Future proof? Assessing your finance stack and data readiness for automation

Over the course of 100s of implementations, our team of experts has seen it all. In this webinar, we provide you with the resources to ensure your systems and data are ready to support billing automation and sustain future growth.

Topics covered in this webinar

  • How to avoid costly mistakes in your finance tech stack prior to implementing automation 
  • Preparing your tech stack for automation, from CRM to GL 

About the presenter(s)

Theresa Hall_profileTheresa Hall, Implementation Lead at Ordway (former Deloitte enterprise consulting)                                                           

 

0-1Rachel Gonzalez, Marketing, Ordway. 

 

Read the transcript of the webinar archive

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

We can go ahead and get started here. So a brief introduction. My name is Rachel Gonzalez. I am on the marketing team here at Ordway and I am joined by Theresa Hall. Theresa, I'll let you introduce yourself to the team.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Hey guys. Yep. So I'm Theresa Hall. I am an implementation lead here at Ordway. So what that means is I basically help clients get onboarded onto Ordway, and that means I've also seen a wide range of different types of data readiness for customers who have hit that step of automation with their company. So prior to my experience here, I was also working on enterprise level modernization projects. Generally speaking, getting data ready for enterprise level customers, tech modernization. So seeing a lot of things, the good, the bad and the ugly. Yeah, I'm looking forward to kind of talking about how you guys can get your data in order before you start looking at automation.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

Awesome. So to set the stage for some of the insights that Theresa is going to be sharing with you all today, you know, this webinar is part two in a three part series where we are breaking down a white paper that we published earlier this year on architecting, the ultimate finance tech stack. So, you know, kind of starting at the end result, the blue sky vision, you know, we know what the flexible finance stack of the future looks like. We know what the benefits are of that optimized tech stack. So, you know, having your, your order to revenue systems, really streamlined can increase business efficiency, helps reduce operational overhead. So your team members who are right now working on really manual tedious billing and revenue recognition tasks can move to higher value projects. Once your tech stack is optimized.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

It improves your scalability as well as you grow your business internationally across multiple entities may be, your tech stack should have the flexibility and be super customized to scale with you as you grow. And that finance tech stack that's, you know, optimize the ideal tech stack of the future also reduces those points of failure between the sales to finance process. So everything from your CRM to your general ledger, really streamlining that process and removing those, those places for manual errors and work arounds is, you know, ultimately the, the end benefit of having that optimized tech stack. And, you know, that all sounds fantastic, but, we know that that's, you know, not necessarily the reality for a lot of businesses and where their tech stacks are currently workflow errors can creep in everywhere, every step of the way.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

So, you know, whether that's your internal sales to billing processes, whether you're working with, an ERP that has custom bolt on modules that are handling your billing, maybe you're handling your subscription management or accounts receivable tracking manually, or in multiple spreadsheets. There's just opportunities for error every step of the way. And so what we really want to attack today and really, um, share with you all is the solution to this, right? We know that we're trying to get to that ultimate optimize finance tech stack. We know that there are roadblocks in the way, so how do we get there? And the solution really lies in automation. And so Theresa, I'm going to pass it to you now to kind of set the stage for what we're going to be talking about today in terms of automation and data readiness.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Yeah, definitely. So I think that, in general, it's, it's really good and we'll definitely break this down later on, but at a high level, every business is different and we'll kind of get into some of the points that we've seen are pretty consistent across people, but when you're assessing your own kind of data integrity, as of today, a good place to start is really with pain points. So where are your resources getting bogged down? Where are you seeing that? A lot of times, being committed to a certain place that's usually a good, a good time and a good indicator that something is awry. So I would definitely recommend looking there and then also a good place to kind of, I guess, backtrack and find these pain points is also your customer's experience. Like where are you hearing feedback from them in your current process that can be improved. And you can usually pinpoint that back to a point as well. And all of this being said is just to really get your data to a point where it's consistent across every system that you have, right. You don't want to have silo data. You want to be able to say, I know exactly what I'm looking at in each and every point of a billing process and not be looking for a needle in the haystack when you're, find one, one variance. So definitely we'll be diving into that.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

Totally. And, you know, before we dive into those different assessments that Theresa is going to be taking us through, we wanted to get kind of a pulse check on how you feel the health of your data is today. So I'm going to launch a poll here and, and feel free to respond. Do you feel that your data is in good shape today? Yes, no. Or maybe I don't know is the answer and that's totally fine as well.  So we're going to give everybody a second here to, to cast their votes, and we'd love to, you know, get a sense for where you think your data is right now. So giving everyone a couple more seconds to vote, looks like the answers are trickling in here. Uh, give you one more second. So looks like, do you feel that your data is in good shape today? It looks like we've gotten 50%. Yes. 50%. No. So, definitely interesting. And we'll be talking through, you know, how to even know if your data is in good shape or not. And we'll be talking through some of those potential areas for optimization. So with that, I will, pass it on to Theresa now to walk us through these assessments.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Yeah, thanks Rachel. So I definitely, we, I think a first good assessment is to understand what your current billing data structure truly is, right? This will allow you to confirm and adjust any sort of pricing and contract structure, um, you know, identify those existing pain points. And then also kind of look at your buyer's journey from a whole, and really bring all that data kind of shore that up, to be, you know, a lot more robust, so we can move into the next slide, if you would like, so a good step one, there is, uh, clarifying the product and pricing structure that you have today. I know that seems extremely straight forward, but I'll start with an example. So I was working through an implementation with a customer and they said, yep, we got our products. Totally. In order we have 2000 products and we were kind of like, okay, that's all right, let's talk about it.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Like what's going on there. And so it turned out that it was just a way that they had been classifying it since the beginning of time, right. Since they had been in business and they wanted to, you know, they're kind of like, well, I guess we could revisit this. And we were actually able to reduce that number down to about 150 different products, because we took a step back, understood what they were selling, how they were selling it and were able to remove all of that tech debt that they had in their CRM. So it's really good to understand, like who's driving the way that you are. You have your current product and pricing structure today, how it's affected by your customers. Um, and then just moving forward, from that point, you can move on to step two, Rachel. So from here, it's, it's really good to, once you have your foundation in place of, you know, how are we selling our product?

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

How do those interact with each other? It's really now you can kind of take a step back and look at your billing state of affairs, right? So who is actually getting invoiced, um, from your customers, right? You have, you know, people who are buying your product, but like who's actually receiving those invoices. What's that relationship with your billing team as of today? How are you guys actually billing those customers? What are those billing periods? Are they correct? I know that you can have, I've had an instance where there's, you know, kind of billing periods were all over the place. They weren't aligned to like monthly, quarterly, annually, or anything like that, which is fine. But there was actually clerical error that was made from a customer that was, you know, had been with this one company for years and nobody had really picked up on it and it was causing kind of mayhem, you know, throughout the entire process.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

And so we were able to finally kind of adjust that and get it back to where we need it to go. The other big piece here too, is actually understanding, how your products are, you know, playing into this billing, right? So it's like, are they intertwined? So do you have a hardware product that is, do you have a SaaS product that's reliant on a hardware product? Like how do those things kind of make up your billing and total and understand what the majority of your con backs are, and then kind of identifying, you know, what are edge cases is really helpful as well, because you don't want it to be a red herring. And this is a really good time when you are doing a data assessment to actually look and see what that is, what are the majority of your billing, you know, consistencies, that sort of thing. Um, so yeah, Rachel, I think we can go into the whole now.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

I think Theresa poses a great question. Like, do you know who receives your invoices at each of your customer's company? So I'm going to launch this poll and just let us know yes or no. Um, give everyone a couple of seconds there. Um, and I think it's, you know, it's an interesting pulse check to get on, on your business. So give everyone a couple more seconds, looks like the results are tripling anyway.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

So it looks like, let's see, it looks like we've got, 100% of you all saying that you do know who receives your invoices at each of your customer's companies, so you know exactly who they're going to, and that's awesome. So that's a great starting place for sure. And we can go ahead and move on to the next step.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Yeah. So I think this is, what's really cool about this, as well as like, when we think about in general, like how are you assessing your billing kind of current state of play? So it's also really great to understand, um, what your plan is for multi entity billing, right? So how are you guys currently handling your international customers? How do you want to report around that? Like, how are you want to roll that information up? It's if you have that plan in place prior to even implementing that structure, it just it's much smoother when you understand, and this ties back into your customer and contact structure as well, right. Especially when you start thinking about scaling and getting larger and larger understanding your customer structure trickles down very naturally into your most multi entity billing, and will only allow you to have that much more continuity of data throughout the entirety of your process.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

Totally. And so, we're going to move into the key assessment.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

That we really wanted to hone in on. Yep. So definitely a second one that I see is establishing continuity between your CRM and your GL a lot can happen between those two things between the end of sale and billing. So I think we can go ahead and jump into the first step of this Rachel. So biggest thing is to really take a step back and understand where the, kind of the state of play of your CRM and your GL and how well those two, um, systems are aligned today. Like I had mentioned, this is definitely, um, a lot can happen between end of sale and when you're actually doing the billing. And so this is a good time to also analyze that, understand where those differences are coming from and why, and take a step back and look at your processes, understand where those pain points are coming from, and really getting that data to a point where you're confident that it is in, in step.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

This will only help you later down the road. When you're talking about getting your system, you know, as your system is ready for an automation for automation, you can only, you'll only be in a better spot because you can actually trust the information that you're exporting. You can get it in a place that you're like, yep, this is confident. We've already done this assessment. We know it's in place. And I was in an implementation once and we were, you know, used one source. I think it was CRM as a source of truth. And the billing team was like, well, this looks a little off, like what's going on? And we realized, or they realized that they missed this step. Totally. And it actually caused for a lot of pain down the road from the implementation perspective. So we took a subset of that data analyzed, it realized what was going on, we're able to adjust, but, you know, we definitely saw some kind of lag on the implementation because we had to take a step back and, you know, do this step that probably should have been done prior to the implementation.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

So this definitely ties into what I was just talking about is definitely like establishing one source of truth for the billing information. So I've seen it both ways. I've seen Salesforce as the source of truth. I've seen the GL as a source of truth, but at the end of the day one, you need to have an area where if, as Rachel had alluded to stuff creeps in right down the road, you can get as prepped as you want, but stuff will happen. So always allow yourself to understand where like you can always go back to one source of truth and understand where that billing information is, you know, coming from and can consistently be known to be the truth. So have definitely seen that this has been something that a lot of my customers have done well, because that is, you know, we can kind of go back to that point when they're seeing this discrepancy between their systems, um, and use that, so, Oh, you can go actually can go ahead and go to the next one.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

That's good. Yeah. So step three is generally speaking. Um, everything starts at the sale, right? So it is good regardless of where you decide to have your source of truth to clean up your CRM. So you do want to have data that you can trust. I mean, you want to have, um, you want to have garbage in, garbage out, so to speak. And so you want to take a step back, understand why, why your business is structured, the way that it is, why the data is structured, the way that it is. And this just all ties back into billing, right? Like, how are your products being sold? Like, what are your contract terms? What are your renewal dates? Um, and getting those to a point of, you know, trust is, you know, super crucial and I've seen, has been a huge benefit to people that I've people that I've worked with, that I've done this it's, you know, very, very helpful. Okay. You move on.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Yeah. So definitely ties in to everything else that we were saying. Generally speaking, I've had the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different kinds of implementations and for customers who have taken these steps, um, we've had very successful, you know, kind of timelines. We've had, you know, total ramp up time and about six weeks, if not less, and have been able to really hone in on, on stuff that matters, right? Like revenue recognition reporting, all that stuff. We haven't had to spend time just getting the data cleaned up for an automation system for them to be successful. So for customers who haven't necessarily followed these kind of assessments, or in general, just taking a step back to look at their data prior to, uh, automation implementation, it's really been a big point of, kind of, you know, a time stock, right. To get that data in order it delays, implementation, it delays you guys seeing the benefit of automation. Right. So generally speaking, kind of just taking a look at that from a high level. And these are, like I said, these assessments, every business is different, but just in general, these high-level items have been what I've seen customers that have done this very well have followed this and it's, um, yeah. Been very successful for them. 

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

Yeah. And, and, uh, you know, what we really wanted to, to emphasize here, obviously, Theresa has, like she said, she's seen it all. So, you know, we want to help all of you avoid potential, uh, issues or stressors down the line. When you implement automation in your finance tech stack, as you start to optimize the different layers of your tech stack. Um, and you know, we want to make sure that, that we share these learnings with you all. So if there's one thing that you walk away with from this series, it's really that you know, you can start now, with automating certain areas or preparing your business for automation, uh, throughout your tech stack. And even if you're not incorporating billing and revenue automation today, there are ways to start small. And, and obviously the tangible steps that Theresa in terms of data readiness.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

But we also encourage you all to check out some of the resources that we have at our website at that link. Um, please be sure to download the finance stack white paper, that's a great resource. And, we'll be covering part three next Wednesday, at 11:30 AM. So our founder and CEO Sameer Gulati will be joining us to discuss how, fair and flexible pricing and really optimizing your finance tech stack is crucial in the performance economy. And, how the performance economy really demands changes and a new approach to your finance tech stack. So, we will be sending out the archive of today's session, and we look forward to seeing you all at part three. But with that, I think we could head into some questions. So if you have questions for Teresa and you haven't already submitted them in the Q and a tool, please feel free to do that now. But we can get started with some of the initial questions that we have here. So, question number one for Teresa, how long should we anticipate assessments one and two taking- weeks, months, years?

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Hopefully not years. Um, yeah, no, it's a great question. And it really depends because it's, you know, you could, we could do a deep dive on every single one of these steps, right. So it's kind of, it just what your current data, you know, kind of what state your data is in right now definitely dictates a lot. And then also the amount of data you have, right. And kind of understanding what your current state processes are. Definitely dictate the timeline, but I don't think I've ever seen it take more than, you know, a month, but that's when I've had a team who was like, we have to get this, you know, in order, like, get it taken care of and kind of have, they had like a red team after it. Right. Like getting it, where they needed to go. But regardless of how much time it takes, it's just, it's so integral to just understand your data, make an assessment. So regardless of how painful it seems, it is still very crucial to do this regardless of the time that it might take.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

Totally. Okay. Awesome. And then the second question we have here is, is this data cleanup absolutely necessary prior to implementing automation?

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Yeah. Great question. So being in my position, my gut reaction is yes, because it just makes everything so much smoother down the road. But yeah, it is definitely recommended to do that prior, just because in my experience, like I've said, just having that in a state where you're confident in your data, there's no questions asked. It just allows, you know, transforming that and massaging that into Ordway that much or any other automation system for that matter. Um, that much easier. So definitely would recommend it. We can work around it, but just be ready for a longer implementation.

Rachel Gonzalez, Ordway Marketing:

Absolutely awesome. So it looks like that's all the questions we have for today. We will be sending the archive of the session out to everyone. Like I said, and then please be sure to attend part three of this, next Wednesday. It's the third and final part of this series on, on the finance tech stack. But a big thank you to Theresa for joining us today and sharing her insights and thank you all for attending. And we hope to see you soon.

Theresa Hall, Implementation Lead:

Thanks everyone.

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