Finding the Right Solution

By Wendy Shapiro  |  Posted 2010-12-09 Print this article Print

By automating the financial-close process, Atlas Air freed up time, money and resources.

Finding the Right Solution

In mid-2008, I learned about the BlackLine Financial Close Software Suite, which automates closing work papers and task process flows. It also includes balance-sheet variance explanations, journal-entry creation with workflow-approval process and a safe repository for key spreadsheets.

I liked the fact that all financial-close data and supporting documentation are housed in one place. The software also organizes and manages thousands of our documents that previously were stored on disparate servers across the globe.

In addition, I was pleased that the BlackLine suite didn’t replace our JD Edwards financial system. Instead, it holds data that can either be pushed from BlackLine (such as approved journal entries) or pulled from our financial system (such as general-ledger balances and transactions).

As information is updated in our financial system, reconciliations that were certified become decertified, and notifications of pending action are immediately sent, thereby alerting the recipient that further review is required. There’s no threat that last-minute entries won’t be included in the hard-copy, signed reconciliations being reviewed by the auditors.

When reconciliations are fully reviewed and certified, they become available for review by both internal and external auditors. Original signed reconciliations are not signed out and tracked because they reside within the software. At all times, the overall status of the close process can be monitored and gauged for completeness. SOX 404 tasks that are performed—whether monthly, quarterly or annually—can be monitored. And we can place standard journal-entries checklists in the system as tasks and monitored for completeness.

Because the BlackLine suite is deployed in a software as a service (SaaS) environment, with no additional IT hardware required, it offered us a low capital cost solution. Also, since the interfaces were relatively simple, the software required very little IT resources to implement.

We decided to implement the software in a phased approach to manage the process change more effectively. The first phase centered on the implementation of the reconciliations and balance-sheet variances. This phase required building an interface from our existing JD Edwards financial system to the BlackLine system.

It took approximately two months from the start to complete the implementation of this phase. Training the accounting group was easy, and most people found that a one-day course was sufficient, as this was a Web-based solution.

The second and third phases of the implementation entailed adding close-procedure tasks and automating the interface feed from the company’s financial system. Finally, we had to expand the software to enable journal-entry creation.

Throughout the implementation process, I found the BlackLine team to be flexible and open to suggestions regarding our requirements and where we thought changes would be necessary. By the end of the software implementation, the slight modifications that were added enhanced the roll-forward capabilities, workflow and user-interaction experience.

Wendy Shapiro is senior director of corporate accounting for Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, based in Purchase, N.Y.

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