The secrets to improving visibility, accuracy, and strengthening compliance


In countless organizations, trained accounting and finance professionals spend long hours and weekends wrangling data and managing manual processes rather than focusing on what they do best: providing insight and guidance into business decisions and strategy based on accounting and financial data. These manual processes are crippling and even put organizations at risk.

In this on-demand webinar, our panel of accounting operations experts shares practical and actionable tips for strengthening back-office operations with automation. Areas covered will include:

  • Integrations – how automating business processes across departments and applications are critical for seamless Quote to Cash and other processes
  • Accounts Receivable – How automation can substantially improve cash collection and visibility
  • Accrual reporting – How robust processes and automation can detect potentially large and unreported cash outflows and strengthen compliance
  • And more

Watch now!
Full Webinar Transcript
Okay. We’ll go ahead and get started as people are joining here. Good morning, good evening, good afternoon, depending on where you are in the world. My name is Rico Andrade. I am head of corporate marketing here at Celigo, and I wanted to welcome you to this joint event between Celigo, Tesorio and Gappify on The Best Practices For Automating Back Office Accounting Operations: The Secrets To Improving Visibility, Accuracy and Strengthening Compliance. We are joined today by an all-star subject matter expert crew in all things accounting, finance and operations, both as practitioners with customers in these areas, but also as leaders in their own companies experiencing a lot of these pin points and decisions themselves. So we have Carlos Vega from Tesorio, Jotham Ty Gappify and Mark Simon from Celigo. Before we jump into further introductions, let me just do a bit of housekeeping here. So first off, all participants you are muted, but we are wanting to have this be a participatory event with lots of questions and Q&A. So please, if you have questions as you go along, just add them to the Q&A box or the chat functionality, and we will be happy to– if it’s relevant to the topic that we’re speaking at the moment, we’re going to bring it up or we will also have time for Q&A at the end. And don’t hesitate for any high level or detailed question that you might want. This webinar is also available to earn one CP credit. So to do so, you do have to watch the whole presentation and answer at least three of the four polling questions that we will be putting out. And just to get us started on this, I will go ahead and actually put the polling question so you get a sense of– so we get a sense of the audience that is joining here. So let me launch this here. First question is how many tools do you have in your fintech stack? So just to get a sense of who’s here and the maturity of your organization, what sort of tool are you using. Do you have any RP? Do you have expense management tools, procure to pay tools? Roughly speaking, how many do you think your team is using? Just waiting for a few more votes here. There’s a lot of people joinig in still voting, so. Okay. I think we’re hitting critical mass with the voter here. So I’ll go ahead and stop this poll. And let’s take a look at the results here. Okay. A third of you said you don’t have any applications in your fintech stack. 52% between 1 and 5, 9% between 6 and 10 and then 10% percent with 10 or more. And we do see quite a few with 10 and more, and you’ll see why pretty soon. Okay. And then the second poll and then we will get started. Want to know how much time you’re spending in Excel? So let me launch this poll. It’s one of our favorites. We know how beloved Excel is in finance and accounting, so trying to get a sense of how much time is spent within Excel each week. Okay. We got critical mass here. Most people voted pretty quickly, so I’ll go ahead and close the poll here still more people voting. Okay, here we go. So on the results, wow. So 55%, you spend more than 10 hours a week on Excel. So over two hours a day. And the vast majority do spend significant time and it’s great. So we will have a conversation about that as to why that’s relevant here. But thank you, everyone. And we will have more polls as we continue the conversation here. Okay. Okay, so very quick agenda here. We’ll do a quick introduction of the team at hand. Then we’re going to jump right into discussing the challenges that the team has seen in terms of financing and accounting teams. Then we’re going to hone in on the goals for automation. What are you trying to accomplish depending on what type of company you are and at what maturity level? What are the things you should be prioritizing? And we’re going to dive into details on three specific areas around quote to cash, accounts receivable, and accruals with the report to reports because that’s going to give us some lessons that then we will bring out and identify actual opportunities for automation much, much broader than just that. Finally, some conversation in terms of how to resource these projects internally, and we’ll finish with words of wisdom before we get into Q&A. So to get started, let me introduce Mark Simon from Celigo. And Mark, please give us a brief introduction of yourself and Celigo. All right, thank you, Rico. It’s great to be here. I’m Mark Simon. I’m the VP of strategy at Celigo, and I’ve been with Celigo for the last three years. Prior to joining Celigo, my career originally started out as a software engineer. I was co-founder and CTO of an e-commerce company for several years before exiting and focusing on mid-market consulting for 10 years and leading one of the larger bars and professional services practices in the net suite ecosystem. And through that time, I worked with hundreds of customers both implementing ERP, automating business processes, integration, and customizing platforms. And that experience there is– a Celigo partner led me to join the Celigo team. And then also during my tenure at Celigo, I’ve also overseen the operations and business systems side as well. So I’ve seen that up close and personal some of the workings of a software company. And so really have seen some of the challenges everyone here is facing from both sides as a consultant and operationally. What is Celigo? And that’s the next question. Enough about me, but what is Celigo? We are an integration platform as a service. And that’s probably a new term to a lot of people here. And really, all that boils down to is we are a cloud-based integration platform. So our mission is to make automation as simple as possible by enabling both IT and non-IT users alike across an organization to build and deploy those integrations to automate business processes. And how we go about doing that is it’s really making that as easy as possible to connect applications within your organization connecting those applications, then automate business processes for you. And that automation then enables your digital transformation efforts. That was good. Thank you, Mark. Carlos, can you share more about yourself at Tesorio? Yeah, totally. Very excited to have this opportunity to be here with you. I know we’ve also– I’m not part of Celigo, but I’ve known you for quite some time now, so it’s exciting to get to work together. So my background, I spent about a decade working in finance before I started the company working for the CFO of GM’s pension fund. And then I also did investment banking at Lazard. And then I used to have a factory business on the side while I was doing investment banking. And so all of that gave me real exposure to not just the M&A side of finance, but also the operational side of finance and managing working capital. So that’s what led me to start Tesorio. And what we do today for almost the majority of our customers is primarily accounts receivable automation. And by that, that’s a broad space. And I would say what we do is we’ll plug into your NetSuite, Intacct, Workday, Salesforce, Zora, all your email systems, and then additional data as well. And then we have connectors to other data sources that are not those API connectors. But what we’re able to do is bring in all that information to help your collections team run more efficiently, right? So all that follow up with your customers to get them to pay you on time and to troubleshoot any issues and things like that, it’s run through our platform almost as a CRM for the finance organization, if you will, or an outreach dot IO for finance because what we’ve seen is customers like UiPath going from 100 million in revenue to 600 million without hiring a single person in collections or Slack got acquired by Salesforce. Everyone knows that high valuation. They only have two people running collections, all of these things to the automation that we can help drive. And then the goal of today, obviously, and kind of what we’re doing from a vision perspective is thinking about cash flow, right? And so we call what we do cash flow performance because all of these improvements I just mentioned have measurable impacts on the bottom line from a headcount optimization and refocusing people towards more efficient tasks. But then also those reductions in DSO or reductions in average days delinquent, improvements in collector efficiency, the better customer relationship. Again, one thing I didn’t mention is almost 40% of our users are actually in sales and account management because of that improved customer relationship, talking around something like money, all those things help drive performance of cash flow. So that’s a little bit kind of our point of view of the world in a nutshell and a little bit about us. Thanks, Carlos. And it is a pleasure working with you here. We have known each other for a while and always good to see you. Similarly, with Jotham, we’ve known– Jotham’s been a friend of Celigo for a long time and always a subject matter expert ready to jump on this. So, Jotham, please introduce yourself and Gappify for the team here. Absolutely. Thanks, Rico. I’m Jotham Ty, founder and CEO of Gappify. As far as my background, I’m a 20-year accountant. Although I run a software company today and I’m the CEO, I still consider myself an accountant. Get me a journal entry. I’ll post one for you. This is a space that I care dearly about. But just in terms of my trajectory, started in public accounting, and then in audit. I started one of the first Sarbanes-Oxley compliance practices back in 2004, which then expanded to helping large multinational organizations scale up their accounting operations. So we helped them with the first wave of accounting cloud solutions and implementing those types of systems. I helped several companies go through their IPOs. I racked up several hundred month and close checklists and completed them throughout my career. And again when it comes to debits and credits, that’s what we are passionate about here at Gappify. So as far as who Gappify is, we’re a cloud accounting accrual automation solution powered by a digital worker behind the scenes named Alan. So our theory and our thesis is that by having an agent come to different systems, collecting data and running calculations and executing them in a role-based orchestration format, we can accomplish end to end processes like those pesky accruals that you have to book every month and the same thing with the open PO reviews, and a lot of other technical accounting records report related processes that we’re excited to take on. So, yeah, thank you for it, to the Celigo team, for having me today. I’m really excited to share this panel with Mark and Carlos. And really excited to dig in. So ready to start with Rico. So let’s jump in. I’m going to actually stop sharing so we can just have a discussion here. But let’s start with the basic challenges that we see. And maybe Jotham, we’ll start with you and anyone feel free to jump in. But what are you seeing on the ground in terms of the challenges that finance and accounting departments are facing, particularly around areas that are ripe for automation? And how does that change depending on the size of your company and maturity of the vertical? What have you seen, especially recent– with– in recent times? Yeah, for us, it’s clear across the board. I think the need to automate has now resonated across all levels of the finance and accounting organization and that was different five years ago, right? So I remember having to convince a CFO that it was time to go from excel expense reports to a coupa or a little type of solution. I think several years ago it was very– it was okay for us in accounting to say, “Hey, let’s keep things as is, let’s keep status quo and we’ll plug away.” But in this environment, automation is definitely a given now. And the challenge, though, that we see, Rico, is that organizations don’t have the resources to move forward with their automation ambitions. Right. So you have accounts that are tied up with closing the books and being held to those spreadsheets. So it was interesting to see the pool 50% spent 10 plus hours per day on spreadsheets. When you think about wanting to upgrade your systems, if you’re spending a lot of time on spreadsheets like how do you balance both? So at Gappify when we introduce our solutions for our customers, we really take a partnership approach to making sure that we can provide them with some support and some resources to make sure they can accomplish their automation goals. Carlos, are you seeing something similar? Yes, I’d say what we’re seeing is kind of interesting. Believe it or not, it’s not necessarily a tools thing. I think a lot of folks might be experiencing this. It’s– over the last year, given our 18 months, given what we’ve experienced, a lot of folks in finance are kind of having their moment and they’re getting to do a decade’s worth of innovation in a year almost, which is really exciting. I mean, they’re finally getting all of these assets and budget, and you can almost say the need to have these tools, especially as a lot of folks move to be distribute it, but the issue has been that we’ve seen are two things. One with a great reshuffling or great resignation, whichever term you want to use, a lot of folks are seeing rotation, high rotation on their finance teams, which means that a lot of these initiatives will get delayed in implementation. And then the other side is who is going to do the implementation. And so we’re seeing a lot of teams now start building, they call them either enterprise applications or financial systems, teams or enterprise system teams that can take these initiatives forward. So interestingly, what I’d say is– or I’d summarize it as the desire to innovate is there a lot more, right? I mean, I know you saw 33% of folks don’t have a tool, don’t have a fintech tool yet. But the desire is there a lot more than before. The budgets seemed to be opening up for this sort of thing. But then it’s finding the people and making sure you have the people to see them through. That’s one of the challenges we’re finding. Does it change in terms of the maturity of the organization? Are you seeing something different if it’s small, one-person accounting team versus– how does it progress as the company matures? I think later on we’re going to talk about the CFOs purview and all the possible tools they can have, and they say the things that they try to automate will vary depending on the size of the company. So there’s certain things that you’d– oh, there you go. Certain things that you just have to have almost immediately, right? Obviously, if you’re a young company that– the sad part that– it’s not sad, it’s just the reality, you’ve got money going out more than you have money coming in, right? So automating a lot of the AP work, a lot of the payroll work, all of that sort of thing really becomes a high priority. Regardless, if you’re a 1 to 10 person company or you’re at 25 to 50 person company, you need those things in place. And then once you start growing a little bit then you have more efficiencies that you can gain through streamlining your cash inflows and things like that, that’s where we start to come in or streamlining how you’re actually closing your books or how you’re actually reporting and getting better efficiency. You’ve got tools like Gappify. But then the interesting thing is, if you look at all of these tools, they all have to talk to something and that’s where you start people realizing, “Okay, how am I going to integrate all this? So I’m not doing everything in Excel,” right? And you know, there’s a certain Celigo company out there that they can come in and help with that, right? And so what we’re seeing is what I would say then from the headcount size is that at the smaller size, it’s usually the same person doing everything, so they have less bandwidth for projects. The pain points I was talking about, I’d say, are slightly more in the middle market for the M of SMB or your SMB small-middle enterprise where you do have folks that are having those high demands, right? Hey, look, we need the books almost before the end of the month because we need to figure out our cash flow or we need to figure out our headcount plan or we need to do this and that, and we need all of that information ASAP. Or other folks saying, “Look, we have these new tools that we’re bringing in in sales and we need to understand that data for something in finance. So how am I going to integrate that?” And that’s where you start to see, I’d say, in that middle size is where I say what I’m talking about is the biggest challenge. That becomes really kind of the transitional area before you quite have all the systems in place to be able to then start automating everything at scale. I think Carlos brings up some great points there. We see this not only in that in finance and accounting teams, but across an organization, right? There’s this proliferation of SAS apps, and they’re amazing. They’re getting ever more specialized. You are a great testament to that, these great solutions that enable a team to scale out like we’ve never seen before, really in business. But a lot of these tools kind of exist on their own in silos, and they get dropped in and on the surface, it looks like they solve the problem. But if you’re not thinking about, well, where does that fit in? You’re only partially solving the problem if you’re not considering the integration side of it. That’s really what we see. If it doesn’t plugin and you might have solved an acute problem, but now you’ve created another one. And now that you’ve siloed your data, so I see the shuffle sometimes. It results in a lack of expected ROI on a new application. Why are we getting the value from it? Well, you look at it like, well, you moved manual processes around. And what we find is really transformative is when organizations ask that question before they start things. “Oh, how would we integrate this?” Let’s think of a system. Adding it into the greater whole of the business and considering that and you shift integration from being this reactionary motion on the back end where you’re kind of like in catch up and you’re overwhelmed and people are, “Okay, we need to add more bodies.” We added a couple but we don’t want to keep doing that. Now, let’s integrate. And when I see organizations shift to an automation first, an integration first, it’s a mentality shift but it actually ends up being a smaller investment but better returns on really everything they’re doing when they shift and ask those questions upfront. We see that across departments, across businesses too. This isn’t just an enterprise or upper-mid market thing. We see very small organizations that are just starting up, startups taking automation first approach. And it’s really transformational for them to have that shift and to build those capabilities in-house, build the automation, the integration capabilities in-house, and not to have rely or wait until you’ve got an IT team fully built out and centralized. And that, I think, is really transformational. So I think this is a good segue way, you know? Well, we may jump back on a couple of topics here, but since you’re speaking specifically about this, maybe it’s good to go through like a real-world process example. And can you speak specifically what is quote to cash and how does it progress through the organization that highlights this challenge that people are seeing on the ground? Certainly, Rico. Yeah, and so the quote to cash process, the process really, let’s summarize, it is getting money in the door. Getting money in the door and getting it booked properly is really, from an opportunity all the way through to getting completed revenue recognition, that process through quote, contracting, orders, billing and into revenue recognition on the back end. That’s where we see just about everybody start their automation journey. Things really begin there in that regard. Regardless of size, regardless of industry, you really got to start there. The biggest demand we see there is getting that “How do we get our sales into our accounting and finance system of record?” And so that’s typically where we start from an automation perspective. And that’s, let’s say, going from your CRM, so say Salesforce, into your ERP, whether that’s a NetSuite or SAP, Acumatic, or whatever it may be, that’s where everybody starts. And if you start with a single flow, a single movement of data, really begin there. And it often seems simple to start with, that first step, but it quickly expands beyond that. You have an initial process, you’re looking at a couple of your foundational applications, getting your data flow, but then you start looking at the other applications in your order-to-cash process. It starts getting more complicated. You move from just the CRM. Now you maybe have a subscription management solution in there. You’re adding in maybe a configure price quote – that adds complexity – signature. And then all the way through– you start looking on the back office side. Now you’re seeing payment reconciliation as you scale out to be a big area of need. So we start going through this process. And as these apps get added in, as you grow and your processes get more complex, is where we see needs for integration and the demand that where our customers are coming to us and asking for, “Hey, how do you automate?” And that’s where we’ve really been able to build out a lot of automation throughout the process end to end. And as you keep adding in these layers, it just grows and grows and grows and gets more complicated. You start adding in reporting and analytics. And now that’s an offshoot of your order-to-cash process. You’ve got tie-ins to product as a software company or you talked about licensing solutions, entitlement, that you need integration to marketing side. And if you look at these processes in this group of applications here, and you don’t have an integration plan and you’re not thinking about that, you’re going to be highly, highly fragmented and you actually end up exacerbating that Excel problem we were talking about. And that is is sometimes just on a reporting side for basic processes. Now you’re moving data between these systems. And that for us is a real indicator, “Are you seeing that you’re moving data between your systems? How often are you having to do that? How often are you having to, say, pull something down from your ERP and also pull some data from maybe a marketing automation tool? And then in a couple of those maybe and join those together to get some basic answers.” These are all indicators that there’s a better way that you should really look to automation and integration as an approach. So to summarize, basically, it’s not enough just to think about the applications that are needed. It’s important to think about how it fits within the context of the business processes that you’re working. And basically, an application isn’t actually fully implemented until it’s integrated into your entire business processes. And so let me pause here for one second. And I just want to run a poll because this is relevant at this moment here in terms of how people are thinking about this. This is one of the CP quote polls here. So just to get a sense of, yeah, what are a top of minds, the question is how important is digital transformation and budgeting for new tools for your finance organization going into 2022? Yeah, especially in this area where we’ve seen this acceleration of digital transformation that people have to move online and remotely because of COVID, I imagine this is pretty top of mind. Okay. I’m going to go ahead and stop the poll here, and let’s share the results. Yeah. So this is very top of mind for over 50% of the audience here, well over 50%, and not as important for approximately 20% of you. So definitely, for at least the folks that we are interacting with, this is primarily one of the drivers is the need to be able to compete essentially with the companies who are automating as we move into this whole post-pandemic world. So let me hide the results here. So I’m going to come back to this because there’s some specific larger lessons in a bit, but I’m going to– and I’m going to stop sharing my screen for a second. But let’s move to accounts receivables. So, Carlos, I’ll shift it over to you. How do you approach automation specifically in account receivables? What are the goals that you think the companies are accomplishing? How should they be thinking about improving those areas of operations there? Yeah, it’s a great question, especially since AR automation is so broad, right. So I’d say just before I dig into that then, I’ll explain a few things because the three of us on this panel all do something that could be classified as AR automation. So like Celigo, we partner with you guys on cash application, right. And so for the folks in the room, cash application is the process of saying, “Okay, this money came in the door, and I got this payment, but I don’t know who it’s for,” or, “Maybe I know who it’s for. My accounting system doesn’t yet. So I have to connect these thousand dollars to this outstanding thousand dollar invoice from this customer and know that that is cleared and paid off,” right. That’s very oversimplified cash application. And then there’s a whole other space around different workloads, right. So I know Gappify, for example, has some functionality. Actually, I’ll let you talk about what Gappify does in a second. I won’t steal your thunder. But I’ll say what we do. For Tesorio, when I say we’re focused on the collections part of it, I mean, it’s that whole workflow from after invoice is sent to getting it paid, right. And so the view that we have on this and the view that a lot of our customers have is that this step of the relationship with the customer is the last step in the customer experience journey before renewal comes along because sales is out there making a promise, right, customer success, and account management’s delivering on that promise. But then you have to make sure you got paid for what you deliver it, right, the value for that promise. And that can often be the most awkward part of any conversation, even amongst friends. I think we’ve all been out with friends, lend someone 20 bucks, and then the next day you remember. A week goes by, they don’t say anything. You’re like, “Yeah, whatever. He’ll come back around the next time.” It’s because it’s awkward to ask someone for money, right. That’s why Airbnb invested, even before Stripe existed, in making it easy for people who rent from someone else to not have to exchange cash. It was part of their goal when they were getting started. So what we’ve done at Tesorio is put in place a system that helps finance teams be almost an extension of that customer relationship, right. And so that’s why I mentioned earlier quickly that account management and sales are exactly almost 37% of our user base because you don’t just have the finance team saying to someone, “Hey, here’s the invoice that you owe me. Please pay me.” It’s, “Hey, here’s an invoice that you owe me. What’s wrong?” Okay, so there’s a wrong address and quickly tag that. It automatically gets tagged. You then have a system that says, “Okay, it’s tagged the wrong address, move in the sales team because there is something that they didn’t get right on the order. Have them fix that going forward, but also fix that this time and make sure that they get paid,” or a purchase order missing or things like that. But then there’s on top of that and saying, “Okay, given those tags or given a customer’s promise of when they’re going to pay, can I trigger certain actions like a certain reminder? Or do I send them a payment link so that they can pay me via ACH or credit card? Can I segment those tags of reasons for why things are delayed such that the right teammates can take action?” So I mentioned sales before. But if a customer saying, “I’m not going to pay you because I’m upset with this and that about your product,” they can loop in in the account management team to help with that. And then what we’re seeing, though, is that by having this ability to embed the accounts receivable process into the workflow and codify this information from the front lines, these other teams now are using this financial information as another tool in their toolkit, right. So for account management, if someone’s not paying their bill, that’s a really good sign of churn risk. And that’s your whole job retention, right. On the sales side, if someone’s outstanding balances is hitting the credit limit, you can’t upsell them anything, and that hurts your ability to make your quota. Or some companies have even gone to the extent of saying, “If your customer doesn’t pay us by how many days, I’m clawing back your commission.” And you want to mess with salespeople and get them involved, talk about not paying them or taking away their commission. So these are things that are real, and people are implementing, and so they start to get involved. And that’s what starts to become really interesting, right. Can you take financial data and democratize it so everyone across the company is using it effectively, but then it also makes cash flow more tangible for everyone? And that’s ultimately how you drive towards optimal cash flow performances we like to talk about. Got it. That’s the overall philosophy you have in terms of making this actionable for the entire organization as a priority, basically, when thinking about what systems to automate. Got it. Is there anything else we want to add here on the accounts receivable side or should maybe spend a little time on the accruals? Gappify I know does some stuff on the AR side. If they wanted to talk to it, I just didn’t want to keep going. [crosstalk] feature that covers the collection’s piece, right, so similar to Donnie, just a low lift way for customers to automate some of their collection activities. But as far as the breadth of AR automation, Carlos, to your point, it is such a huge area. Obviously, the type of attention it gets is as prominent as it gets, especially for me also as a I run– as I run a business, it’s important for me to understand the timing of cash flows. And as a SaaS business, renewals is another component to it. But just to kind of add kind of the controllership and accounting flavor to accounts receivable, it’s also highly critical from a couple standpoints. When you think about SOX and Sarbanes-Oxley, right, quote to cash is usually a red, high-risk cycle that gets a lot of attention. So whatever you can automate along the way is definitely very beneficial to reducing risk and you’re cutting back on audit fees. Another is closing the books. So when you go around different organizations and ask them, “Well, what’s keeping your books from being closed faster?” Typically, it’s not going to be expenses. It’s going to be revenue. So, yeah, there’s a lot of weight and a lot of importance in the AR automation piece and quote to cash in general for those reasons. And just to tie that back to that integration conversation, quote to cash, I think what we’ve seen in the last several years are specialized, robust players like the Celigos and the Tesorios really add value to this whole value chain. But what’s important for data flows to properly work is being able to sync it between these different applications. So, yeah, I’m a big fan of integrator.io because it connects those dots and allows data to flow very freely from the moment in time you close a salesforce opportunity all the way through your 10-K footnote. So this is something very new in the last several years. I think back when I started looking at automation in the profession about 15 or 20 years ago, we were all fine with having some stronger applications that worked on a standalone basis, knowing that we would need to take that processed data and take it into another system. But in today’s environment, that is not acceptable anymore, which is why a strong integration strategy is important to upping your tech stack. Sounds great. So let’s let’s jump in maybe then to the details. If you could explain essentially the whole record to report process, and then what sort of things should we identify where there’s an opportunity for automations there? Yeah, absolutely. So recorder report typically refers to the back end of the whole financial reporting process, right. So you have core activities, whether it’s payments, billings, invoices, and so on. All that data flows into the general ledger through quote to report cycle, which is also usually high-risk from a Sarbanes-Oxley risk standpoint. It takes that kind of process shield data into your financial reports, SEC reports, internal management reports, and so on. So this is where CPAs like myself come in and apply our knowledge of US GAAP or IFRS, make sure we’re able to translate that data and make adjustments, usually via journal entries, and then post that back to the GL. That way, when your SEC team prepares your 10-K, your financial statements are compliant with US GAAP or IFRS. The criticality there obviously is also just as high as the front end, right, because, at least from a financial reporting standpoint, if you’re doing all this processing in the front end but you goof up something on your spreadsheet downstream, all of a sudden, you under-report on expenses and accruals, which is what we specialize in Gappify. And guess what? That’s an SEC restatement, your multimillion-dollar project to refile your 10-K. And I think some of us hopefully– well, not hopefully. Some of us in this room may have heard the horror stories around what the level of effort is to refile and refile 10-Ks. So where’s the an opportunity then to reduce the errors? And how does one go about doing that? It’s the same exact concept. Actually, we go on the front end. So when you think about where record to report picks up, it’s also a sequence of activities from that point all the way to your finish line, right? And the same way in the front end, you have your Salesforce and you take it all the way to your NetSuite sales orders and to Tesorio and beyond. On the downstream, you have those same level of challenges, right? So you have disparate systems that are siloed. They don’t talk to each other. You have bad data upstream. So actually one characteristic and one risk that is unique to the record to report cycle is that you have more front-end data that you’re reliant on, right? So what do I mean by that? So if your sales orders don’t have extended billing payment terms properly defined and it doesn’t flow through your sales order or your billing and your invoices, then the rev rec that’s happening in RevPro may not have– will not calculate rev correctly, right? Because you’re supposed to defer extended payment terms. So I think one unique characteristic again of risk and the record to report cycle is the reliance on more upstream data. So as far as opportunities, I think, in the same way where you evaluate the– where you can leverage automation on the front end, I think for our case on the report to record cycle, top of mind for us is compliance, right? Where are we weak on compliance? And where can we leverage automation to reduce risk? Another I mentioned earlier is closing the books. So closing the books in 15 days is not ideal now. You have some organizations closing in one or two days. So that’s a big driver for determining where to automate within record to report. And of course, table stakes is cutting cost. So wherever you have five CPAs, higher costs like me spending 50% of their time working on spreadsheets, it’s probably an opportunity there to automate. Gotcha. So let’s back it up, maybe to a little bit of a higher level here. So you’ve gone through some specific areas, but I think there are some overall lessons that applies throughout the processes. Ultimately, when you are looking at the situation that you have with your own finance and accounting teams and you’re looking at the resources that you have, what are– how do you prioritize? How do you go about deciding what to tackle next? What sort of overall goals should you be looking at? And I’m thinking, for example, Carlos, you’ve mentioned in the past the difference– there’s workflow automation versus outcome automation, right? So focusing on outcome. Maybe that’s a place to start. Share a bit about how does one go about holistically thinking about like, “I have this massive set of choices that I can do in terms of things that I need to tackle. But these are the things that I’m going to go through to be able to really decide this is what I’m going to prioritize.” Totally. So the overall thing when we talk about workflow automation versus outcome automation, I summarize it as– what you don’t want to do is just take the old processes, the old offline processes, and force them into a tool, right, and just automate them. Don’t just automate my workflow. It’s like, okay, what were the goals of that process you were running? What were the outcomes? And let’s figure out how to achieve those outcomes with automation, right? It sounds basic, but it’s– to use a more colloquial expression, you don’t want to just put lipstick on a pig and then say, “All right. Great. It’s all automated and we’re done and so when you think about that, when you take that perspective, these opportunities to actually go and automate things, the folks that are doing this invest, and I’ll speak to teams that have someone like an enterprise systems team, right? Because they have people that are specialists in this within their company, but you don’t have to a have one of these to do this, right? But what I’ve learned from those teams. So these are folks who like yourselves are CPAs or former VPs of finance or they studied accounting and finance in undergrad, but they just realized there had to be a better way with tech. And what they do is they come in and they challenge the assumptions of how things are being done. And then what that means is going through and saying, “Hey, do I actually want to just, again, automate what I already do?” or, “Who are the stakeholders that need to solve this problem?” right? And so that last bit about stakeholder management is probably the most important part of figuring out how to prioritize because the phase of gathering the requirements is really– without that, you will dive in and automatically figure out that you’ve lost your way, right? And so in terms of the process to follow, I’d say being an honest critic, friendly to your team, obviously, but going in and following that process of asking them and challenging the assumptions of how they do things, but then pushing to figure out what can be done without breaking it all. Because I’d say, maybe Celigo or Gappify, you guys can explain this. We’re here to help, but it can be challenging sometimes if the change management aspect at a customer isn’t embodied, right? Because then you can end up breaking our tools by trying to force them to do something that could be done in a better way. And so those are– again, at a high level, that’s when we think about outcome versus workflows automation, that’s what we mean. It’s like, “Look, we’re all here to help. How can we do this best?” Now, if you don’t have an enterprise systems team, you’re probably more triaging time to implement and things like that and time to get successful. Which again, if it were me prioritizing a project and I know this is self-serving, I would be looking at tools like the three of us on this call who you guys probably have anecdotes like ours as well where the assistant controller of Twilio implemented Tesorio herself. Or Domo implemented Tesorio out of Blue jet suiteworld, right? And so if you’re trying to figure out, okay, I have to go figure out my AP, my order to cash, my AR, my accruals, my integrations, and I have to prioritize those projects. Don’t forget to add into it a variable of how long is it going to take to get going and how adaptable it is without requiring customization. And so those are the things I would add in there. Yeah. And Mark, I know you know quite a bit about this firsthand. Maybe you could share some thoughts, best practices in terms of how do you operationalize this, right? Especially if you are dealing with limited resources, but you know there’s things that need to be prioritized on the automation front. How do you do that? How do you decide what you need to buy versus what you build yourself versus just hire out, additional headcount? How do you think about all that? Yeah, I think a real critical way to look at this is try to look at it– start as early as possible, for one. So you can’t be too small of an organization to start thinking about automation and integration. It should be always like, “Can we do this a better way?” I think Carlos that questioning aspect is absolutely critical, that organizations are really differentiating here and using this as competitive advantage are asking continuously, “Oh, is there a better way?” And with that, you don’t want to be afraid to get started. Sometimes I’ve seen a tendency to look at, say, a business process. I’ll use a simple one where a lot of companies started moving their orders, their closed opportunities into their ERP system. And they want to automate that. But they start breaking down. They look at the use cases and they’re like, “Oh, this is so manual, and this is so high touch. We can’t automate all this.” But if you look at the volume– and very often we see that 80/20 percent rule just come up over and over again, where 80% of them can be automated. Well, start there. Start on that journey. Sometimes, very often, you get too much black or white thinking, “We’ll get in the way of getting some wins and success.” So I find that the automation journey is it’s kind of like you get going, get the flywheel going. So don’t be afraid to be like, “Okay, we’re going to automate half of this, half of our use cases, half of our orders.” Because we know we can do that and those are really well defined. And we’re going to still maybe do some of this manual while we evolve our business process. And just the act of going through and automating is going to make your business processes better because now you have to take a more structured look at them. And you have to get more refined. You’re going to essentially stress test what you think about them as you look to automate it. And that builds muscle in an organization. You learn to know or be better at improving your business processes, and you build this integration, this automation muscle as an organization. And you don’t have to have an enterprise systems team to be able to do that. The modern tools that are out there now that all three of us provide don’t rely on developers or people with traditional technical backgrounds to be able to do this work, where we’re all in this business of bringing this down and democratizing that. And with that in mind, sometimes it’s best just to start where you can and get gains. But keeping that in mind, look at where the highest impact are, is look at where people are spending the most time– where the most valuable people are spending time often just sitting down with people in roles. I used to find this in consulting a lot. I just go and sit– you just kind of wander around, and you kind of see what people are doing. You just sit down with somebody in accounting and just see what– spend a couple of hours with them and just kind of watch, and you’ll be like, “Wow.” You just come away with a whole list of things to automate. And sometimes some really big things come out of that. But look at those pain points, throw some back-of-the-napkin numbers on them as far as value of time being spent, how that accumulates. And it very quickly will point to what’s the most important. And sometimes it’s driven by a compliance need, SOX maybe, an objective like we see a lot of customers going towards an IPO, for example. And we’ve had some of our customers who was talking the other day about, say, a Zoom info, who was doing a lot of manual order processing and headed towards their IPO. And they couldn’t scale. They didn’t want to scale up manually. They wanted to bring more efficiency. And they bring some of our tools in place. And we’re able to– by keeping the same team, automate that order or cash process, bringing those those orders into their ERP, getting your information back up into their CRM, automating those processes really facilitated big growth without a big headcount. So take a look. Sometimes, it’s obvious. Sometimes, it’s not, but my best advice is just to start somewhere. Just start on that journey. [laughter] Just keep going. Sounds good. So let me pause here to do a poll and just to get a sense of where people’s heads are at in regards to their adoption of new tools in the next 12 months. So polls open here. But yeah, this is definitely relevant in terms of the idea of you could want to just– there are just an incredible amount of best of breed solutions out there for everything accounting and finance that you can look at. They’re much easier to use for everyone, but also thinking about making sure that it’s not just about getting the application, but making sure that there’s an integration strategy with it, whether it is by using a native integration into other systems, or a platform, or a tool that it needs to fit in the larger goals here. Okay. Let me go ahead and stop. Looks like most people have stopped voting. Wait, one more. Okay. And closing out the poll. It’s quite a few people here. Share the results. So about evenly distributed for folks who are looking into specific business systems and those who aren’t or who don’t know yet. Sounds good. So let’s close out here. We are running behind. I think there are some questions, but a lot of them have been responded to already in the course of just the normal answers here. But are there any final words of wisdom or best practices, especially if you think about your own journey in the accounting and finance world? And what you wish you hadn’t known back then that you know now? Is there anything that you could share that would be valuable for everyone who’s listening here? Maybe, Jotham, let’s start with you. Yeah, two quick points for me. One is just be intentional about why you’re going through an automation initiative, right? So I think it’s been touched on by both Mark and Carlos. But are you looking to acquire a solution because you’re looking to increase compliance in your sales tax reporting? Or are you trying to close your books faster? Or are you trying to cut costs? So don’t think about automation as just a generic word that you should be doing. Think about why you want to go through automation specifically, and you’ll find that the planning that will support that and also your selection of the provider will follow that really well. The second one is resource planning. I mean, it is just the same story that has not changed for as long as I’ve been supporting accounting teams, especially with their implementations. This is not going to happen overnight. We don’t have a great self-service tools like Atlassian Jira, where a CPA can sign up and get up and running in 10 minutes. A lot of the folks that we work with and– Celigo and Tesorio there as well. We touch sensitive financial data. So you’re going to need to think about whether that resource comes internally or maybe through partners or through your providers themselves. So just be very also intentional about having a strong resourcing plan before you set off on your automation journeys. Great. Carlos, any words of wisdom? We have more questions coming in, too, so maybe we can still make time for that. Yeah, I guess I’ll be quick. I just wanted to agree with what Jotham said. You asked about our own journey. I wish I’d gotten a CFO or VP of finance controller in the company sooner because I made– just because I have a finance background, I own the financial model. I still do. But you know, the power that comes from having someone that little by little been able to outsource that too and having that distributed knowledge of the finances of the company and where things are going across the other teams for their planning and for their resource planning and headcount planning is invaluable. And so that’s about my personal journey. If there’s any startup founders out there, don’t hesitate to hire a really good finance for accounting asset early on. And then on the cool side, I just summarize it all is again what I mentioned earlier, and make sure you add that component of how long in implementation, how difficult and how quickly you can get it up and running is going to be for when you evaluate projects like time of value, time to set up, right? Because I think what we’re seeing is that since finance had not gotten the modern tools in a while, we’re still in this waterfall implementation mode where it’s like, “Okay, I do this then I do that, then I do this, then I do that.” You can actually just be more agile about your implementation. If you are working with tools that can be set up like that, because I hate to see you go and we have fabulous retention rates, but if they can be set up like that and it can be pulled out like that. So it’s that risk-averse nature that we include myself as finance folks have doesn’t have to necessarily be there. Hey, team. We are unfortunately are out of time. I want to be respectful of everyone who came here, so we do have some questions. I think we can stick around just for a couple of minutes here in case anyone does want to stick. But thank you for participating. I mean, obviously, we could have gone on for a long time, and you can learn more about companies on the link below on the screen here. But thank you to all who attended. We will follow up with additional information. You can follow up on the CP credit. And we look forward to continuing next time. And maybe I think if we want to just stick with one question here, for those who want what size operations make it optimal to consider automation. Mark, maybe you have an answer for that one. Every size. It’s not too early to think about that. What you should as an accounting and finance leader or aspiring accounting finance leader at any size organization, whenever there’s a new system being purchased or added in, just ask the group, how is this going to be integrated? How are we going to integrate this system into our business processes? And if you do that, you’re going to find you’re going to integrate earlier. You’re actually going to realize the return on investment of those apps. So you can start very early because modern tools let anyone get engaged in the integration process. All right. Thank you again, everyone. Thank you for those who stayed for another minute here. I want to thank our guests for participating in this. Maybe we’ll do a follow-up at some point to go into more specific detail, but we look forward to talking to you all soon. Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you.

About the speakers

Carlos Vega

Carlos is Co-Founder and CEO at Tesorio. Tesorio empowers CFOs and finance teams to boost profits and cash flow performance by using artificial intelligence to better manage, predict, and collect cash. Previously, he spent a decade working in finance in various roles. His experience includes investment banking with Lazard in Latin America, co-founding a factoring company, and working for the CFO of GM’s pension fund. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA in Economics from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Jotham Ty

Jotham Ty, CPA is the CEO of Gappify, a leading provider of accrual accounting automation. 
Prior to Gappify, Jotham established one of the first Sarbanes-Oxley compliance practices in the San Francisco/Bay Area. 
His firm expanded to support large, multi-national organizations with IPO readiness; scaling domestic &  international accounting operations, and upgrading and modernizing automation environments.

Mark Simon

Mark comes to Celigo having spent the last 21 years in technology. He started his career as a software developer in 1997, building e-commerce applications and custom integrations for several years. He then co-founded and led technology and operations as CTO for Evo, a successful e-commerce company that grew from $0 to $13M in revenue in three years. He then moved on to start a career in consulting with Explore Consulting, an award-winning Solution Provider and VAR. Mark has worked with clients across several industries including multiple software clients and publicly traded companies pre and post IPO. His efforts for software clients included designing and developing automated processes for sales order processing, subscription management, and provisioning among others.

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