A recent webinar entitled Five Questions Controllers Should be Asking CFOs, brought together a panel of corporate finance pro’s to discuss how Controllers interact with and support CFOs. The Roundtable discussion was moderated by Judy Hanover, a subject matter expert from Sage Intacct, a global leader in cloud-based accounting and financial management software for small and medium businesses, and the first and only AICPA-preferred provider of financial management solutions. The Sage Intacct cloud platform supports advanced reporting and analytics, multi-entity accounting, and consolidations. Following are highlights!
Judy Hanover: Today we have joining us, Sophia Shafiq, the Controller with Red and White Fleet. Braam du Plooy, Controller with Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Amanda Goebel, VP of Finance with Orlando Regional REALTOR Association. Braam, do you want to start off and introduce yourself? And tell me a little bit about your role, and how you got started with Sage Intacct?
Thank you, Judy. My name is Braam du Plooy. I’m with Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. We are a destination marketing organization, and promote the City of Atlanta. We are a private not-for-profit organization, and we are not affiliated with the city. I always add that piece so that people actually can know that we are actually private. We do, however, receive private funds, but we also have public funds that we receive. I am with ACVB, for short, for 15 years in this current role. In 2013, we converted from our old legacy system, the old AS/400 to Sage Intacct. And over the years, we have developed the system, and it is now actually at a place, we actually just finished it and adjusted and made little changes here and there. Currently, I am a MVP of Sage Intacct. I served on the advisory council last year. This year, I am serving on the AI advisory council. I’m also the Atlanta user group lead, and then I’ve done multiple presentations and panel discussions.
Amanda, do you want to tell us a little bit about your role and your use of Sage Intacct?
Yes, I am Amanda Goebel, VP of Finance here at Orlando Regional REALTOR Association. We’re the seventh largest realtor association in the country, and the third largest in Florida. I’ve been here for just over four months now, but I’ve been using Sage Intacct for seven years. I’ve used it at the last two companies in which I’ve worked, and have gone through implementation twice myself, and am actually in the process of probably going through a third. Just with that, I’ve done nothing but Sage, and have enjoyed every minute of it. When we did come onto Sage Intacct at my previous company, it was off of Microsoft Dynamics. So it has allowed us to just function better at every organization I’ve worked at.
Sophia, tell me a little bit about Red and White Fleet and your role.
Hello, my name is Sophia Shafiq, Controller here at Red and White Fleet. We are a small family-owned business on The Wharf in San Francisco. I’ve been here for over five years, and been with Sage Intacct, it’ll be four years at the beginning of the year. It was one of my first decisions coming on board, and it’s been the best decision we’ve had as a company. And we’re continuing to use it as we kind of get back up into post-pandemic years. So I’m looking forward to it.
Judy Hanover: Great. So today, we’re going to be talking about questions that controllers should be asking their CFOs. We want to talk a little bit CFO and controller collaboration in the three organizations panelists come from. And just some of the best practices and the ways that they’ve developed collaboration. Then we’re going to talk about closing the books. What does that look like? How much pressure there is to close faster, and how financial automation has helped ease that process. We’ll talk a little bit about automation, and how our panelists are using automation to accelerate closing the books, accelerate other processes in their department, the day-to-day, replacing mundane tasks with more automation.
There’s a little bit about audit preparation, and how automating your finances can help make audits go more quickly and easily. About how they’re all using reporting very differently. So there’s some interesting stuff we’ll talk about there. And then about the benefits they’re seeing, and what’s next? What’s in the future roadmap? Those processes are in the cloud, there’s always new functionality. And so how we’re planning to leverage that.
And then we’ll just take some questions from the audience. So you could use your question pane in the webinar platform. If you do have questions as we go, we’ll get to them as we go, or if we miss it during the presentation, we’ll get to you at the end. But please do enter your question. I wanted to start by talking about CFO and controller collaboration.
Amanda Goebel: Yes. So with us here, working with the controller and myself is a very integral part of our organization because she is responsible for doing all of our closing and setting up any new systems we might have, ensuring our books are accurate, up to date, so that when we have to go into audit or our board meetings, everything is correct and in there. We have to collaborate and work together on a daily basis and are in constant communication. With Intacct, it has allowed us to work smarter on a lot of our tasks and the fact that I can go in and check where she’s at at any point in time makes life that much easier for us here in the organization.
Judy Hanover: So you’re able to automate a lot of your back and forth by using this solution?
Amanda Goebel: Yes.
Judy Hanover: Sophia, tell me a little bit about your org. Who do you report to and how are you working with financial automation and for collaboration?
Sophia Shafiq: So we did have a CFO when he first came on board. Now, he’s the managing partner of the organization. And just to piggy back off what Amanda said, we integrate, we speak on a daily basis and with the ability to have a dashboard on our Sage Intacct, he sees where I am in the close process. He can have any questions and we can kind of talk back and forth throughout the month before we even need to do a close. So we get questions answered, he gets his reports as he wants, depending on if it’s a regular report or a specific dimensional report. Again, and it’s in its ongoing discussion. So it’s never a one point in time that we have those discussions, kind of an ongoing thing with the both of us.
Judy Hanover: Sounds really productive.
Braam du Plooy: I’m reporting also to the CFO. He is more responsible for the strategy and to strategic decisions. I’m more for the day to day and the configuration of accounting software and processes. He is also based in Paris, France. And although he does travel between to United States and France quite regularly. But we collaborate through mostly other than just normal talk through on the phone, also through dashboard in terms of when it has to come by financial decisions. I have quite a elaborate library of dashboards that supports certain scenarios and cases, and Sage Intacct has a wonderful tool which they call collaboration. It’s almost like a Twitter feed within the financials. And any question that you may have, or comment or anything that you would like to explore a little bit more can be done through that. And that becomes actually part of the record, which is really handy. And that is also not just with him, but also, I use the same tool to collaborate with other departments.
Judy Hanover: This is a finding from our CFO 3.0 study that we conducted at Sage Intacct. And one of the things we’ve seen is that CFOs and controllers are increasingly being called upon to not only run day to day accounts, but to provide strategic guidance to their organizations. I wanted to get feedback from our panel. How is your role changing? Are you being asked to provide more strategic guidance than you were five years ago, 10 years ago? Sophia, want to start?
Sophia Shafiq: Yes. So for us, since we’re a very seasonal business, so we have summer months and winter months. So now that we do have Sage Intacct, we’re able to kind of look at our year in advance and kind of pull the dimensional reports, pull the financial reports from not only this last year, but from previous years, and then kind of do a dig down on what we think the trends will be going forward. And that goes down to departments, as well as the products we’re providing, right? Some products do better than others. And so with Sage Intacct, we’re able to kind of dice that data down to kind of the nitty gritty to get to what we think will help us grow the business, as well as the bottom line, based on each department’s kind of running totals on what they’re doing in any time period.
Judy Hanover: So really being able to make some data driven decisions that you weren’t able to before.
Sophia Shafiq: Correct. Because before, I mean, we used QuickBooks before and it was one dimensional. We weren’t able to see what any one department was doing, but now, with Sage Intacct and the ability to do dimensions, we’re able to attach the dimension to expenses as well as revenue. So we’re able to pull actual product detail down to the bottom line. Whereas before, we kind of had to export in Excel, talk to five other people to see what the bottom line actually looked like. So now, since we’re able to pull it straight out of the system, we can have those conversations to say, “Okay, this is what we did in the last two years. These are the parameters we need to move or to grow this one product up or down, or should we just chuck it? And we don’t need this because it’s clearly eating more funds than it needs to.”
Judy Hanover: Yeah. Braam, what about you? Has automating your financials changed your ability to weigh in more on strategy?
Braam du Plooy: Yeah, absolutely. And I agree with Sophia as well. It is all about that you can make decisions based on data, which is more real time. I think that has been the biggest change. The fundamental duties that you have, it’s very similar. It’s just that the tools has changed. If you think about we all used to have just a calculator and that’s before computers. And then somehow, we got a desktop computer and then the introduction of Excel or spreadsheets, I should rather say. And then you had a desktop software, accounting software and then cloud.
And now, with the coming of cloud, you have more integration and with the newest artificial intelligence. So all those tools has become more sophisticated. And when I say sophisticated, not necessarily it’s more difficult, it’s just become way more intelligent but yet easier to work. And that cause you or can help you making decisions on data that you can actually quickly extract. In the old days, you would have to go and go to an analysis to come and find the data. It would take maybe days or weeks, but today, it’s all there, it’s all set up and you can extract it very quickly and you can make a decision in real time.
Judy Hanover: That’s great. Amanda, how has it affected your ability to?
Amanda Goebel: At our organization, having real time data helps us because we have, a little bit different than Sophia, is we have where we get our dues in here at one time, they’re all supposed to be paid by October 31st and that is what we are supposed to operate on for the next 12 months. So we have to be able to see everything in live time to know where we’re at with expenses and where we’re at as far as cashflow. So having Intacct behind us has allowed us to be very strategic in what we’re going to spend and what new initiatives we’re going to drop for our members because our members are the main priority in our organization. So we want to make sure that we’re giving them as much benefits as possible. So without the ability to see anything in live time, we would not know where we’re at and we would just spend money recklessly and Intacct has allowed us to control and monitor all of that.
Judy Hanover: That sounds great. We can’t work on anything else until we finish closing the books. So let’s turn to that topic and our polling question, Neil, if you don’t mind advancing the slide. This is our first question. How can we become more accurate and efficient at closing the books? How long does it currently take you to close the books? If you just use your mouse on your screen. Does it take you one to five days, six to 10 days, 11 to 30 days, or more than 30 days? You have about 10 or 15 more seconds to answer that if our audience would love to have your feedback.
The majority of our audience is in that six to 10 day category with a nice bell curve with some folks in the one to five days and some in the 11 to 30 days. And just four percent at the more than 40 days. So now, let’s turn to our panel. Braam, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what closing the books looks like at Discover Atlanta and what are your goals? Where did you start? Where are you at now? And how much pressure are you on to close faster?
Braam du Plooy: Yeah. So before the conversion, it took between 10 to 20 days to do an actual close or actually to run financials. When I say close, then I would say to the point of when you actually publish your financials. So with using Sage Intacct, it reduced significantly to, on average, about 10 days. And then those 10 days sounds a lot, but it’s by choice. We don’t have a statutory requirement to close on a monthly basis to a reporting body. Although we have a reporting body, but it doesn’t urge us to close anytime sooner or later. That’s kind of like just a perfect place for us. I have the capability to close within five days if I need to. However, these certain areas that I find that I kind of take my time.
And specifically, when you use modules with revenue recognition and also depreciation, prepayment, those are all little modules. You can put that on the schedule and it can do it automatically but however, I do prefer to do that still manually. So actually, manually clicking the button. Look at it before you run it. All those modules are very sophisticated and they’re doing a really good job. You do find still that from time to time, there are things that specifically certain outliers that you need to look at and then if you have closed it, then it just makes this a little much difficult if you see one outlier because you want it to be perfect, right? So therefore, you run it manually or you look at it and then you actually run manually. So those are the things that just hold me back a little bit, but it’s by choice, it doesn’t need to be, if you have an urgency and you have a statutory requirement. For our size business, it can easily do it within five days.
Judy Hanover: Sophia, does that resonate with you?
Sophia Shafiq: It does a little bit; however, I would like to close sooner. Like I said, we’re a very seasonal business. A lot of our sales come from third parties. So in order for me to get our cash back, I need to have the month closed and the AR sent out so that we see that return within the month, because that is a cash that carries us through the month. So if I have a higher AR at the end of the month, it doesn’t help us kind of grow the business. So for me, we do right now close in about seven days. I would like it to go back to five and we’re working on automating some of our point of sales transactions so that we are able to go back to five. But for right now, it’s about seven days. And again, it works for us right now, but hopefully, we’ll get back to the five, so that as we’re going into our winter months, we’re able to turn around the AR balances, and then we can work from that.
Judy Hanover: That’s great. Amanda, how does closing the books look at your shop?
Amanda Goebel: Closing the books here is a lot different than Braam and Sophia. It actually is about a two plus week process for us to close the books and it has nothing to do with Sage Intacct. It has everything to do with our AMS software we have. The reconciliation we have to do just in that for our revenue recognition is a very lengthy process that we are in the process of actually updating and changing softwares, just so that we can make that process much easier much quicker so we aren’t going to have to spend tons and tons of hours to do that. If we had a more automated process with that, or when we implement the more automated process, we will bring our closing process down to probably three to five days here, which is fantastic because we have multiple companies that we have to close the books on.
Judy Hanover: Wow, that’s three very different processes for closing the books at three different types of businesses. Let’s go to the next slide and get slide 11. So what we did see in our study was that about 90% of our responses were under pressure to close the books faster. It doesn’t sound like I heard pressure from any of you. And maybe Sophia a little bit, but more just the time that you take to close the books, you have to fit the needs of the business a little bit more. Is that what… You’re all nodding so that’s pretty much what we are seeing here. You’ve automated it to the point where you can pretty much close as quickly as you want to, but you really still want it to meet the business need.
Next one after that. So this is also from our close the book study, and this is an annual study that we do at Sage Intacct, so we’ll have some, some new results around the springtime. This is our 2021 version of it, but among respondents with more than five entities, we found that closing the books was two days faster when they had a cloud financial management system instead of an on premise system or using spreadsheets. Next slide please. And the five areas that had the most impact on time to close were manipulating data on spreadsheets, trying to get information from other teams that was needed, reconciliations, investigating anomalies and exceptions, those outliers I think Braam spoke of, and then manual data and import.
So just not having all your information in the same place or having to grab it off a spreadsheet seems to be the biggest time killer when it comes to closing the books. Cool. So let’s talk a little bit about automation. Where and how can we make better use of automation technology? So who wants to talk a little bit about how automation has affected your role in financial decision making, particularly automation in the cloud, financials in the cloud. Braam, do you want to start off?
Braam du Plooy: First of all, I think for us, a huge component that we started off to automate was accounts payable. It’s 100% automated and also paperless. So that has reduced time saving for us by 70%, which turns into a huge amount of saving of time that you spend and therefore, people or your staff can spend it otherwise. So we also went ahead and automate a few other processes. Also, our membership organization, we have automated partly. That is partly automated. So certain manual components there, but it’s for the most part is the building piece of it is automated. So in a nutshell, there are so many places we can go and automate, and it all turns back to the amount of time that you save and we can use that time wisely elsewhere.
And that has helped us, the time that we saved, to actually spend time in building dashboards that actually tracking and monitor processes. And we can actually witness outliers very quickly. And so you can make decisions on that. So I am a big proponent of automation. It’s just unbelievable how the contribution it has made and compared to costs in terms of setting it up, first of all, a lot of these niche, little software that integrate with Sage Intacct. It’s little cost, there’s little things. There’s certain software that I use that charge $20 a month, which is unheard of. But it plays a critical role in our AP process. So there are lots of things that you can find and use that is not an arm and a leg, but then also, it’s easy to set up. The majority of the software that has been integrated, I’ve done myself, in terms of the activation and set up. So a huge, big contribution that has made in our organization.
Judy Hanover: Yeah, absolutely. That’s totally the beauty of the cloud open API platform. Just being able to access all those additional marketplace apps and add them to your ecosystem. Sophia, I know that your move to paperless kind of was forced upon you. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what happened and how going paperless?
Sophia Shafiq: Last year, we did have the pandemic hit, which we took a huge blow being in the hospitality business, but soon thereafter Memorial Day Weekend, our office had a huge fire, burned our office, our engineering shed, burned everything we literally owned. So right before that, I did start using an AP system with Sage Intacct that was integrating, which was great because it helped us tremendously get a lot of our stuff paperless. But then, it really kind of was solidified when we did have the fire, because we’re like, if we didn’t have it at least a year before that, doing an audit, doing a review for the bank would’ve been quite difficult. And since then, we’ve used it kind of full force. And while everyone’s been working from home for the past year, that integration between the AP software and Sage Intacct has saved me a whole lot of sleepless nights because my users are still able to utilize it.
Invoices are all scanned in, and it automates with Sage Intacct with just a push of a button and it’s come over real time. The directors who are approving their invoices see it in real time. So they’re still able to track all their expenses for their employees, I can still manage cash flow in and out, and it kind of has helped kind of all of us stay accountable for what we’re doing in the downtime. While we did have to scale back our staff, the people we did have on board, you really appreciated having that system in place because they were still able to kind of do their work remotely. And I was still able to kind of manage what we were doing in the office remotely and kind of continue to do so. So the automation has really helped and we continue to look for other automations with Sage Intacct, which is great because it does have that open API. And so our next few months, we’re going to be looking at what else we can automate so that we take some of that kind of off my plate.
Judy Hanover: That’s great. How it affected you and personally, I heard controllers don’t get to take many vacations.
Sophia Shafiq: Once we went to Sage Intacct from QuickBooks, it was the first time in maybe 10 to 12 years that I actually took a two week vacation, which was really weird. I did leave the country, but thankfully, we had Sage Intacct, so I was able to log in, submit payroll, would get financials, while I was sitting on the beach, having my coffee. And I mean, I can’t say enough about how it’s been accommodating for not just me, for my kind of executive staff who’s able to have that confidence in a system that they’ve never had. And they see the data in real time and they’re comfortable that the automation is working and the data that they’re giving has integrity. And there’s a lot of just transparency and there was no accountability prior to it.
Judy Hanover: Amanda, how is the automation working for you in Orlando?
Amanda Goebel: When I came here, they had a bit more of a manual process. So I rolled up my sleeves and we started with a lot of automation. So we have started with the AP and expenses. The expenses were huge for us because the process, before I got here, was very manual. Paper receipts, hand filled out forms, which was just a nightmare. And when it comes to audit time and COVID, and nobody’s in the building, it’s hard to get the records you need when you need them. So we’ve implemented a third party expense and payable solution that allows our staff to do their expenses on the go. And it pulls directly from their company credit cards and pre fills everything out for them. So all they have to do is attach a receipt at the end of the day, which makes it so much easier, so much faster for us.
It used to be about a two-week process for expenses to even be turned in from all employees. Now, we have it down to five days. And we’re also in the process of implementing several other softwares that integrate directly with Intacct, that will automate a lot of things like our revenue that we have to monitor and keep track of. It’s going to directly integrate with that. So we’re just continuing to kind of push forward with automating a lot more tools. And this will allow us to focus in other areas because we don’t focus just on our not for profit side. We do have a for profit side that we’re trying to get off the ground so that we can get income from that to better serve our members as well.
Judy Hanover: That’s great. So, this is your polling question number two, how well does your organization, this is for our audience, integrate financial and operational data? Can we launch the poll? So a couple of options. We’re killing it, all of our data is at our fingertips, you’re all integrated and in the cloud. We’ve got a little bit more work to do, our key systems are integrated, but there’s more to do. We haven’t started yet, and we don’t know where to start. Those are our four options. If we haven’t hit the one that you need, feel free to tell us about it and ask a question. Give you a couple more minutes to answer before we go to the results.
Most of us have our key systems integrated, but still have some more work to do. And I think that’s actually where most of our panelists are. Once you get started with integration and automation, it’s a little contagious. You tend to spot the next thing that you want to bring online. Let’s talk a little bit more about automation with our panelists. Amanda, tell us a little bit about how having an integrated financial and operational data system has affected your business and your ability to financial strategy.
Amanda Goebel: For us, it allows us to, again, see everything in real time, and I’m able to give our board members information very quickly. With all the automation, I can see where we’re at with any expenses, any payables, we’re going to be able to see where we’re at with our dues billing and revenue and the likes of that. But the biggest thing for us is that every department has their own budget that they have to operate within. And so it’s given us the ability to put together a dashboard or a report that we can send out, or they can access to see where they’re at with regards to their budget because we produce a lot of events as well here for our members. We’re talking probably one event a week. And they have a very strict budget of where they have to stay in. So by having a lot of these processes automated, it gives them more of a real time number on where they’re at and how much money they have left to spend and or reallocate from one budget line item to another, which is something they’ve never had before.
Judy Hanover: That’s great. Braam, what about you, have you been able to leverage automation to accelerate processes? And what’s next for automation at Discover Atlanta?
Braam du Plooy: I want to echo what Amanda said. We have exactly the same situation. And what I am confronted with now is actually there are so much analytics and so much information, that it’s a good thing, but now, I sit in a situation where, how do I offer that information to whom what is needed? We do it with our board and other stakeholders, but I’m talking more about departments. With all the sophistication, there’s quite a vast amount of information available because I have gone and created so many dashboards and created so many scenarios. And there’s so much information that sometimes, I myself forget that I have certain information. So that is the next step, is to actually filter through that.
And to kind of work out how do you actually sort of work with all of that? Or how do you present it when something… Because a lot of these things, I’m talking about ad hoc projects that come along and people want to know something specifically right now. And a lot of times, I have something already, but there is so much that you sometimes forget that it’s actually there and then you find yourself in this path of actually go and create it again, because it’s easy to go create it, but then notice that, “Oh, I’ve done it before.” So it’s those little things that one need to look and think what tool can you use to help you filtering through all the results, all the analysis that you’ve created to your advantage? How do you use it optimally? Or more efficiently, I would say.
Judy Hanover: That’s great. Sophia, what’s next for automation at Red and White Fleet?
Sophia Shafiq: For us, what we are going to start focusing on is getting our point-of-sale system automated with Intacct. Right now, it’s somewhat of a manual process as well as a direct feed, but we would like to see more of that data automatically feed over so that we do have the ability to drill down to our customers, to our third parties, as well as seeing where all of the payments are coming from. Do we need to move off of working with third parties? Do want to kind of expand on where we’re available, like the Viators that get your guides in the world? So right now, we look at that in our point of sale system and manually kind of extract it and work with Sage Intacct. But in the coming months, we’re working with them to kind of automate that a little bit more so that we can see the dollar value on top of what the sales channels are bringing in, just to give us a better synopsis of what the organization is doing on the frontline.
Judy Hanover: It sounds like that’ll give you a lot more visibility. Why don’t we go to our next slide, Neil? So this is also from our close the book study and we looked at how automation affects the close and found that really, the proportion of your journal entries that are automated very much affects your close. So less than 50% of automated journal entries, you’re looking at about 11 days. More than 50%, you’re looking at eight days and the real pros with more than 90% of their journal entries automated are able to close in that five days. That seems to be the target for most of us. Next slide, please.
Let’s talk a little bit about everybody’s least favorite topic, audits, how can financial automation help us to better prepare for audits? Why don’t we go to our polling question first. Next slide. So how prepared are you for your next audit? Very prepared, bring it on, you could audit us today. I’d like a month’s notice. And you’re better off while waiting till the end of the year. Can we get the poll active for our audience? Still looks like one no one has to think about. Give you couple more seconds. We’re at about 80% voted. Cool. And Neil, let’s close the poll move on. So the majority of us, we would like at least some notice. Well, we’ve got a good 39% that are ready on the spur of the moment. And only about 11%. We are in October already, yeah. So depending on your fiscal year, how long that is, but ready by year end. Braam, why don’t we talk a little bit for you? How confident are you in your preparation for audits and how is automation helped? Braam?
Braam du Plooy: This is my favorite subject because audit used to take or audit preparation used to take at least a month. We do all the schedules and everything. Now, what I’ve done is I converted all the schedules to dashboards or type of reports. And what I do, I actually roll those dashboards just over from one year to the next. And it takes me approximately about three days maximum to do that. I go through everything, the data just updates automatically. So it’s basically just changing the date, maybe tweaking in and there something that you find that you. I would look at the previous year, maybe that you wanted to tweak, now, you tweak it. So it’s all done. There’s a nice, again, a great feature that I referred to earlier that I said collaboration, that’s a tool that you can insert in your dashboard and you can actually talk with your auditors.
You can also give your auditors access to your system. And it’s only view only and by permission so you can give them whatever you feel like so you don’t have to give them everything but enough just to see what is necessary. And so for me, the audit is now just a period for me where everything is set up because your processes stay more or less the same from year to the next. And so that’s actually something that is now. Something that I just don’t look or I would say looking at it as, “Oh, this is going to be a terrible time.” It is just something that’s just quick and fast.
Judy Hanover: Is it quick and fast at Red and White as well for audits?
Sophia Shafiq: Yes, we do everything that Braam does. The one thing that I haven’t been able to kind of figure out is the collaborate piece, but the auditors do have access to our system at a limited capacity and I can track when they log in, which is great. I do have scheduled reports that I generate monthly so that I do have those on an ongoing basis just for my sanity and just to verify what they see. But it’s great that I can give them access and they can log in at any given time. And sometimes they do. They’re like, “Hey, why is this here? Let’s think about this.”
And it also helps us since we’re a small business and we’re a C-corp planning for year end and our tax liability, which is huge for us being a small business. We don’t want a huge tax burden. So it helps us kind of plan our year, having them have access to our system and making sure we’re doing things come when the audit does roll around and the review that comes around for the bank, that we are prepared and we’re accounting for things as it should be.
Judy Hanover: It sounds like it’s a productive process. Amanda, how are audits going for you?
Amanda Goebel: We just are finishing up our 2020 audit, which is a whole thing for us, but it’s my first experience with audit here. Because the process was done very manually beforehand, the audit was a little bit of a nightmare. Luckily, with everything that I have seen coming in, we’ve already started instituting so many different policies and procedures to get the manual process out of the way. We’ve instituted our AP and AR software. We’re instituting a closed management software that is going to show the auditors all of our checklists, all of our reconciliation tie outs. It’s going to show everything to them and they’re going to have their auditor access, which will automatically limit that. And we also give them full access to our system because it’s just easier and saves everybody time and energy because they can go in and pull everything and see the audit trail that you guys are so graciously put into the system for us.
Judy Hanover: Let’s go on to our next question. I know folks have a lot to say about reporting. So our fourth question, how can we use reporting to collaborate and communicate better, to improve the accessibility of financial reports and statements, and to replace, well, maybe not replace Excel, Excel has some great uses that we value it for, but not for financial statements. Replace Excel for financial statements. Bram, do you want to talk a little bit about how you’re using reporting?
Braam du Plooy: The reporting is, the feature itself, to create reports from a configuration standpoint, is really easy. And that helps you to do all kinds of things, because there’s a feature that’s called dimensions and you can slice and dice data and in conjunction with that, you can prepare some great reports. You can also, when you publish its financial statements, you can either choose to print it the old, traditional way and email it straight from the system or you can give your board access to the system. However, we don’t do that.
It’s very unlikely that they will log in. Many of them are still kind of on paper. So what we do is the statements are set up and published from there. And what you can do is it’s very flexible and robust enough to set up in a way, the way you want. It has a feature that’s also called account groups, which you can use to actually manipulate a report in various ways. And together with dimensions, there’s just so much you can do. And with us, all of that is… We use all the features that’s available and it’s easy to produce and to publish.
Judy Hanover: Amanda, and I know you’re still getting started. How’s it going with reporting?
Amanda Goebel: Luckily, they had a good reporting in place here. The people who implemented put some really good reports in place, however, we are going to be creating a lot more reporting to help every department function better. And because Intacct is easy to use, it’s quite easy to figure out how to do that. We do utilize a lot of the same things that Braam had mentioned earlier with the account groups, which are huge for us, because it breaks our departments out and the dimensions help as well break all of our departments out. So it helps us not only with doing our financials, but when it comes to expenses and AP, it makes it that much easier for the individual users who do not work in the finance department to ensure they’re putting their expenses in the right place.
Judy Hanover: Sophia, I know you mentioned that you’re more confident in your data now and it’s improved your interaction with the board and leadership. Tell us a little bit about that.
Sophia Shafiq: We use the dashboard. So I’ve created a dashboard for each individual director as well as board member. And those are specific to those individuals on what they need to see or what I would like them to see. Some of them don’t really know what they should be looking at. So that has helped me create those financial reports. And as soon as they log in, that’s their landing page and that’s what they see on a ongoing basis, and it helps me kind of talk to them through what they should do either by month, by end of year. And it also helps them keep track of their employees, of their expenses. And then for the sales, it helps them track their sales numbers by budget, as well as buy actuals either year end, prior year. And then it kind of keeps the discussions going because it’s real time and they see it sooner than they would later.
If they look at it mid-month, they know how much they have spent through that time period and then how much they have remaining. And if we need to reforecast, if we need to have a conversation, they have the ability to see those financials in real time. And then some do see it broken down a little bit further because we do use dimensions quite heavily between the department directors and the sales team. So we do have a collaborative environment where they all can see similar data, just broken out on how they should see it.
Judy Hanover: Let’s advance to the final question. What are the benefits that we’ve seen from financial automation and what’s next on our roadmap as we look to maximize those benefits? Amanda, do you want to talk about the benefits that you’ve seen so far?
Amanda Goebel: Everything with automation has allowed us to produce everything much quicker for our board of directors. And internally, we are able to make decisions much easier and much faster when it comes to various requests because we also get a lot of outside requests as well. So having the automation helps us with that. For next steps to help us further on this, we are actually getting ready to sign up for a new AMS software, which consequently is the only AMS software that is on the Intacct marketplace, which to us, holds a great candle for the software. That’s going to help automate even further with our dues billing because that is our bread and butter on that. And we have over 20,000 members we have to bill annually. So it’s going to help with that and it’s going to help automate the process between the two systems and take our process that takes weeks for reconciliation down to days, if not hours. And we’re going to just continue down this path of automating as much as possible and getting rid of as many Excel workbooks and paper as possible.
Judy Hanover: That sounds like a great initiative. Braam, what about you? Tell me more about the benefits you’ve seen.
Braam du Plooy: There are so many benefits, but I think it all comes down to two things. It’s time that you save, time that you give back to your employees and to yourself. It creates a life-work balance, both the panelists as Sophia and Amanda has mentioned in terms of going on vacation. And so also for your staff. All the automation give back to not just the organization in terms of the savings that it has for cost and so forth, but it gives people’s lives back for you and that increase morale in your organization. And therefore, it also empower your employees to do more. And it’s just phenomenal what it does. We are now in the process of actually replacing our budget software with the Sage Intacct module, budget module. And this would be the first budget period that we’re actually using it. And that has a whole bunch of other enhancements that will bring some more automation to the organization, which I’m looking forward to.
Judy Hanover: That’s great. Sophia, what about the benefits at Red and White Fleet?
Sophia Shafiq: For us, it’s been the ability to kind of slice the data in various ways, helping us grow the bottom line, because now, we can take the sales numbers by different products that we weren’t able to do prior to sales before Sage Intacct, and then help us kind of grow those products because now, we can tie it down, all the way down to the expenses associated with it. And then what’s next for us is kind of getting the point of sale system, as well as our inventory on that point of sale system into Intacct. And then hopefully, in the next year or two, we would like to be where Braam is in doing the budget and planning piece. But as we get out of this kind of pandemic and get hospitality back up to speed, that’s just kind of going to be down the road.
Judy Hanover: The benefits of financial automation, whether you’re using Sage Intacct or another platform are definitely worthwhile. We do just have a couple more minutes. I have a couple questions from the audience that are very product specific, actually. So, if you asked a question that is product specific, and I think that’s most of them, I’m going to have someone from our product team get back to you after the webinar, if that’s all right. Let’s talk a little bit.