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Most useful technology in your role

What piece of software or technology is most useful to other CFO's and is something you "cannot live without?"

Answers

david waltz
Title: Assistant Treasurer
Company: Integrys Energy Group
(Assistant Treasurer, Integrys Energy Group) |

From a Finance/Treasury perspective, I will draw the ire of all software vendors with this comment, but my vote is for Excel due to its flexibility in handling any situation adequately.

We use a Treasury Workstation to manage cash, and it is a great tool, convenient, and it speeds up processes. But if I imagine it going away tomorrow, we could get by if we had Excel. The reverse is not true - the Treasury Workstation cannot do a Monte Carlo analysis of three correletated variables on an outcome, or perform a Net Present Value analysis of a potential acquisition.

Nor can the ERP system do those things above, but if there were no accounting systems in the world one could keep the books in Excel.

Jeff Taylor
Title: CFO
Company: Communications Co.
(CFO, Communications Co.) |

Increasingly it's Skype and GoToMeeting. If I can't "get the message" or get my message across to others on my team, in my e-staff, or at a customer/supplier, I'm lost. In fact, we're lost (my company, that is). I used to hear the term "collaboration tools" and wonder just what in the heck they were talking about. Now I not only get it, I've got religion.

A close third place would go to Google Docs/Spreadsheets. Again, this is just such a simple and real-time way to share thoughts and information.

Great news about these three things: two are free and the third, GTM, is cheap!

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Jeff, I just swtiched over to Google apps (finally!)- any feedback you have, appreciate any tips or words of wisdom. Thanks.

Jeff Taylor
Title: CFO
Company: Communications Co.
(CFO, Communications Co.) |

Dana, words of advice are to use it non-sparingly. My first instinct with Google Docs/spreadsheets was to only use it when it was clear that I wanted a bunch of folks to share a spreadsheet. What I found was that a lot of my work was collaboraborative, i just hadn't thought about it that way before. So use it if there is going to be almost any sharing/collaboration and you will find the conversation opens up.

I definitely look to use it with any real-time collaboration. It's great to see two, three or four folks updating concurrently. It turns a conf call from "sit and listen" to "get it done now, together".

Mark Stokes
Title: CFO
Company: Private
(CFO, Private) |

I'll raise you some cloud apps! I like your point about collaboration and would like to expand on it a bit. We use a bunch of cloud applications which a)provide great core functionality, b)foster collaboration and c)maximize efficiency.

For instance, our full T&E reporting is done via the cloud on an app called Expensify. An employee in MN adds her T&E info to the platform, it's shuffled around automatically to approvers via workflow and she gets reimbursed in her check. Huge tech win. Easier for the employee, easier for our accounting folks, and easier for me b/c it's quick, cheap and I don't get complaints :).

Likewise our ERP system, Netsuite. We use for both CRM and full accounting-G/L. It's just so darn simple to see the numbers - from anywhere. This cloud thing definitely has legs. Access is secure but simple and ubiquitous. One of my accounting staff is remote, not a problem. Likewise, when audit time comes around i just give our audit team access. They don't even have to come to our offices. And no offense to our team, but it's better to have them offsite b/c we don't have the space for them here (and they tend to think more about questions they send us in email than those they just grab us for in the hallway).

We have other systems we use that are critical, but these are certainly core and they simply change the way we do back office work.

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Mark, I am definitely doubling down on the cloud. Have not heard of Expensify, used to Concur, so thanks for the tip.

Kristy Allen
Title: Business Process Analyst
Company: Workforce Software
(Business Process Analyst, Workforce Software) |

Hi Mark - I would love to speak with your further on your use of Netsuite. I am currently evaluating new accounting systems and they are one that I am looking at. If you are interested and available to speak with me please email me at kallenatworkforcesoftware [dot] com with your contact info.

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

I believe the most universally used technology is Excel. I honestly don't know how business would be conducted in the world without it. Who would think the lowly spreadsheet would be the most important development since the wheel.

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Scott, remember Lotus123- I thought that was the best thing when it came out. Of course computers were the size of a desk, but such was life then (ok, I guess I am dating myself now, but I chuckle when I realize my phone is more powerful than the "computers" of our entire audit team back in the day.)

Sara Laidlaw
Title: President
Company: Accounting Services Bureau Inc
LinkedIn Profile
(President, Accounting Services Bureau Inc) |

I love Expensify!! We are a remote based outsourced accounting firm and dealing with expense reports and company credit cards can be a coding, authorization, missing receipts hell.

We are solving this by slowing requiring all clients to use Expensify. We control the G/L codes that they can choose and the setup. Even the worse executives seem to like snapping pics of their receipts while they travel and forwarding them to their account so the images are waiting to link to their report later. The reports travel via email for approval and corrections, then finally to the bookkeeper to import. We are saving hours and hours of labor.

Depending on the client, I don't like the way it imports into QuickBooks as we can only choose one vendor name for import. We use something like "Jones #2345 AMEX." The actual vendor name imports to the memo field. Some clients want to be able to look up charges by vendor later. For them, we import from the credit card company and use the reports to code the charges. At least the reports come in balanced, properly coded and the receipts are part of the pdf. The mileage function is pretty slick, too.

Kristy Allen
Title: Business Process Analyst
Company: Workforce Software
(Business Process Analyst, Workforce Software) |

Sara - how long have you guys been using Expensify? Did you evaluate any other systems before choosing them? If so, what made you choose Expensify?

Bob Gold
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Atrenne Integrated Solutions
(Chief Financial Officer, Atrenne Integrated Solutions) |

To Dana Price and Scott MacDonald...I'll really date myself...do you remember Visicalc??? I don't think I can even work on paper again!

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I think Multimate predated Visicalc (and yes I've also dated myself).

And believe it or not, I still use paper occasionally...

Charley Kyd
Title: Founder
Company: ExcelUser
(Founder, ExcelUser) |

Canned software is like a high-speed train. If it's going precisely where you want to go, it can take you, many others, and a lot of baggage to the same destination quickly.

But if you want to explore for gold in the mountains you pass, or even if you want to peek behind a nearby hill, that high-speed train is the wrong solution. You need need a Jeep, which can take you nearly anywhere you want to go.

Excel is that Jeep.

These days, in this economy, it's more important than ever to leave the rails and search the hills for gold.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Canned is great if you go exactly where the train is headed, on its time-table. ERP vendors make their money because everyone wants changes to the schedule, which they pay for time and time again with every upgrade...

So, try not to modify the canned package...

Ross Fuller
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Ross DS Fuller CFO Services, LLC.
LinkedIn Profile
(Chief Financial Officer, Ross DS Fuller CFO Services, LLC.) |

I concur completely. Not only do I love leaving the rails, not going off them, the adventure of looking for gold in them hills is where the real excitement lies.

You must be a great communicator. I love the analogies!

Charley Kyd
Title: Founder
Company: ExcelUser
(Founder, ExcelUser) |

Thanks, Ross!

Speaking of Jeep solutions, I created the chart here...
https://www.proformative.com/discussions/bearish-economic-indicator-fear-continues-trump-greed-corporate-bonds
...in Excel.

(I haven't tried entering a URL in a comment before. So if it fails, search for: bearish kyd.)

I used an add-in that allows Excel formulas to pull the data directly from the FRB, among other sources. It also supports the Loess smoothing algorithm to smooth their data. It only took me about 15 minutes to create the chart from scratch. I doubt that any other software could have generated a chart like that, no matter how much time I took.

Topic Expert
Barrett Peterson
Title: Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis
Company: TTX
(Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis, TTX) |

We use SAP and I would be hard pressed to function without it as a very valuable data store. I depend on FICO, MM, and FA mopdules. I use Microsoft Excel to analyze data from SAP - downloaded or extracted - and other sources, another function difficult to perform otherwise. I use Microsoft Word for written items, common in my work. I use PDF files created in Word, Excel, or Acrobat to store unchangeable copies of files. I use Microsoft Outlook, seclect RSS feeds and automatic email receipts, and for email and daily/periodic time management and time scheduling/planning. I use Internet Explorer as my web browser. Finally I find Netvibes a very valuable homepage in Internet Explorert0 collect RSS feeds from various sources organized by topid.

Ralph Baxter
Title: CEO
Company: ClusterSeven
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO, ClusterSeven) |

@Charley Kyd - I think the high-speed train / jeep analogy is great. In some minds, however, it may suggest that you have to make a choice between the two. I think the power of modern Excel allows you to ride both at the same time.

I think of a modern information architecture more in terms of a convoy of warships. The main ships are the core applications. The fighters/helicopters/assault ships provide the rapid deployment of resources/data between members of the convoy and for external sorties - these are the supporting Excel applications.

The problem with the eternal battle between supporters of spreadsheets and supporters of systems it that each is only considering a part of the whole story.

Jose Luna
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: CHWF Inc
(Chief Financial Officer, CHWF Inc) |

I would have to say I cannot manage without my Blackberry. Almost everyone I know even loyal long time blackberry users have abandoned the brand for an apple product. What do yall prefer? ( yes im from Texas) I am still a Crackberry addict.

Jeff Langston
Title: CFO
Company: Baxter Franchise Group
(CFO, Baxter Franchise Group) |

Most useful technical tool for me has to be Excel. We use several softwares for different areas ranging from CRM to ERP. In spite of all that, I still retain an Excel version of everything which serves as a backup too. Excel just gives me a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

Having said that, I love the reporting and seamless functionality of MS Great Plains. It fits in just perfectly. Our sales people use SalesForce and swear by it. For T&E we use Gorilla Expense which we cannot live without anymore. It is integrated with Great Plains and has made life simpler.

To Robert Gold, I still remember the VisiCalc days. I think I may still have its manual with the black cover! (I am feeling really dated now :)

Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

I have to say Essbase. I had used Hyperion before, but Essbase is a powerful tool in pulling data quickly and putting it in a format that can easily be analyzed.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Excel has withstood the test of time. The product is versatile and can be used to analyze data stored in many databases. Very hard to do without.

Josh Tabin
Title: Technology Practice Manager
Company: vcfo
LinkedIn Profile
(Technology Practice Manager, vcfo) |

Excel is by far the clear choice...not using Excel is like camping without a compass, knife or map.

Collaboration tools would be #2. I live in Dropbox, Skype and GoToMeeting.

Since I believe most SaaS applications are CRM based in core functionality, I would put CRM at #3 because I can automate so many workfows and improve visibility and efficiency exponentially. We're heavy users of Clarizen and Microsoft Dynamics CRM although Salesforce is looking compelling more and more.

The more I look at solutions like NetSuite and Intacct, the more I believe that it can be the basis for Self Directed Cloud ERP because I can integrate so many pieces into it on my own versus a pre-built ERP system.

I guess the answer past Excel will vary depending on what the CFO's business is about.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

Agree that Excel is a fabulous tool. I think of it as a 2 dimensional workbench, but wait there's more...

Excel can help you with structured financial equations, financial statement templates, accrual to cash models, fixed asset rollforwards and any other type of "accounting" or "finance" recon need. Its also a great loader tool for mass transactions for data bases.

Anything you can dream up, Excel can help you accomplish in one way or another.

The only thing limiting your use of Excel is not being exposed to the creative ways that it can be used. Sometimes those methods are closely guarded secrets.

The power of Excel is in its ability to help you manage the data separately from the structure, just like a database.

So if you can change the way you think, efficiency can be yours.

Best.

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