The SAP Track in this year’s BeyondTheBlack virtual event provided a series of unique and curated opportunities where SAP and BlackLine practitioners, financial executives, industry experts, alliance partners, and leading global customers get to share their take on modern accounting transformation.
Three regional Chief Financial Officers at SAP kicked off the session titled “Around the World: A Conversation with SAP CFOs” where they weighed in on today’s digital initiatives, top priorities and investments, as well as the modernisation of finance and accounting (F&A) processes. Facilitated by Stephanie Miller, RVP of S/4HANA Finance Center of Excellence at SAP North America., the roundtable session brought together Joel Bernstein, Customer Success CFO and Head of Global Finance at SAP; Gina McNamara, CFO at SAP APJ; and Roger Daoud, CFO at SAP Canada.
Talent retention and digitisation of the workforce are some of the new hot topics that CFOs are currently concentrating on as the business landscape enters a “new reality”, according to Miller. Agreeing with that statement, Bernstein said that CFOs are now focused on going digital and automating commercial processes to ensure that they stay compliant with accounting and disclosure policies while also remaining flexible to take advantage of new business models.
Meanwhile, McNamara believes that it all comes down to being digital-ready and being able to deliver service to customers by leveraging technology. Recently promoted to the position of Regional CFO at SAP APJ after holding the same role in ANZ for more than six years, she also talked about using Qualtrics to better understand what the finance team is looking for and help pivot their tasks through data collaboration tools and employee surveys.
In terms of the technology used to foster growth and address organisational changes, Bernstein noted that Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) has massively digitised, not only the company’s financial reporting, but also the forecasting, budgeting, and actual results that are reported through SAP finance and analytics systems.
“We are a cloud company. We lead with cloud software internally, how we bill, and how we work with our own internal invoicing. That has completely changed our organisation in the last several years,” Miller emphasised.
SAP CFOs Highlight Customers’ Success Stories
Furthermore, the CFOs went on to talk about various customer journeys and successes that are unique to their regions. According to Bernstein, BlackLine is now implemented as part of the Canadian operations pilot of multinational automobile manufacturer Ford Motor Company, in addition to supporting the firm across several areas of finance.
“We are excited to share that Ford has selected BlackLine to automate its global processes and workflows around Account Reconciliations to date. This is a huge accomplishment and one that we at SAP are very proud of, and I’m sure the same goes for everyone at BlackLine,” he disclosed.
McNamara also shared Australia Post’s implementation of BlackLine within the organisation which helped complete audits of the balance sheet reconciliations quickly and reduce accounts with ageing items. As a BlackLine client since 2014, McNamara added that the national postal services provider has had unit cost savings of 30% and calculates its overall savings realised with BlackLine at AUD 1 million over three years.
Moreover, Daoud also featured Suncor Energy’s adoption of the whole suite of BlackLine as part of their finance transformation journey and their move to SAP S/4HANA Finance. He said that the Canadian integrated energy company’s Account Reconciliations project has achieved a 50% reduction in time and has helped “witness a cultural shift” with their employees from using Excel spreadsheets to utilising more digitised tools.
Advancing Enterprises’ Digital Transformation with SAP and BlackLine
In another session titled “Transformation Talk: An SAP Customer Panel with Chobani, Kering & Moody’s”, representatives from leading companies explained how they addressed business challenges, achieved benefits from modern accounting programs, and accelerated digital transformation with the help of SAP and BlackLine solutions. The discussion was joined by Molly Boyle, Director of SAP Solutions at BlackLine, Fady Benjamin, SVP of Corporate Accounting at Moody’s Corporation; Parag Agrawal, Chief Information Officer at Chobani; and Cyrille Baudet, VP of Finance at Kering.
BlackLine solutions such as Task Management, Variance Analysis, and Account Reconciliations on SAP S/4HANA 1709 are all used by Chobani, according to Agrawal. He said that the implementation has transformed the Greek yogurt maker’s month-end, year-end, and quarter-end closing. Agrawal explained:
“As part of the business transformation journey or phase one was to bring in technology, which is really scalable and a game-changer for us in terms of bringing the best practices from the industry.”
On the other hand, Baudet noted that Kering began its transformation journey in 2013 and has since worked to improve its overall processes by using a combination of solutions that include SAP and BlackLine. Aiming to further support in-house clients, ensure continuous accounting, and strengthen the internal control within its processes, he stated that the global luxury goods holding company had to invest in “top-class” accounting services.
“The complexity of the work, both in legacy systems and in SAP, is made visible through the different tools that we use. And that has been extremely rewarding for our team, to be able to speak to the complexity and the quality of what they were doing,” Baudet added.
Finally, Benjamin also discussed the transformation within Moody’s Corporation, noting that the company went live with SAP S/4HANA in Q1 of 2020. The global integrated risk assessment firm has also implemented BlackLine Account Reconciliations over the last year and a half. Benjamin revealed that Moody’s was able to accelerate its financial close process and reduce its close cycle by around 40%.
“BlackLine was definitely a great addition to our organisation since late last year,” he highlighted.
Over the course of BlackLine and SAP’s partnership in the past years, the two companies have been able to work with more than 1,300 different organisations to enhance their finance and accounting processes, according to Boyle. Last May, BlackLine was awarded the 2021 SAP Pinnacle Partner of The Year Award in the Solution Extensions category, honouring its outstanding contribution as an SAP Partner.
“BlackLine and SAP continuously work together, partnering on our roadmaps and making sure that we are always bringing the highest level of integration for our solutions and that as we plan for future enhancements, we are working together and lockstep along the way,” Boyle stressed.