Scalable data management is crucial
Ilya Kondrashov, co-founder and CFO of MarketInvoice, says investing in keeping data clean and integrating across data assets is the number one priority.
Kondrashov explained the logic behind integrating the company’s CRM, e-accountancy platform, trading platform and other data assets in to one central data warehouse.
“These are very different data assets, so integrating them into one data warehouse is quite a big task, but this gives you incredible functionality,” he said.
Kondrashov added that having integrated data functionality allows the alternative lending platform to monitor its customer journeys from the time they come to the website for the first time all the way through to buying the product.
This lets you see how many times the customer was called by a sales person, how many items of marketing content they received, what revenue they brought over their lifetime, what costs were incurred in servicing them along the way and how many similar customers are on the books.
He said how having scalable data management was crucial to the rapid growth of the business:
“I've seen so many things bog down in Excel sheets which are hard to manipulate and ridden with errors and false assumptions - that's the real downside of Excel - there is no way to stop errors from occurring.
“It's so much easier to do financial planning when you have such granular information on your customer base - from this you'll be able to pin down required headcount, training and other resources needed to grow the business” Kondrashov said.
Of all the techniques and processes he currently uses, Kondrashov said the prize would go to Looker - a tool that works directly with your data and creates a common data language for your business to use.
“This software is incredibly flexible in generating data to perform various kinds of analysis and make reporting really easy and enjoyable,” he said.
He also explained that as a tech company, MarketInvoice needs to be able to grow and change its course quickly.
“As CFO you won't be able to assess, forecast and measure the ROI of every project and you frequently have to go with ‘gut feel’ on how to allocate resources,” Kondrashov explained. “It's a difficult task to monitor performance of all parts of the budget given the rapid growth usually associated with tech companies.
At the beginning of 2014 MarketInvoice had less than 20 staff and this number grew to more than 50 at end of that year with new departments and functions springing up quarterly and requiring their own financial planning and budgeting.
“Supporting a fast pace of change and staying the course in terms of financial management is a very tough, but also an exciting task for a tech CFO,” he said.
To help deal with that challenge, a lot of it boils down to management and trusting key people to ‘do the right thing’.
“We like to empower the key employees to handle finances of their own teams as if they were running a small company themselves. Everyone needs to know what their team is contributing to the overall business even if they only have internal customers (I hate the word ‘cost-centre’!) and every team lead needs to understand what value they are creating.”
He added that MarketInvoice used Xero for a lot of its key bookkeeping, planning, settlements and analysis tasks.
“Because it’s a cloud-based service we can easily collaborate with other members of the finance team and run reports and generally monitor the performance of the various aspects of the business together.
“We also use modern data tools to link financial and operating performance - we have a data team that has created an impressive data architecture and we are using Looker to analyse the performance of the business in near real-time. Only by using scalable data management tools that allow for multiple parties within the company to collaborate can we stay on top of the financial side of things,” Kondrashov said.
Ilya Kondrashov is co-founder, CFO and COO of MarketInvoice.