Buyer-facing, self-service finance? Liberty Safety shares their Zoho Finance Platform expertise

(Anand Pandarinath of Liberty Safety)

Most individuals’s top-of-mind model affiliation with Zoho is CRM. However there are many finance leaders who would contest that. With Zoho’s Finance Platform hitting a number of milestones – together with 500,000+ companies throughout 60 nations, it was time to meet up with a type of finance leads.

Once I discovered that Canada-based Liberty Safety had carried out Zoho Finance with none outdoors consultants, that basically sparked my curiosity. The deep finish of the abilities pool makes for a difficult mission, however it’s additionally take a look at. Let’s face it: right this moment’s enterprise customers aren’t adopting your software program en masse if it takes a military of consultants to configure it.

For Liberty Safety, the problem did not finish there. When Anand Pandarinath joined the corporate six years in the past, he had no prior Zoho expertise. Now the VP of Finance, it was Pandarinath’s job to guide the Zoho Finance implementation (Liberty Safety is a Zoho One buyer). Sure, Pandarinath took the leap. As he advised me:

I had by no means labored with Zoho in my complete life. They only stated, ‘Right here you go. Please implement this module. I had a very non-technical crew. Our finance crew was all low-level technicians, you already know, simply analyst-type folks.

Finance is altering – “We have made lots of our monetary interactions front-facing to our prospects”

Add one other twist: Liberty Safety, which payments itself as “Canada’s alternative for good house safety and enterprise alarm methods,” has a contemporary, subscription billing mannequin with appreciable nuances – the kind that may flummox old skool accounting software program. Pandarinath continued:

We even have a comparatively fascinating billing and monetary factor to our enterprise, which I can clarify a bit bit. And that is why Zoho appears to suit for us. So we went actually from soup to nuts. We went from the very first implementation of: let’s change over our outdated accounting software program to the brand new one, and our outdated billing software program – all to the Zoho platform. And we did it with no advisor.

“I am unsure if that was one of the best transfer,” jokes Pandarinath, and we’ll get again to that. However what Pandarinath advised me about Liberty Safety’s management actually struck me. After they determined to maneuver from Quickbooks to Zoho Books, empowering enterprise customers wasn’t the one driver. It was a recognition that finance is altering. Now, there’s a customer-facing factor to contemplate. Pandarinath explains:

The mentality that they took once they made the change, is that we have made lots of our monetary interactions front-facing to our prospects, versus this again room accounting voodoo that the majority firms appear to do.

That was the final precept of going ahead. How can we mainly take non-technical folks, customer-facing employees, and get them to start out taking good care of a number of the monetary transactions? We have saved to that precept proper to date.

Pandarinath has a deep accounting background, however he is not technical, and he is not a CPA. That is Zoho Finance Platform take a look at:

I used to be a very good guinea pig, as a result of if I may determine it out, which means they had been heading in the right direction… I used to be capable of ask lots of the questions that junior folks would ask, proper out of the gate. That actually helped with the implementation, as a result of we did have lots of people ask these questions.

The Zoho Finance mission kicks off

Liberty Safety went stay on Zoho Books shortly, however like every enterprise finance mission, the transition took time:

We did it in levels. Zoho Books – we switched on day one. It was the cost of the finance and accounting crew primarily to do it… We did cut up up a bit bit. I had my payables and receivables groups, with their respective experience, check out the parts of the module that affected them. We’d meet on a fairly common foundation as a crew. 

There was some trial and error that was concerned, simply to get issues going. However we did make the most of the Zoho improvement crew a good bit of that first 12 months. So we most likely obtained the Books module actually flowing in about 12 months, you already know, between going via the 12 months ends, and evaluating to different numbers. We nonetheless needed to preserve our earlier data simply to ensure every thing was balanced out, earlier than we turned every thing off.

The subscription billing side may have been the massive mission glitch, however it wasn’t:

The opposite section that we introduced initially was the subscriptions module, which is a very distinctive factor. There’s solely 4 or 5 actually respectable subscription billing modules on the market in the marketplace, that cater to this type of viewers. That was truly very profitable.

Zoho One is likely one of the solely enterprise merchandise the place you possibly can simply increase into totally different areas – with out altering licensing. Has that paid off?

Since then, we have since rolled out different parts of the suite. They’ve truly gone extraordinarily effectively, as a result of now we all know the ins and outs of the platform. So we have rolled out the expense platform, the exterior billing platform and the stock platforms. They usually all simply form of folded into one another. As soon as we obtained probably the most troublesome one finished, the remainder had been truly surprisingly straightforward.

Zoho One made it so much simpler, since you had entry to the totally different merchandise simply. It was all there. We did not have to actually go and look and discover and discover. They had been simply in entrance of us, and tremendous quick integration. The administrator simply has to show it on or off, which is nice.

Self-service, customer-facing finance?

One other payoff of the Zoho One method? Getting enterprise customers on top of things shortly:

The opposite factor we discovered: a minimum of within the finance suite, every of the totally different modules has a reasonably comparable look. Whenever you bounce backwards and forwards, you are not having to show folks new issues… Definitely from the again finish, from the executive aspect, I can learn the backend actually clearly. After we do take into consideration coaching very junior folks like front-facing customer support employees on these items, we are able to bounce them between modules extraordinarily shortly, and so they do not even know the distinction.

It wasn’t too laborious to configure. I’ve junior employees arrange the subscriptions, and put them into place proper there on the cellphone with the shopper. Any modifications which might be made, they’ll make it on the cellphone with the shopper proper there and say, ‘Hey, John, I simply modified the date, since you obtained a brand new job, and also you’re now being paid each third week’ or one thing – it makes all of the changes for you.

Self-service, customer-facing finance sounds intriguing, however what does it appear like in follow – the place is the payoff?

Zoho Finance additionally permits the shopper to have a portal. So the shopper can see every thing, which is the one piece of software program I discovered that has that. We give all our prospects a portal. Plenty of instances, we are able to simply inform them, ‘Hey, as an alternative of calling within the subsequent time, simply open up the portal that you’ve got been despatched. It is catered to you; you possibly can see a historical past of all of your transactions.

You may change your billing, in case you like; you possibly can change banks; you possibly can change your bank card; you possibly can change your property deal with, and it flows to the entire system. They do not even must name in anymore. So for me, that is enormous, as a result of managing 30,000 prospects each month, it is lots of labor.

The wrap – on outcomes, Zoho Analytics, and spreadsheet dependancy

Each mission has its highs and lows. At one early level, the system despatched out an unintended e mail to 30,000 prospects. However as soon as Pandarinath gained familiarity with Zoho, these configuration modifications weren’t laborious. I puzzled if offering that self-service data had a possible to backfire, creating extra buyer assist pings. Quite the opposite, says Pandarinath:

Since I carried out Zoho, I took my crew and I dropped it by 50%. I shrunk my crew by half, as a result of I obtained the system to do most of that work for me. For lots of that stuff, we put automation features in. We utilized the workflows that Zoho implements. And the notifications – we put all these issues into place, as a result of previously, I’ve truly had folks that might undergo and put issues via Excel, after which ship folks emails and all that form of stuff. Now, that is simply gone.

One problem all finance leaders can relate to: Excel dependancy/attachment. “We have had resistance from above; we have had resistance from beneath.” However even right here, Pandarinath sees progress. They nonetheless permit Excel, however Zoho Finance is the system of report. Excel is changing into a knowledge dump sandbox. Zoho Finance permits for a long term collaboration: “We’re pleased with 80% of what you are given us, if 100% of the folks can use it lengthy after you are gone.” Pandarinath says that message is beginning to resonate.

So would Pandarinath do it once more, with no advisor? No – he advises prospects to get a talented professional in, to assist with the preliminary migration. He additionally advises making good use of the Zoho improvement crew. As Zoho Finance comes of age, that dialogue has proved vital:

They have been tremendous receptive to our suggestions. They by no means inform us that they are going to do it immediately. However they put it on there; they put it on their roadmap. And we often do see outcomes alongside the best way. I have been pleasantly shocked within the final couple of years to see what they’ve responded to. That is not one thing that we’re used to, I feel, in enterprise anymore.

Subsequent up for Pandarinath and crew? Zoho Analytics. He plans to drag in all their CRM, buyer and vendor data. “We’ll begin going deep within the (w)gap of value accounting, and an evaluation of that.” That may open up a unique degree of monetary modeling and projections – and, maybe, a powerful win for what’s potential if you transfer off of spreadsheets. That is a worthy ambition for any finance chief.

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