Elizabeth Milne, Accounting and Financial Close Expert, SAP
Molly Boyle, SAP Solutions Expert, BlackLine
As companies experience continued disruption to their traditional business models, internal controls and compliance have become a bigger focus area for accounting and finance teams, as well as their auditors and regulators. The Wall Street Journal highlighted internal controls as one of the most disrupted areas for CFOs. Likewise, the SEC highlighted internal control over financial reporting as an area of focus in its recent guidance to public companies. They noted that remote working arrangements and changes to people, process, and technology require companies to consider what challenges they anticipate in their ability to maintain effective internal controls.
In a traditional manual environment, internal controls are completed, documented, and evidence is retained across numerous disparate systems. Critical files and certifications are often stored in spreadsheets, emails, on shared drives and in binders. Completion status of the currently ongoing process is monitored in spreadsheets and on whiteboards. Internal and external auditors need to access this information for their own testing, reperformance, and opinions. These manual processes increase risk as they are easily changed without any formal change management or ‘track changes’ process, and put additional undue pressure on overall compliance.
For these and other reasons, accounting leaders are looking for solutions to streamline and improve internal controls and related testing. The recent disruption and remote working have impacted the availability of personnel and data, companies’ interactions with service providers, privacy and security, and more, resulting in vulnerability and creating a sense of urgency to change.
SAP offers industry leading solutions that help companies strengthen financial controls, reduce risk, and enable automation and continuous control monitoring across the enterprise. There are two SAP solutions that offer unique benefits to help the Office of the CFO and its key stakeholders improve processes: SAP Process Control and SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine
SAP Process Control
SAP Process Control is an application within the SAP Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC), portfolio. Along with the other SAP GRC solutions, SAP Process Control offers a holistic approach to documenting, testing, and monitoring controls and processes, as well as maximizing automation across all of those activities.
Continuous control monitoring with automated workflow alerts business owners of deficiencies and enables timely action and remediation. SAP Process Control offers out of the box integration with backend logistics and accounting systems, including SAP ERPs and other systems.
Companies using SAP Process Control can manage multiple compliance initiatives, ranging from IT to HR and Financial compliance initiatives as a unified system. This provides a lower cost of ownership and speedier control updates, as well as a consistent user and reporting experience.
Finally, the automated rules framework within SAP Process Control allows companies to build new rules, quickly adapt to new regulatory requirements, and include some rules delivered for certain SAP software systems. SAP Process Control also provides the SAP HANA capabilities for continuous monitoring of high volume and diverse data.
SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine
SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine is an SAP solution extension that enables improved automation, visibility, and control across the financial close process. The solution focuses on activities that are traditionally performed outside the ERP in spreadsheets, including: balance sheet substantiation, close task management, variance analysis. The Premiere Edition adds functionality for journal entry and transaction matching automation.
Many of the activities performed or automated within SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine often represent key controls, and therefore contribute to the overall compliance picture of the enterprise. As such, the solution also includes compliance-specific functionality that provides a direct link between the close-related control activities documented within the BlackLine platform, and the control process itself.
Use Cases and Synergies
SAP Process Control and SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine provide SAP customers a platform for addressing the enterprise-wide controls and compliance processes in an integrated way. In an ideal state, the solutions can be used together – with SAP Process Control delivering a complete end to end controls and compliance hub under the SAP GRC umbrella – and with SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine enhancing and strengthening key financial close-related controls.
SAP Process Control
SAP Process Control is the overarching solution which provides Chief Compliance Officers a structured and standardized process for all types of controls: financial, IT, HR, etc. Since a control can be relevant for multiple compliance initiatives including SOX, FCPA, and operational controls. SAP Process Control can provide real time enterprise compliance status reports for executive management and other stakeholders. SAP Process Control’s flexible workflow allow customers to standardize processes for identification and resolution of control issues, including retesting and follow-ups for any control weaknesses. This increased transparency and standardization by unifying multiple compliance initiatives and delivering cross-system continuous oversight reduces costs associated with duplication of compliance efforts, and more importantly, reduces risk of non-compliance
The risk of non-compliance is further reduced by incorporating automated controls, like the ones specifically delivered as a part of SAP Process Control for end to end processes in SAP ERP, SAP S/4HANA, and other systems, or delivered by BlackLine within the context of SAP Account Substantiation and Automation.
SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine
Customers, including those already using or planning to use SAP Process Control, can achieve incremental value, especially in the areas of efficiency, reporting, and external audit, by adding SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine to the SAP GRC solutions. This solution by BlackLine is deployed rapidly and unifies key close processes across all data sources, including SAP and non-SAP. When accounting teams perform their account substantiation, journal entry, and other reconciliation processes in the cloud, they shift their controls from detective to preventive, reducing effort and risk.
Further, by centralizing supporting documentation, workflow and timelines automatically in BlackLine solutions, accounting teams have a complete audit trail. Unique auditor roles are embedded in the platform, and customers using the solutions by BlackLine note that their audit preparation time and audit findings are significantly reduced. Collaboration between clients and their internal and external auditors is improved with greater transparency, and PBC processes can be managed centrally and efficiently.
The compliance-specific functionality within SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine provides a solution for organizing and testing risks and controls evidenced and addressed within the platform with flexible configuration for local and global controls. It also provides a conduit for extracting information about the successful execution of the controls to SAP Process Control so the solutions can work together to document a full compliance picture.
Finally, as the solutions by BlackLine can be implemented rapidly with many other benefits for controllership, they can be a first step in a larger GRC initiatives.
Leading organizations are transforming processes, reducing risk, and improving audits with SAP’s modern compliance solutions. Visit www.blackline.com/sap or www.sap.com/grc to learn more about these solutions.
A Blog Series to Answer Your Questions
There are several common questions about SAP’s Solution Extensions by BlackLine and how they complement and extend other SAP solutions. Check out these blogs for the answers:
- SAP & BlackLine: Improving the End-To-End Financial Close Process, Together
- Understanding the many applications of “Reconciliation” – How SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine Complements SAP S/4HANA
- How SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine Complements an SAP Central Finance Deployment
- The Universal Journal and Journal Entry Functionality in SAP Account Substantiation and Automation by BlackLine Explained
- SAP ERP solutions have Intercompany Reconciliation functionality (ICR). Why would I need SAP Intercompany Financial Hub by BlackLine?
- Making Sense of Transaction Matching: How SAP Solution Extension by BlackLine Solutions Enhance SAP Innovations
- SAP Intercompany Financial Hub by BlackLine and SAP S/4HANA Intercompany Matching & Reconciliation, How they work together
- Managing Financial Close Tasks: An Ideal Combination of SAP Solutions