Where legacy approaches to the finance stack fail

More often than not, the very systems that you rely on to run your business efficiently are not built to work together. These disparate systems lead to increased costs, greater operational inefficiencies, and stunted growth over time. 

Topics covered in this webinar

  • Addressing the flaws in the status quo 
  • 7 signs your tech stack is holding you back
  • Underlying causes of roadblocks in your tech stack 
  • Solutions others have tried for a flexible tech stack

About the presenter(s)

Brannon-Adlesh-headshotBrannon Adlesh, Finance Executive and Product Manager at Ordway (former Finance at Zendesk, Negotiatus, and Coupa)

Eren-KoontEren Koont, Platform growth, Ordway. 

 

Read the transcript of the webinar archive

Eren Koont, Platform Growth (00:00):
This first one is really focused around some research that we did in a white paper that we produced, which we'll have a link in the presentation at the end that happy. Hopefully you can download it and read it at your leisure, but this, this webinar was built off that white paper and really sort of brought together some research around the, the ecosystem and why legacy technology approaches are beginning to not serve companies. Well, as we move into the new performance economy.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (00:32):
Okay.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (00:36):
I'm just going to introduce myself I'm Eren product growth or platform growth here at Ordway, and really helping get the word out about the platform. And just sort of thinking about how our technology can, can help companies succeed, where they want to go in the future. And we've got Brannon Adlesh. He is heading up a lot of our product efforts on building out the platform in a flexible, powerful way. That's both you know, horizontal and vertically scalable for today's modern enterprise. And today we're really going to talk about sort of the costs of improper approaches to designing the finance stack and then really sort of take a web MD approach. What are some of the symptoms you should look for? When your when your current tech stack may not be solving the problems that you want it to solve, and then talk through a few different approaches that many companies try and, you know, there are pros and cons to all of them, and we'll try and explore all of those through, through the session. Just a housekeeping note. We will collect questions during the session and then answer them at the end. So if you want to use the Q and A tool to submit some questions our colleague Rachel will be collecting them and then answering, asking those at the end of the webinar, we'll also do a couple of polls throughout the session just to keep things a little lively. So let's go ahead and dive in.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (02:07):
I want everybody to just sorta read this this funny comic and, you know, figure out if there are any bloopers in your finance stack today.

Eren Koont, Platform Growth (02:23):
Hopefully everybody out there is chuckling a little bit. And, you know, I think the theme here is that with a finance stack, you want to take orders data from your CRM, translate that into revenue, by sending out invoices, collecting payments, generating revenue schedules, and then booking that in your, in your accounting system or ERP. And so garbage in garbage out. Sometimes you may be asking for a blue purse at the beginning, but you end up with bloopers at the end. And that's really what we're trying to avoid as business owners and leaders. And we want to make sure that the data flows correctly through our entire system.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (03:04):
Yeah. And Eren, one thing I just wanted to add on that side that stood out to me is just kind of the, the, the point systems, right? And you know, when you have a, a problem that needs to be solved from a finance to attack the stack solution you know, you, you typically identify a problem and solve for that, but you're not thinking about the, all the other problems that have led to you purchasing other tools that, that fall into that stack.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (03:31):
Very true. And so again, we're, we're going to kind of take a diagnostic approach and hopefully, you know, you'll be able to see some of your own business and hopefully not too many symptoms in your own business through these questions that we're going to ask here. But the first one is really you know, how long nights and weekends are you spending, closing the books. And, you know, I know Brannon, you had a long career at Coupa and before coming here and other companies, and, and if you just have some comments on, on this aspect of a symptom that your finance stack may not be working as intended.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (04:09):
Yeah. you know, I I've, I've lived in this world for many, many years. And I think that the long nights and weekends, you know, are obviously, you know, something that you know, makes you second guess, you know, what you're doing on a day-to-day basis. Right. you know, whether it be you know, th th the tech solutions that you have in place or how you've arranged them to work together. And you know, it's, it's painful to see your teammates working those long hours, and there's, you, you, you have to tell yourself, there's, there's a better solution out there. And you know, one of the things that, you know, this obviously rough, rough math but just the cost of doing that is of closing your books and other operations from your, you know, your monthly processes.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (04:57):
You know, we, we had a little formula down at the bottom, you know, and again, this is very rough, but taking the average salary of one of your, your accounting team members divided by the average number of hours. Well we know that the average number may be much higher but you know, you really get down to your cost per hour. And it kind of gives you an idea of, you know, how expensive it is to close your books sometimes, or to operate your, your, your financial teams. And in a lot of that can be, you know, that time can be reduced by having the right solutions in place.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (05:32):
Absolutely. And, you know, I think just reinforcing that, having lots of different point solutions that don't all talk together really well causes a lot increase in the amount of time that people have to do to just reconcile all that data and making sure that you don't have garbage in garbage out.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (05:51):
Yeah. And I think many of us have been in the world when you're downloading one Excel file, import it into another system spot, checking it before you do that. And then you get to the end of the day and you still don't trust the data that you may, and you're continuously running back through you know, whether it be your import export files and reconciling that data it's very constantly in terms of time.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (06:15):
Yeah. And I think that's a good segue to this next slide and, and just sort of that, that manual data entry. And if you're having to do double entry in multiple systems as sort of a normal part of your process that is something that we've seen in many, many of the limitations that we've helped customers with, but also just our collective history in the industry. This is something that we hear over and over again is just people are trying to shoe horn in process. And you know, I think this is an area that is is an obvious sign that you've got some inefficiencies in your, in your finance stacks. I don't know if there's anything else you want to add there, Brannon.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (06:57):
Yeah. I think this all just, you know, really falls into like, you know, your confidence in your data, right, as well. I mean, a reworking data you know, you, you, you don't have to be in that position. So if you can create flows that, that can resolve that and automate those flows you can remove, you know, you know, all the above, you know, reworking data, manual data entry, the workarounds that you can automate that flow. You first off have increased confidence, but also you know, the, the time to delivery significantly increased.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (07:30):
Yeah. And one thing if you could touch on a little bit is, you know, I think one thing that we've seen a lot is when there's only one direction of data flowing from the CRM into other systems versus a, to a bi-directional sync, what are some of the things that can cause problems with that?


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (07:46):
I mean, there's a number. It's really just a disconnect between typical your sales and CS organization and what you're reporting on the finance side of things. You know, if there's, you know, there, there there's the engine, the sales engine that continues to churn, and, you know, you have renewals going on, you have all these different activities that are end up that need to end up in your financial tools for reporting purposes, you know, whether it just be reporting or billing and in a number of different you know, having a disconnection, not be able to sync that finance data back to your, your CRM is just, you know, a data disconnect. And you're, you're, you're working up two sources of truth rather than one.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (08:26):
So let's launch our first poll. We saw that in a study that we found that 59% of folks actually have manual processes. So I would love to just sort of get a sense from the audience. Do you have any manual workarounds in your order to revenue flow? So we'll get people 20, 30 seconds to answer this, starting to see the answers coming in. It's beginning to slow down a little bit. We'll give people a five, four, three, two, one looks like a hundred percent of, you actually said you have manual workarounds in your order revenue flow. So that's interesting data. And, you know, I think obviously we, we we think through the research we've done, we can help you get to a better place. And, and, you know, I think one of the things that we also see when the finance stack is, is struggling to stay connected and stay operating efficiently is your, your actual customers are really suffering. You know, one of our, one of the CFOs we work with talked about, you know, nobody bought your service to, to pay invoices. They bought your service to use your service. And so if there's constant friction in, in that sort of financial transaction between companies that can really upset your customers and have them question whether or not they want to be working with you. So I don't know if there's anything else you want to add on that one.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (10:01):
I think you know, in the corporate finance world, we've all fallen victim to you know, delayed invoicing or billing where, you know, you have to go to your, one of your customers and say, Hey, we forgot to bill you last month, or, you know, we, you know, something there's inaccurate, billing data, and you have to go back and re invoice and you know, it's, it's, it's never fun. And it, it really comes back to the, you know, the finance focus customer experience as well. I mean, it's a lot of times invoicing and in the invoices that you send to your customers are, you know you know, your final product and, and it's memorable in terms of, you know, that experience in the, the less friction, the better of course and being able to provide accurate information and billing data to your customers. 


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (10:47):
And, you know, really trying to provide the tools for people in your business to actually solve problems. If people don't have access to that data or the visibility into those transactions, then it becomes really hard for a CS team to actually resolve a billing dispute or you know, it has to go through lots of layers to get to an actual resolution for the customer that's satisfactory. So certainly we don't want any finance stack to be causing friction with the customer.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (11:14):
That's it just one more point to add on is given your customer success or your, customer success managers, access to billing information is real-time information is, is super powerful. They can go in and they can quickly identify, you know, billing, billing, discrepancies, or areas where they may, they may cause they're the ones that at the end of the day are really interacting with the customer, at least that's you know, for the most part and being able to give them that real time data is is like I said, immensely powerful.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (11:45):
So another sign, this may be a little less obvious than the first three, but you, that you're spending more on professional services and maintenance just to keep the thing humming. So Brannon, your thoughts on this?


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (11:57):
Yeah, I mean, we've we're working with organizations who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and professional services. And a lot of times we're working with large ERPs just maintaining their day-to-day operations. You know, they, it's almost, they have two teams, they have their professional services team, that's helping with their tech stack and then their own internal accounting and finance teams that you know, they're paying both of them. Right. And they should be able to lose a move, a lot of those professional services, activities, internal but I think due to disparate systems in place they're to be unable to do that.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (12:33):
Absolutely. you know, another one that we, we see a lot in the research we've done is that like the finance and sales teams are just kind of angry and cranky at each other a lot. And you know, Brannon, you know, you, you've been on one end of that side of the spectrum and I've been on the other, you know, can you just talk a little bit from the finance perspective? What, what, you know, a deal desk might do, to0. 


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (13:00):
Yeah, I, I think, you know, especially in, in a high growth environment where, you know, quarter over quarter you know, you, the way you sell to your, your customers may be changing, or you have you know, a new product that you'd like to release. And from, you know, finance is typically the afterthought when it comes to maintaining this, this, this financial information in these contracts and being able to report on them. And a lot of times you have to push back and say, no, we can't do this. We're not in a place. Maybe we can do it in a couple of quarters and we have to really plan this out. But I think being able to be the yes, man in the finance organization or transitioning from the no to the yes is, is something that you're able to do. And you know, you want that, that synergy between both teams, right, where you can be flexible and you can, you can move quickly and make, you know, have, you know, contracts that may not look the same every single time around, but, you know, based on your finance stack, that you can quickly absorb those changes and, and being able to move forward and have confidence in moving forward.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (14:02):
Yeah. One of our customers,uOpenFin, they, they do,uoperating system for financial services firms and I'm probably butchering exactly what they do, but they every single one of their contracts is bespoke. And they're having to, you know, and they're doing this at scale and just imagine managing a spreadsheet with thousands and thousands of rows of contracts. Uand, and if you're, if you don't have systems to be able to handle those bespoke contracts, it can cause a lot of angry people within your organization. Thankfully they don't have any of those angry people in their, their business today. Uyou know, this is another big one and, you know, really kind of one that, that I think drives a lot of change within organizations.


Rachel Gonzalez, Webinar Host, Ordway (14:52):
Looks like we lost Eren here for a second. Brannon, do you wanna, do you want to take it from here?


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (14:55):
Yeah, no, I was, I thought it might've been me. But but yeah, I can definitely pick things up and I think a lot of this just comes, you know, comes back to being, you know, more of a strategic organization. Right. you know if you don't have real time data and if you're working off still there. 


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (15:36):
Yeah, no, and no, and I, and I can pick things up and I think this kind of comes into the vein of how the role of finance is really changing, at least in our opinion and how it's changing in terms of being kind of the, the owner of all things, customer data whether that be CRM, data, financial data, you know, being able to be that, that point where you can pull all of those different data sources together and allow that the finance org be, you know, the CFO or CEO can come to, you know, the finance team and say, Hey, you know, what are we thinking here? And you have the data to back and support that and making that data real time. If you're constantly just spinning, spinning, spinning, trying to close the books on a monthly basis, you don't have time to really you know, take a step back or not even take a step, be proactive and say, Hey, let's, let's, you know, we have the data to make this decision, especially when it comes to sales data and, and looking at your different sales demographics, and, and how that plays into the decision to make for growth.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (16:43):
Hi everybody. Well, thank you for letting me back into this webinar we're hosting. Apologies for my internet kind of burp there, and Brannon, thank you for continuing on with the show. And then the last, the last sign you had a blooper. Exactly. So lack of, I mean, we've been talking about this in a couple of different ways throughout the entire webinar, but, you know, if you want to just talk through sort of the confidence in financial data and what that means to be able to make decisions.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (17:12):
Yeah. And I think this with, with numbers, number six, number seven, you know, really go hand in hand you know, you can you can, you, you can want to be strategic and you, you can have data to present, but if, as long as you, if you don't have confidence in that data and you know, being able to pull that data from, you know, in, in customized reports is wetland being able to customize and drill into certain segments of your business. And having confidence in that and that segmentation is, is paramount. You don't want to be reporting on a numbers from one region of the world that may not be accurate and, and, and able to make decisions off that is is in my opinion, paramount to a well-run finance organization.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (17:59):
So I think we're going to do the next poll. And this is really a question around how long do you think it would take to prepare an accurate snapshot of your current financials? And this spaces are one to two hours, two to eight, one to five, five to 10 days.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (18:27):
Okay. We'll give people another few seconds to answer. It looks like the answers are slowing down a little bit. Okay.

Eren Koont, Platform Growth (18:40):
And we'll give people four, three, two, one. I won't make that joke again. It looks like about you know, everybody, no one most are in the one to 10 days, and there are few in the, the zero to two hours. Good for you. Congratulations on that. But most are sort of towards the, taking a little bit longer than two hours. So hopefully that you're inspired that you might be able to get to a place where you are with your fellow colleagues that are in that zero to two hour bucket. All right. So what are some of the solutions that other people have tried, we've now gone through about seven symptoms that might show themselves when your finance stack is a little bit creaky and, you know, I think there are definitely options that are out there and there are pros and cons to all of them.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (19:37):
And there isn't a solution that is best for every particular company. And we want to be fair that, you know, people have had success with, with a lot of different types of technologies. So, you know, the first one is really looking at sort of the integration as a service. So these might be connecting your CRM and ERP with a company like Celigo or, or Workato, or, you know, some of these other kinds of integration tools. So, Brannon I know you, you spent a lot of time thinking about this. What are, what are some of the pros and cons to this from your perspective and what you said?


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (20:10):
I mean, I, I think, you know, just looking at, you know, what we've listed here, it's true. I mean, just being able to have that connector and being able to manage that data through a connector is super powerful and valuable, I think you know, coming to the con is that a lot of times you have to have, you know, someone who has some, some sort of coding or development experience to really maintain these. So you're, you're potentially pulling away pulling resources from another organization or hiring those within your own to help maintain these. And it it's you know, sometimes just in not the best solution if there's others out there, but yeah.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (20:49):
Yeah. And, you know, I think from what we've seen also in the research is, is that these tools are great when the business is fairly stable and you have two known end points from like your product portfolio, what you're selling to, then what ends up in your general ledger. But, you know, if adding new products, adding new business models, that's when to Brannon's point, you know, needing to pull in somebody to sort of rework that connection becomes a challenge. So if you've got a stable business, these, these can be powerful ways to, to solve for the problem. Another, another thing that we see a lot is just sort of adding on modules to, to your ERP, you know, whether it's Intacct or NetSuite and there's definitely some pros and cons to that. And, you know, Brannon, if you want to talk through that, that'd be great.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (21:44):
Yeah. you know, I think, you know, the, the flexibility, I mean, the nice thing with the add on modules is that you're kind of building based off your, in my opinion, and your core GL, right. You're and you're continuing to layer on top of that, which I think is you know, allows you to, to kind of build and, you know, when you are trying to handle more, you know, complex billing or even revenue recognition as well. I know some of the players in this space that, you know, really great job of you know, additional add on modules for revenue recognition as well. You know, it can work and especially if you have, you know, if you have a great administrator who can really, it has a ton of experience with one of those tools, I think it can work out pretty pretty well.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (22:28):
I think the downside is, you know, every module they're not free, right? So you're going to continue to pay for more and more as you, as you scale up with one particular solution. And if they don't support it what you're looking for in terms of that add on module, you're, you're kind of you know, in a tough situation, right? You've, you've kind of built everything with off one foundation and don't have the ability to, you know, be as flexible and move. And if they can't support it, then you can't support it. And you're going to be managing that in Excel and outside of the system to facilitate your needs.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (23:04):
Yeah. And just adding to that, I mean, this is the scenario where we, we tend to see a ballooning of professional services contracts and having to work with third parties to really maintain a fragile system that, that works. Again, if things are fairly stable, but once something changes or a new product is out a new business model, a new region it just becomes a lot more complex to actually retrofit a lot of those kinds of things. So if your business is stable, this could be a viable solution. And then the last, and this is, you know, I think we're trying to be fair here is really just around sort of a billing and revenue automation that, that does a lot of the invoice and collecting and payments handling contract changes, whether it's usage based billing, contract prepayments, draw downs, all those kinds of things actually tying all of the contract details to what ultimately gets into a revenue schedule that, that then ultimately hit your, your general ledger.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (24:09):
You know, this is kind of where we see the more innovative companies tending to go is they want to have that flexibility. And, and, you know, I think Ordway platform does a good, great job of this. You know, we see Zuora kind of doing some of the pieces, but they also have been in the space for a long time and have built some of these capabilities over time through acquisition. And, you know, it, wasn't sort of a ground up from the very beginning designed and architected to handle all the complexities of your business, especially with things like performance-based pricing and usage based billing and Brannon I don't know if there's anything else you would add to this one.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (24:49):
No, I, I think you summed it up nicely. You know, it's it's an exciting space to be in for us. Right. we feel like we're adding a lot of value and I think that ground up approach is what is what differentiates us recognizing that others do it, you know, do a great job as well. But I think our approach is in the long-term you know, the most scalable and, and we're excited to grow with the businesses that we work with.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (25:18):
Yeah. And I think just sort of recapping these different solutions. It really kind of depends on how how much of your business is changing or how much you expect your business to change. You know, even the experience of COVID over the last 12 months and all of us working from home who would have thought of that impacting our business. And I think for us which has been a real benefit is being able to absorb the, the curve balls that come your way has really helped us support our customers in a very rapidly changing world. And so you know, for companies that do have very simple business models or are fairly stable and are kind of in maintenance mode these kinds of tools may be overkill, frankly, but you know, I think we, we think for the longterm, we, we help businesses that are continuing to grow and scale achieve what they, what they want to do.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (26:16):
So that is I'm going to end this first part of the webinar series. And just want to give a plug before we go to Q and A with Rachel around the next two parts. The next one is going to be around. Okay. So we're thinking about making a change. We think we need to adopt one of those three models that we, we talked about at the second half of the webinar, what are some of the things that we need to do to prep our business, actually do that digital transformation. How do we, what kind of data sources do we need to prepare? How do we want to think about structuring our data? And then the last one is really thinking about the future and sort of looking for the next five to 10 years as to what we're seeing, what we think the, the world will look like and how companies should be thinking about mapping their, their flexible finance stack to, to that new world. Please, if you haven't already go ahead and download the white paper, that was the basis for this webinar series. And with that, I'm going to stop and, and Brannon for sharing some of his immense knowledge and wisdom and turn it to Rachel to see what questions we might have from the audience.


Rachel Gonzalez, Webinar Host, Ordway (27:24):
Awesome. Thanks. So looks like we have a couple of questions from the form, so I'm just going to start with the order that they came in. So the first one we've got is how many customers do businesses usually have when things start to fall apart in their tech stack?


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (27:45):
You know, I, I can take that one. Eren, I think it obviously depends on the complexity of your business. You know and, you know, if you do kick things off with, you know, super customized bespoke contracts, as we mentioned earlier, you know, you could hit that wall, you know at 50 customers maybe a hundred customers, but I think it really just depends on the complexity of, of what you're selling and how you're selling it to your customers and how frequently that changes.

Rachel Gonzalez, Webinar Host, Ordway (28:16):
And then we also have a question around professional service fees. So how do we know when increased professional service fees are simply the cost of doing business versus when they indicate a deeper tech stack issue?

Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (28:36):
I think when it gets to the point when you, you know, coming back to, you know, just doing some analysis on, you know, the cost of, you know, you're like professional services, aren't, aren't cheap, and we all know that and being able to, you know, it's sometimes it's the easy route to say, Hey, let's just, let's, let's dish this off and say, we're going to pay them. We're going to eat this cost for six months. And so we figure things out internally, and what happens is 18 months later, you're still paying that same team if not paying them more to help maintain. So I think from a dollar perspective, it's, it's difficult to you know, get given in a given answer. It depends on your organization as well. But I think it's the, the, the amount of time that you continue to pay those professionals professional fees is the real question. And, and when can you bring that in, in house?


Rachel Gonzalez, Webinar Host, Ordway (29:27):
Totally. Perfect. And then it looks like we've got one last question, and then we can wrap it up at what stage should accompany evaluate a company like Ordway.


Brannon Adlesh, Product, Ordway (29:42):
I mean, I think it really, I mean, if you have very simple billing and revenue recognition, if you only sell one type of product or a few different types of products and no in that model, you can have thousands of customers. And if it's pretty straightforward, if you're billing monthly you don't have annual contracts, you don't have any sort of amortization schedules or deferred revenue. You know, you can last a long time without something like where you can keep it pretty simple and just work with, you know, for example, a QuickBooks for a long time. But I think as the complexity of your business grows, you know, you can be very early. I mean, I think the stage can be, you know, you have a couple of people on your finance team and they're spending their long weekends and, and you know, closing the book. And even though you don't have that many customers, you're still identifying some of those, those core issues that we, we, we talked through if the three or four or five or six of those, you know pain points that we reviewed earlier are something that you hold true. Then it's definitely time to start looking at something like boardwalk.


Eren Koont, Platform Growth (30:43):
And I'll just add to that, that, you know, I think the, the wide spectrum of our customers we work with some very large organizations that, you know, have sort of a, B2C component. And then we're you know, a consumer component and then also an enterprise sort of bespoke contract component. They were running those businesses kind of separately, and really trying to bring unify all of that reporting and all of that that automation under one engine. So it, you know, as your business grows or changes, that's when companies tend to look at something like Ordway, or if they, one of our large customers also, they sort of had a new division, which was starting and they needed something to, to get to market quickly. And so they were able to get going and get to value quickly with Ordway and start building that new business unit on this new platform. So it really depends on both ends of the spectrums. Really, it comes down to, do you have sort of multi-layered complex pricing things with discounts for enterprise customers and, you know, and also just wanting to do rapid, go to market with a scalable platform. Those are kinds of some of the other attributes of companies that tend to adopt the, the Ordway platform.

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Highlights from webinar polls

  • 100% of respondents have manual workarounds in place in their order-to-revenue workflows.

  • Majority of respondents would need more than 2 hours (and upwards of 10 days) to prepare an accurate snapshot of their current financials to present to stakeholders.