The sooner you do it, the better. That’s the message Atholl Sarakinsky CA, group financial controller at Prospa, has for organisations considering a move from Excel-based processes to cloud-based, automated systems.
“Why haven’t you done it already? That would be my question,” he says. “Our BlackLine implementation process was smooth. From beginning to end it took about three to four months.”
Sarakinsky knew it was time to introduce BlackLine’s cloud-based financial operations management platform when time-wasting, repetitive processes and inefficiencies began to creep into the system.
“There were processes we did repeatedly, every month. We were copying and pasting Excel files and had inefficiencies around the lack of a single source of data,” he says.
“Excel just wasn’t fit-for-purpose any longer. Prospa was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, so we needed a practical, efficient, robust system with the necessary controls. That solution, for us, was BlackLine.”
The process may have been smooth, but that’s because Sarakinsky was aware of how technology changes can be undermined by a lack of cultural change, and had a plan to overcome that challenge.
Essential ingredients for implementation
The single most important factor in the successful implementation of BlackLine was staff engagement, says Sarakinsky.
His team was deeply involved in the decision-making process from the first, proof-of-concept stage.
“The high-performing team was part of the process from day one,” he says. “They helped identify the problem, were involved in the vendor review process, were part of the selection process and then, of course, were a big part of the implementation process.
“Their involvement was critical. They were the ones who’d be using it, so if they didn’t see the value or if there was a reluctance to use the system, it simply wouldn’t achieve what we set out to do.”
“They were the ones who’d be using it, so if they didn’t see the value… it simply wouldn’t achieve what we set out to do.”
Results of tech transformation
There have been significant audit benefits since the BlackLine implementation. Previously, the Prospa team had to chase Excel spreadsheets to help with auditing, whereas now auditors are simply given read-only access to the BlackLine system and the team is free to continue with higher-value work.
Auditors can also readily identify audit trails, with complete transparency over workflows, reconciliation processes, who reviewed and approved figures and documents, and when those approvals were given.
“The business has grown fast and this has freed up the team, giving them the ability to do higher-value work,” says Sarakinsky. “My key stakeholders are the CFO, the auditors and the Audit and Risk Committee. The new system has given them a lot more comfort.”
And that’s a large part of the value of a system such as BlackLine, says Sarakinsky. It helps to ensure compliance, and dramatically reduces risk of human error in the system.
“It’s great that we have this in place now,” he says. “For me, it means I can sleep much better at night!”
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