BlackLine promises to end financial closing spreadsheet nightmare

Interview

BlackLine promises to end financial closing spreadsheet nightmare

Financial applications are a strategically core technology area for any businesss, and financial closing is a classic business problem, the “last mile of finance”. 

BlackLine Systems’ software as a service product offers the promise of agility beyond spreadsheets, and is an established part of SAP’s ecosystem.

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One of its first UK customers was Schroders bank, says Mario Spanicciati, European executive vice president, operations and executive director, at the supplier. 

Its business began to develop in the UK in 2012, and the firm opened an office in Pall Mall, in London in 2013, from where it has expanded into France. It has 250 employees globally. The firm entered and won the supplier of the year award in the Computer Weekly enterprise software awards in June of this year.

Spanicciati describes how the company evolved from beginnings, in 2001 in California, when it was focused on wealth management software. But, as a result of an engagement with First National Nebraska, they switched, in 2004, to account reconciliation as a speciality. The software suite now has six modules.

“Basically, we help companies to automate manual financial and accounting processes." he says.

Many companies, says Spanicciati, do their account reconciliations manually, at the end of every month using Excel spreadsheets: “We’re talking thousands to hundreds of thousands of spreadsheets”.

This is the problem that BlackLine Systems, among others, addresses. The supplier’s software, which is supplied as a service, is said to speed up the process and cut costs, sometimes as much as 50% or more, among its customers.

“The cloud delivery mechanism makes changing from spreadsheets easier”, he says. “And it helps to centralise the information. We have customers who have between one and hundreds of ERP systems globally. And it makes it easier for our customers’ auditors.

“From an innovation perspective we have been first to market in all six of our modules, and everything has been built on the same platform. And I’d say ease of use has been a big differentiator for us”.

Competitors include Trintech and Chesapeake System Solutions.

BlackLine’s Financial Close Suite for SAP is one of 40 software packages that have been endorsed by SAP. Spanicciati stresses that it is “ERP-agnostic”, and also works with Oracle, and Oracle’s acquired products, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards.

The supplier’s European customers include Boeing, Eurostar, and Schroders. It has recently signed a deal with publisher Reed Elsevier.

“I know everyone says this, but we really do want our customers to be successful with the product. And we’ve had 50% growth year on year”, says Spanicciati.


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This was first published in July 2014

 

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