flinder CEO Alastair Barlow said: “We’re super proud of the launch and building our own technology was the natural next step in supporting our clients and fast-growth businesses to get more meaning from their data.”
So what can other digital accounting firms learn from this?
We caught up with Alastair to get the low-down on why they built their own application, the differences between financial and operational data, how the platform works, who it’s most suited for, and whether other firms should be pursuing data analytics as a service.
Why build your own data-analytics platform in house?
In our recent webinar – Plugging the gap: The pros and cons of building your own accounting tech in-house – flinder’s CEO & co-founder, Alastair Barlow, shared his imminent plans to release their own in-house platform having grown frustrated with other tools on the market not giving his clients what they needed.
A number of existing analytics & reporting tools for accounting firms tend to focus just on financial data, and often come with fixed, templated reports. “We needed something that looked at more than just financial data that could be aligned to the goals and strategy of the businesses we work with”.
Up till now, flinder have been using Klipfolio to create custom dashboards for their clients, but the platform came with its own limitations around connecting vast volumes of data, and speed of processing that flinder and their clients needed.
What does the platform do?
The real-time web app surfaces deep business-wide insights which, through a managed service, are customised and aligned to a company’s strategy. But what makes this different to the plethora of analytics and reporting applications already available?
The platform works by combining financial data through integrations with apps like Xero and Quickbooks, with operational and non-financial data through integrations with apps like Shopify, Google Analytics, Hubspot, Airtable, and Asana.
“Financial data only shows one side of the coin. It tells you what happened, for example you spent 10% more on marketing last month. Non-financial data doesn’t just help you to understand what happened, but more importantly why it happened and what the outcomes were. This then leads to deeper conversations with clients and better actions.”
As well as combining data to drive insights, the platform also comes with a managed service. It isn’t an out-of-the-box, templated reporting application, but rather something that is built and aligned around the strategy of the business and the decisions the business owners need to make.
Who is this for and how does it help them to make better decisions?
The platform was built first and foremost for flinder’s clients. These are Tech/SaaS and Ecommerce start-ups typically between Seed and Series C stages. Due to the fast-growth of these businesses, they need access to real-time insights to help drive decision making.
For these businesses, they constantly have their eye on metrics like:
- Cost of acquiring customers (CAC)
- Lifetime value (LTV)
- Average revenue per user (ARPU)
But as well as knowing these metrics, they also need to be able to answer questions like:
- Why has our ARPU changed?
- How much is from a change in user or plan profile?
- How much is from plan expansion or contraction?
- How has plan mix impacted hosting costs and gross profit?
- How have customer demographics driven customer acquisition costs?
- How has geography affected customer success team costs?
Without combining financial and operational data, it would be extremely difficult to find answers to these questions and help the business owners understand what’s driving their businesses.
When asked if it can work for other businesses, Alastair said “It could work for mid-sized businesses, up to around the £100M revenue limit. Retail businesses could be a good fit since Point of Sale (POS) means that data is constantly updated.”
Should other firms be pursuing data analytics as a service?
Data Analytics is something that Auditors may be more familiar with since it’s application allows them to engage entire data populations and consider trends/anomalies when completing audits.
But what about non-audit firms looking to provide great insights to their clients?
“We see this as a huge opportunity to add real value beyond the numbers, to have much deeper business and strategic conversations with our clients. This isn’t the right strategy for all firms, but certainly enriching the financial story with what it actually means for the business is likely to be well received by most decision makers!”
flinder’s data analytics and reporting application is currently available through invite-only. Whilst the immediate plan is to focus on their own portfolio, it may become available as a tool for other accounting firms in the future. If you are interested in learning more about how you could use it to support your clients, either sign up to the early-access beta here or get in touch with flinder.