As a fresh young graduate with a qualification in accounting, my idea of a ‘day at the office’ and a career in accounting as a CA turned out to be a bit different compared to my studies. It certainly didn’t involve manually copying & pasting numbers from one spreadsheet to another, or searching through network folders for old excel files trying to make sense of a gap in one of my balance sheet reconciliations.
This was the reality I was presented with in my first accounting role. A newly qualified CPA spending late nights at the office with error-prone spreadsheets working through yet another month end. Sometimes we would get lucky and the CFO would order some pizzas.
The balance sheet reconciliations (if you could call them that) were an absolute mess – oftentimes I was handed an excel sheet with a series of hard-coded numbers with no descriptions and asked to sift through years’ worth of transactions to try and make sense of it.
This would cause me countless additional hours during month-end, hence the late nights. It was also an extremely frustrating and stress-inducing process (I attribute the few grey hairs I have to this single thing).
I would be walking to my car at 11:30PM on a Monday night thinking ‘surely this isn’t real accounting – I became a Chartered Accountant to do this?’ But this was a monthly occurrence – as month-end transpired upon us, like clockwork the late nights would come.
After chatting with a few colleagues, they reflected the same sentiment – they were tired of the manual month-ends and were looking to change roles as they just felt like they weren’t learning anything.
When I started applying for roles – the first filter question I asked potential employers was around how manual their month-end processes were – especially their balance sheet reconciliations. Employers with manual procedures would get an automatic disqualification from me.
Eventually I came across an offer which suited my criteria – it would allow me to learn more practical accounting and the processes were more automated – they were using an Account Reconciliation software called BlackLine which I had never heard of before.
I commenced the new role and waited with nervous anticipation for my first month-end. The first thing I noticed was how structured it all was. Finance was divided into small divisional teams headed up by Finance Managers who all had a tight grip on all the happenings under their remit.
It came time for balance sheet reconciliations and I started getting flashbacks to my prior role. I logged into BlackLine for the first time ever and the user interface looked clean and intuitive.
There were reconciliations assigned to me as a ‘Preparer’ in the system. After digging around a bit, I realized that all of my recs had a full history of every supporting item for each month, including attached supporting documentation, dating back years, all accessible through a web browser. It might sound a bit funny, but my mind was blown. Can you imagine the contrast in my last role vs my new one?
With little help, I was able to complete all of my assigned reconciliations before 5pm on the same day. Once the clock hit 5PM I looked up and noticed that half of the finance team had already left for the day. ‘Where are they going? Don’t they know it’s month-end? We’re going to be here until midnight surely!’ I thought.
How wrong I was. After a few month-ends, I realized that this was the norm. Accountants don’t have to regularly work late if their organization uses integrated and automated systems like BlackLine for their month-end process.
Not only was this saving countless hours during month-end, but employees stayed longer in their roles. Most of my new colleagues had been in their role for 5, 10 and even 20+ years. Can you imagine how many thousands of dollars the business saved in not having to search for and hire new employees regularly?
Within 12 months of me leaving my prior role, most of my former colleagues had also left – turnover was huge, largely due to how disgustingly manual month-end was.
I went from dreading month-end to enjoying it somewhat. I resolved in my head – all future employers must use BlackLine also – or I’m not interested. Not only from an automation perspective (no manual touch points on the numbers) but also visibility. I didn’t have to sift through years of GL transactions to substantiate a rec as it was already right there in front of me.
There’s a lesson in this for employers – your manual processes are causing you higher turnover and higher staff retention costs. For me it should be a logical choice for any CFO doing a cost-benefit analysis on whether or not to implement BlackLine. The benefits are real and will be actualized instantly, but the choice is yours.
Want to know the specific value BlackLine can bring to you and your business? Download our Accelerate Your Monthly Close eGuide to take the first step to transforming your month-end close with modern accounting software.
Ben Cummins worked as a Financial and Management Accountant for 7 years and has over 11 years experience within the accounting industry. After regularly experiencing common pain points faced by accountants at month-end, he joined Tridant in 2021 and now helps businesses solve these problems through the use of BlackLine Automation Technology.