks. Internal audits and internal controls weren’t being completed, because closing the books was so inefficient and time consuming. Something needed to change.
Automating the close
In an effort to ease the burden and provide better visibility into the close process, Armanino suggested implementing BlackLine, a software platform designed to help companies automate their financial close.
Automation software is a huge improvement over spreadsheets because everything—all of the reconciliations, journal entries and verification of third-party data, etc.—is linked. BlackLine’s built-in analytical engines automatically match transactions across accounts, ensuring transaction data doesn’t slip through the cracks.
The system standardizes the format of all account reconciliations and will decertify completed reconciliations if the general ledger balance changes. Changes are mirrored across the platform, which means the hotel’s finance team will be notified if changes in one account affect other accounts, so they can always trust that their reconciliations are up to date.
Tasks are linked in the in-platform close checklist, which is automatically updated as those tasks are completed. This way the team knows exactly who’s responsible for each task, what needs to be prepared, which tasks have already been completed, and what’s next.
Armanino was able to build out an integration between BlackLine and Sage Intacct. By integrating with the hotel’s ERP, all close activities can now happen within the BlackLine platform. (When preparing to add a new piece of software like Blackline to an existing technology stack, you shouldn’t evaluate it in a silo. You need to know how it will interact with your existing systems, and your implementation partner must be able to ensure that all platforms in your tech ecosystem play nicely.)
The benefits of close automation
By implementing BlackLine, the hotel is automatically adopting the best practices for the close process that are built into the software. In addition to shortening the close cycle, this affords them the ability to scale their processes as their business grows.
The implementation will also give the finance team real-time visibility into the close, allowing them to determine where the holdups are and address them right away. Parts of the close process ―specifically the automatic reconciliation of zero balance accounts or lightly used balance sheet accounts―will be fully automated. And the need to roll spreadsheets forward and import the updated account information to prepare for the next month’s close will be eliminated.
With BlackLine in their corner, the future for the hotel’s financial team is looking bright. They’ve set a goal of shortening those 15-hour days to a more manageable 10 hours and closing the books in eight days, effectively shaving 200 total hours off of each month’s close. With that extra time, they might even get to enjoy the view!
Learn more about BlackLine at Armanino and ways your team can shorten your own monthly financial close process.
Armanino’s Financial Advisory blog is your source for thought leadership around cloud ERP and accounting solutions and integrations. Supported by the Cloud Accounting Institute and numerous experts in cloud, finance, reporting, integration, compliance, and technology, Armanino’s Financial Advisory blog features must-read content on what’s happening in the finance industry, case studies, white papers, and much more.