How Typeform Saved 50% of Time Devoted to Business Planning by Replacing a GSheets-based Process

With Abacum, the FP&A team was able to automate manual tasks, save two weeks of time monthly and drive faster insights to their business partners.

🎯  Key Points

  • Preparing monthly actuals for Typeform’s management accounts used to take 2 weeks each month. 16 GSheets had to be manually updated and individually sent to business partners, leaving limited time for analysis.
  • Abacum automated manual tasks and made data ready in a click.
  • Collaboration with budget owners within the platform allowed FP&A to gather information faster and conduct deeper analysis.
  • Improved quality of insights led to better strategic decisions geared towards meeting company operational and financial metrics.

Typeform, the online form creation company, became a fast scaling company shortly after it was founded in 2012. They had raised $52 million in funding backed by Index and General Atlantic, among others, onboarded top-tier customers such as Slack and Superhuman, grew to more than 360 employees and expanded internationally. Keeping up with its success meant that it attracted a sophisticated finance team to drive better insights into the organization.  

By this time, Typeform had expanded to 16 business units, each with its own complexities. To ensure the efficient growth of the business, seasoned CFO Xavier Castellana turned his attention to the business planning process and decided that they should adopt automation software to make it faster, more scalable and collaborative.

Typeform’s Former Process

The company’s financial and operational models were managed in one GSheet document that contained 16 tabs, one for each business unit. After each month-end closing, the FP&A team had to update business plan actuals by adhering to the following process:

  1. Pull management accounts from three systems: Netsuite (ERP), Looker (BI), and BambooHR (HRIS)
  2. Transform pulled .csv files into GSheet-ready data by manually reformatting cells
  3. Combine, adjust and organize line items across the three sources via formulas (e.g. vlookup, sumifs, etc.)
  4. Enter data manually in each tab’s financial model
  5. Troubleshoot formulas and other errors

Data assembly was a manual effort that normally took one week to complete.

“Updating the actuals was long and painful. We had to download the data from each system, organize, align it, then enter it manually into our financial models. A lot of wasted time and energy.”
Loren du Preez, FP&A Analyst

However, the process did not end there. Once the models were prepared, it needed to be sent to the different business unit owners to be validated and updated. This required another series of steps that usually lasted another week:

  1. Copy each tab to a separate GSheet file (one for each department)
  2. Email files separately to each business partner
  3. Review documents for comments, updates, and errors (which normally led to back-and-forth conversations in email, Slack and GSheets comments. Sometimes 10-15 replies long)

Once each business unit’s actuals were closed, the FP&A team started their analysis but by that time, it was often a rush job.

"It was usually a photo-finish just to get insights and reports done for executive meetings. And also, it was just kind of the same analysis month-on-month due to lack of time."
Maria Guasch, FP&A Director

The FP&A team needed a more sustainable solution for the work they were doing - one that had a direct impact on the rest of the organization. Implementing Abacum was a great start to that change.

Automating Data Transformation and Performance Analysis

Immediately, Abacum reinvented the data gathering and preparation process by eliminating the need to enter into each system and manually combine them in GSheets. Instead, Netsuite, Looker and BambooHR APIs were connected to Abacum’s platform and data could be synchronized from these systems instantly.

Another major change was the need for GSheets at all. Typeform’s models were configured into Abacum such that once month-end data was ready, it could be transposed directly into a table inside Abacum’s spaces. With this, performance analysis (variance) could be automatically updated.

The FP&A team was also able to create dedicated spaces for each of the 16 business units and build the models and tables in them. As Loren puts it:

"The first time we had the data fully automated was an amazing weird experience. We didn’t have to do anything and the models were fully updated."

Through automated data transformation, Typeform turned ten days of manual tasks into minutes.

Easy Collaboration

With Abacum, the FP&A team also began minimizing emails to business partners. Dedicated spaces within the platform were created and kept private, and only made accessible to business partners if shared by FP&A. Within these spaces, FP&A could tag someone with a comment and they could reply back in the same space.

Typeform found three big benefits for all stakeholders by collaborating in Abacum:

  • Conversations moved at a faster pace because it was as easy as chatting over Slack or Whatsapp. Discussions also took place in the same space as the data so it was easy to refer to numbers or errors.
  • Version history of modifications and updates was easier to manage than documents being passed back-and-forth by email.
  • Organization of data by time frame and business unit was simpler by having it all in one platform, including comments, analysis and reporting.

Finance as a Close Strategic Partner

The immediate effect of automated manual tasks and fast collaboration was the increased time to perform analysis and drive insights. With more time cleared up, the FP&A team had their reports prepared for business partners within a week.

The quality of reporting also improved because of better communication and feedback between stakeholders. Organizational and financial metrics were updated timely and, from an executive perspective, these enhanced conversations have led to better decisions.

“Having data readily available and transparent to our business partners has made a big difference in our forecasting process. We’ve made faster and smarter decisions on a company-wide level because our forecasting is more powerful.”
Xavier Castellana, CFO

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Automation, collaboration and fast time-to-insight can make a huge impact on your company’s financial planning process, the same way it did for Typeform. If you’re interested to see how, check our product page or book a demo and we’ll help you become key strategic drivers in your organization.

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