BlackLine's Kevin Kimber says that offering superior customer experience is essential for long-term success

Media 7 | November 3, 2021

offering superior customer
At the exciting launch of BlackLine's newest AR automation platform, we had the opportunity to explore the different credit risk management, payment, and customer segmentation solutions, among a host of others, in an interview with Kevin Kimber, Managing Director of Global AR at BlackLine. Read on to find out the different ways BlackLine automates financial closes for some of the world's most renowned companies.

Businesses that are yet to automate will continue to face challenges as we move away from completely remote and into hybrid working models.

MEDIA 7: Thank you for your time, Kevin. Could you please tell us a little bit about your experience of launching and scaling SaaS businesses?
KEVIN KIMBER:
Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to build a number of global businesses from scratch – two of which went public in New York. In each of these cases, there was a market that was ripe for disruption – either from a vendor perspective, where there was an opportunity to create something entirely new, or from a customer perspective, where companies were using legacy technology to fill a gap that could be addressed by something more efficient. It all comes down to fostering the right mindset and thinking, 'There has to be a better way.' It’s incredibly exciting to do something that disrupts an existing industry or creates a new one. I’ve certainly had a lot of fun along the way.

I’ve had the opportunity to do business all over the world, with lots of different types of companies – from small organizations that have scaled to become some of the world’s biggest, to some of the longest-standing strategic businesses in the world. I’ve also had the good fortune to consistently be part of really strong teams. This is so important. There are lots of examples of companies with good tech that didn’t reach their potential – it’s critical to have a close focus on the technology, but the quality of your team is really critical to successful execution. Experience has also taught me that lots of companies have a clear vision, but few have a clear mission that links to the vision. Knowing and communicating your mission – so employees, customers, and partners know what they are a part of – is the groundsheet to success.


M7: How does BlackLine’s cloud-based solutions help automate, centralize and streamline financial operations for your clients?
KK:
BlackLine’s technology improves speed, accuracy and reliability in all areas of financial operations. Whether it’s standardizing and automating reconciliations, automating accounts receivable, managing the close process, or unifying accounting into an integrated intercompany process, our solutions are designed to accelerate operations and improve efficiency by eliminating labor-intensive and time-consuming tasks. Our platform enables large and mid-sized organizations to perform accounting work better, faster, and with more control, by unifying their data and processes, automating repetitive work, and driving accountability through visibility. Our goal is to help companies reduce detail-heavy, routine tasks that distract from higher-value work and enable organizations to shift resources from just 'getting the job done' to telling a complete story. Ultimately this helps them to focus on strategic decision making and work that matters most.

Read More: ANAGOG’s CEO Ofer Tziperman assures with Edge AI, ‘What happens on the phone, stays on the phone’


Knowing and communicating your mission – so employees, customers, and partners know what they are a part of – is the groundsheet to success.



M7: BlackLine is set to launch new AR automation solutions this year. What are some of the exciting features that we can expect from this launch?
KK:
BlackLine has just unveiled the first unified AR automation platform, which is incredibly exciting. Our new Unified AR solutions comprise of cash application, credit and risk management, collections management, disputes and deductions, team and task management and AR intelligence. Applying and reconciling payments to sales invoices on customer accounts is the cornerstone of the AR department, and our intelligent automation removes manual resources by as much as 85%. Our algorithms are developed from learning from hundreds of customer deployments – as a result, deployment is quicker than industry expectations rather than building from new each time. A compelling new feature for credit and risk management is our dynamic customer segmentation which supports proactive debtor risk management while monitoring changes in customer attributes in real time. Our risk policies monitor changes in attributes and automate credit limit reviews in real time, removing the need for time-consuming report creation.

There is also the flexibility to create new policies as and when is required. When it comes to collections management, we provide multiple collection strategies to fit each customer’s sales ledger profile. The standard process (often referred to as Dunning) used by ERP solutions is more of a 'one size fits all,' approach and lacks the dynamic capability of our solution. Our collection strategies work with risk data and team/task management and we offer operational reporting that measures collection strategy success and aligns actions to results. Another differentiating feature of our AR automation solution is disputes and deductions management. Our automated workflow accelerates dispute resolution and maintains customer relationships, with reporting providing visibility and highlighting which actions are required to allow cash to be collectible. The reporting suite demonstrates how disputes are impacting key performance metrics and preventing optimum performance.

Additionally, the Team and Task management solution is a great feature that maximizes and optimizes time by focusing on data-driven priorities. It provides full visibility which allows management to assess productivity, success, and workload prioritization, and enables everyone to focus more time on actions that impact business outcomes. With the move to hybrid working, the need for this kind of solution has become mission-critical for organizations that need to be agile and pivot at any given moment. Finally, I would say AR intelligence is one of the most powerful features of our new AR solutions. Our technology is based on decision intelligence, which is about bringing together as much data as possible and placing it at the fingertips of users to improve decision-making. This intelligence also allows insight into customer behaviors on sales trends and payment performance and enables you to understand the predictability of customer payments. This knowledge is extremely valuable, with the data and reporting allowing you to build business partnering with other parts of the organization, such as treasury, commercial, and sales teams.


M7: What do you see as the most noticeable change right now happening in the workforce, encouraged by the rise of digital technologies?
KK:
Hybrid working will have a big impact on where and how we do our work. To some extent this is stating the obvious but it is worth saying because hybrid is driving one of the biggest workforce changes we’ve seen in years. From a digital transformation perspective, hybrid working has really created an inflection point in the way companies view and consume technology. Hybrid and remote working have forced digital transformation up the agenda – even in companies that historically shied away from this, particularly for their back end processes. If we look at AR as an example, when businesses were forced to close their physical offices, we saw that our customers (who had already introduced automation to AR processes) experienced minimal disruption to their daily tasks. Prospective customers however, were focused to put projects on hold or deal with a severe drop in productivity, because they simply were not prepared for remote working.

This created a ‘them’ and ‘us’, or a ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ situation from an AR automation perspective. Businesses that are yet to automate will continue to face challenges as we move away from completely remote and into hybrid working models. Productivity is comparatively easy if you’re in one place or the other (e.g. everyone in the office, or everyone at home), but it’s really hard if you’re 50/50. In terms of other changes, when and how the economy springs back will undoubtedly create opportunities. Companies that are resilient and able to invest in key areas, or divest non-core areas, will be better able to come out the other side thriving, instead of surviving. So with inflation rising, interest rates low, and credit markets compressed, business resilience is very high up on the agenda – as is the software that supports this.

Read More: Vrity's CEO and Co-Founder Jesse Wolfersberger decodes that optimizing AI means understanding when and how to use it


You often learn more in defeat than you do in success.



M7: BlackLine has surpassed 1,000 customers running on Oracle ERPs, and 15 of the Fortune 25 currently use BlackLine to automate financial close. What was the strategy behind achieving this success?
KK:
The world’s best-known brands and the fastest growing companies run Oracle and choose BlackLine to create best-in-class close processes that transform company performance. There are several reasons for this, but our strategy has always been to offer a superior customer experience because this is essential to long-term success. It’s the key to successful implementation, resolving issues quickly and satisfactorily, and ensuring strong user adoption. As a well-funded public company, BlackLine invests in providing market-leading customer service, including 24/7/365 global support offered in numerous languages. We even offer BlackLine U, a complete online learning and training environment, and BlackLine has a community of 30+ user groups across four continents.


M7: Knowing what you now know, what would your advice be to your younger self?
KK:
I’ve been very lucky to have had three strong business mentors. In one case someone who was ten years older than me, and another who was 30 years older. Strong mentoring and advice from people with the right experience is what encouraged me to take calculated risks, something I may not have done otherwise. This gave me the confidence to trust my gut and know that it’s better to try and fail than not to try at all. So, talking to my younger self, firstly, if you don’t have mentors early in your career, you should proactively seek them out. Secondly, trust your gut, don’t be too self-critical, and embrace opportunities and learning experiences – both good and bad. You often learn more in defeat than you do in success. It’s easy to look at a person’s career or a company’s life and assume it’s all been an upward trajectory. But this misses the bumps along the way that form the culture or story underneath the veneer. It’s important to learn that these bumps aren’t failures because you learn so much that informs what you do next.

ABOUT BLACKLINE

Companies come to BlackLine because their traditional manual accounting processes are not sustainable. BlackLine’s cloud-based solutions and market-leading customer service help companies move to modern accounting by unifying their data and processes, automating repetitive work, and driving accountability through visibility. BlackLine provides solutions to manage and automate financial close, accounts receivable and intercompany accounting processes, helping large enterprises and midsize companies across all industries do accounting work better, faster and with more control.

Nearly 3,600 customers trust BlackLine to help them close faster with complete and accurate results.  The company is the pioneer of the cloud financial close market and recognized as the leader by customers at leading end-user review sites including Gartner Peer Insights, G2 and TrustRadius. Based in Los Angeles, BlackLine also has regional headquarters in London, Singapore and Sydney. For more information, please visit blackline.com.

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