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System solutions for recently funded tech start-up - focus on forecasting/reporting/dashboards

Mike Long's Profile

I need to set up the initial systems for a soon to be VC funded software start-up and would like suggestions for a group of add-on's that work well together. You know the drill, year 1 is all about expense accounting, managing cash and investor reporting. The "plan" changes constantly, no revenue, no rev rec issues, pretty much software development mode. Normally I would use the following apps, QBO/Xero, Bill.com, Expensify, and Sure Payroll to take care of the basics, but this set-up falls short for forecasting and reporting. I really need to be able to create a collaborative financial model with management, create several more scenarios as the year rolls along, produce rolling forecasts and dashboards available for management to monitor. I looked in both the QBO and Xero app store and the solutions all seemed rather low end. High end products like Host Analytics and Adaptive Insight are great but like using an elephant gun for deer hunting. In a perfect world you might use one of those products with Intacct but that may be overkill and costly for a start-up. Planguru looks good, i have a copy, but its not web-based and doesn't plan nice with QBO or Xero (i don't think). In summary I'm looking for cloud based scenario forecasting and reporting tools that are capable of producing dashboards and rolling forecasts that integrate with an ERP appropriate for small business.

Answers

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

First, I wouldn't spend limited resources on software to make my management reports and forecasts look pretty. Instead, I'd do it all in Excel, which can generate good-looking results with relatively little effort.

Second, I'd export your spending data to CSV or text files, open them in Excel, then set up Tables to contain that data. (Tables were introduced in Excel 2007.) Each month, you can export new spending and add that data to your Tables easily.

Wikipedia defines "database" as "an organized collection of data." So think of those Tables as your reporting database for Excel...even though it's not a "real" database.

You typically can use the SUMIFS and COUNTIFS functions to return filtered sums and counts from those Tables.

Most management reports, unfortunately, look like they're designed to document performance rather than explain it. But dashboards, on the other hand, are designed to explain performance. That's why their tables tend to be small and they tend to have many charts.

I would NOT get fancy with your charts. Use line charts for monthly trends, and use bar or column charts otherwise. Don't use 3D charts or pie charts. And certainly don't try to simulate gauges.

If your start-up is like the ones I experienced, your forecasting methods will change a lot as time passes. One way to adapt to those changes is (for your forecast data) to use the database system I described in Chapter 7 of my ebook, Dashboard Reporting With Excel (http://exceluser.com/training/index.htm). That ebook also gives examples for formatting your Excel dashboard.

Hope that helps.

Topic Expert
Alan Hart
Title: Consultant
Company: Pacific Shine Group
(Consultant, Pacific Shine Group) |

For budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence / reporting you should look for a solution designed for smaller companies (scalable to mid size organizations). There are, however, certain features you should have in the solution, which can make all the difference between a successful and failed (or not used for its intended purpose) implementation. I recently wrote about the 10 "must have" features in such an application which can be found here:

http://budgetingexpert.com/10-must-features-budgeting-bi-solution/

This can be used as a reference when you are actually ready to compare features of various software solutions.

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