Any sized business, from startup to enterprise, depends on its accounting department to keep finances in check. Accounting software, expense management software and other finance software have automated and streamlined the day-to-day tasks that comprise the nurturing and maintenance of a company’s financial health. Accordingly, artificial intelligence software capabilities have been making their way into the financial sector.
The research team at G2 Crowd spoke with our own senior accountant Joe Stuckel about his overall function at the company, as well as his thoughts on the forward-thinking progress the accounting department has undergone.
Jasmine Lee: What is your background in accounting?
Joe Stuckel: I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting. I worked about three or four years in public accounting — audit — at BDO. Then a couple years at a different software company here in Chicago as a senior accountant before coming to G2.
JL: How long have you been with G2?
JS: Almost two years, since May 2015.
JL: What do you do on a daily basis? What are your overall responsibilities?
JS: My overall responsibilities are overseeing the day-to-day operations of the accounting function here. Kyle [Olson, staff accountant] handles billing, customer billing, and accounts payable. We have so many customers now, so a lot of Kyle’s focus is billing and collections. I do more with reviewing all that stuff, managing projects, getting stuff done on time (month end close, for example, I usually get that done by the fifth business day), and more of the reporting aspect, which I’m currently focusing on. I also get management reports ready, budget actuals, meet with department managers to go over their spend and where they’re tracking. I do a lot of planning now. Ted [Weitzel, VP of finance and operations] and I plan for future months and year.
JL: How cross-departmental are you?
JS: I have a lot of interdepartmental conversations. There’s a lot of cross-department work here in the finance world. Like I said, one of the big things I’m doing right now is preparing all reports for management teams. I show all managers what their spend is at compared to what we’ve budgeted. I typically meet with the managers every month. That’s what I’m doing this week, how the company came out after February. I also plan for headcount, which comes from Taylor [Morgan, HR and recruiting coordinator], but it’s all relevant to the meetings we’re having, because we’re talking about salary budget and stuff like that.
JL: Can you speak to the expense management tools we use at G2?
JS: We use Expensify. We use it for two things: the main thing you see is for you to record your expenses every month for whatever costs you incurred here at G2. The other thing we do is we link our corporate credit card so that everything is tracked in there. At the end of every month, we take all that data and import that into our accounting system, which is Intacct. A little different than expense management software, that’s more full accounting, general ledger software.
JL: I assume there was a lot of research done to make sure Intacct and Expensify integrate well with each other?
JS: When I came on, we were already using both of these, so that was before my time. But we do need to look into more seamlessly integrating the two, I believe it’s possible now. But what we do now to integrate the two manually is: Expensify can give you a good data export that is Intacct-friendly and requires pretty minimal manipulation. Kyle does that at the end of every month, which is why I count on you guys to get your expense reports in. We take all that, whittle it down to a little more Intacct-friendly file and import it. It’s a pretty quick process, compared to doing it all manually. It’s pretty easy to use, there’s not a lot of bells and whistles to it. Which I don’t think there needs to be here at G2.
RS: Has it scaled well? G2 Crowd has more than doubled in employee count the past two years.
JS: Yeah, it has.
JL: Has there been any or much change in processes since the time you started?
JS: A little bit. When I originally came on, it was just me in accounting. We didn’t have Kyle or Ted. So I was reviewing, approving and reimbursing all expense reports. Now we’ve separated a little bit, where Kyle handles the data imports, Ted is the final approver and I reimburse. So we split the tasks a little bit, put a bit more control around all of our processes we have in general, now that we have more people have.
JL: What is the general workflow?
JS: The general workflow is: employee submits it, it goes to their direct manager, then their manager approves or denies it. If it’s approved, it then gets routed to finance and then to Ted for final approval. Once Ted has final approved it, it comes to me for reimbursement. I’m the one who triggers the payment from our bank back to our employees.
RS: And that’s when you look at trends, reporting and analysis?
JS: Yep, that’s what we do at the end of the month. Once we get all that data imported, we can look at how our month turned out and figure out where we overspent or underspent.
JL: How much of what you do translates to understanding and analyzing the company’s financial data? I assume you play a very big role in the necessary risk for corporate financial expansion.
JS: Yes, absolutely. This is a very big year for us, because we’re trying really hard to stick to our 2017 plan. In the past, our budget plans have been less specific. This year, Ted and Tim [Handorf, founder and CEO] built a much more specific plan this year and so far, one month in, we’re doing pretty good. We’re trying to hold each team accountable, and part of that is the meetings I hold with the team managers every month. I give them visibility in how they’re doing on budget each month. That’s all important stuff. At this point now, G2 has been around four, five years, so it’s time to stop acting like “anything goes.” That’s what we’re trying to do, on the financial side. My main focus is getting that stuff accurate and right to give ourselves the best quality information to make decisions.
JL: How much of what you do is informed by the trends you notice in the financial space? Do you pay much attention to trends or changes, like automation, in the space?
JS: I do pay attention, specifically in the finance software space, because that’s the area I like to be in. Automation is key in all of this. To give an example, one of our projects in late 2016 was integrating Salesforce [CRM] with Intacct so we could streamline our billing process. That way,Kyle doesn’t have to manually create invoices and punch in all the data. That cut down the invoicing time quite a bit and made it more accurate. So automation is key because it frees you up to do more what I like to call ‘value-added work,’ which helps the company grow and focus on bigger-picture stuff to improve on our business.
JL: Do G2’s accounting processes work differently than other companies?
JS: My favorite part about what’s different is that it’s more efficient, automated, more forward-thinking. The last company I was at was too old-fashioned at what they did. My account manager still did paper for reconciliation and had these binders. Here, we don’t do any of that. Everything is digital, which it should be. Ted is more innovative than previous managers I’ve had, so he’s always looking for better, more efficient ways to do things. Integrating software [programs], like I said, we had not done that at my previous company. So we had to spend a lot more time doing more menial tasks when they could all be automated. At the time, I didn’t have the experience or vision required to understand that or to know how to get to that point, but now I’ve seen what it can be.
JL: What do you wish people would understand about your role?
JS: Hmm. I think what we do doesn’t result in a tangible finished product that people can see. It doesn’t really result in a tangible finished good, but there’s a lot of value added there. G2Crowd.com doesn’t have any of our results on there; the things we do aren’t seen by anyone except us. The company employees don’t know it happens, but our stuff is crucial to the business being run and continuing to scale. And that’s what we’re focusing on this year, to make sure we can scale appropriately.