23 Oct 2019 | Articles

Seven Ways Finance Teams Drive Efficiency With Automated Pipelines

Jeff Tietz
Jeff Tietz
Seven Ways Finance Teams Drive Efficiency With Automated Pipelines
Easily modify income statements, set up alerts for cost overruns, automate data integrity checks — these are just a few of the things you can do with a modern data stack.

If your finance team relies on services like NetSuite, Quickbooks or Xero, and you want to simplify data management and improve analytics outcomes, the case for centralizing your financial data with automated connectors is overwhelming. Here are seven reasons why you and your team should consider using a modern data stack — automated connectors, cloud warehouse and BI tool — instead of relying on DIY pipelines or in-tool reporting.

1: Unlock Modern BI Tools for More Flexible Reporting

Many businesses rely on the built-in reporting offered by finance services, but that usually involves maddening compromises. In-tool reports are often difficult to build and frustratingly inflexible. Say you have a parent-child relationship with your departments and you want to modify an income statement so you’re only aggregating to the parent income. If you use NetSuite, you can’t do it — you’ll get all the income, whether you need it or not. Budgeting and real-time reporting in NetSuite are similarly cumbersome.

In a modern data stack, you use automated connectors to continuously pull data from the API and sync both historical and changed data to a cloud warehouse. Add a modern BI tool and you can create dashboards that update in real time. You can easily create dynamic financial statements, investor metrics, customer KPIs, and other automated reports — including budget reports that alert you in real time when actuals exceed approved amounts. 

2: Join Data Across Sources to Tell a Larger Story

Consider two real-world examples:

  • You have a massive amount of customer and marketing data in Salesforce, and a massive amount of financial or transactional data in NetSuite. Combine them, and you’ll have a rich, holistic picture of the business. You’ll know how your customers interact with your products over time and how those interactions account for different revenue streams.
  • You use opportunity data from Salesforce to do reporting and forecasting; your invoice and sales orders flow in and out of NetSuite. Combine this data, and you can validate your reporting and forecasting by comparing actual sales revenue with reported or forecasted sales revenue.

Enriching data by joining sources offers myriad benefits. With Fivetran connectors and a modern cloud warehouse, you can add new data sources in minutes and easily query across them.

3: Avoid Massive Data Engineering Projects

Financial-service APIs can be incredibly difficult to work with — NetSuite being Exhibit A. Soon after Fivetran started to build our NetSuite connector, we realized that there was a "three-way disconnect between the software’s UI elements, documentation and data feed,” and the data feed itself consisted of thousands of denormalized tables. It took us well over a year to build the first two iterations.

NetSuite may be an extreme example, but building your own pipelines to finance APIs can quickly turn into a major project. We estimate that it takes a full-time data engineer five weeks to build a typical pipeline and four weeks per year to maintain it. Fivetran prebuilt connectors, on the other hand, deploy in minutes, require no maintenance, and automatically adjust to schema and API changes. From a total cost of ownership perspective, they’re invariably more affordable — even before considering the value of reallocating your engineering resources to more strategic projects.

4: Automate Integrity Checks for Financial Data

Classification is the key to maintaining data integrity in any financial system — it tells you exactly how each transaction serves the business. That means each transaction needs the proper identifying data: transaction code, location code, department, subsidiary, etc. In the real world, though, transactions are often incorrectly or incompletely classified.

With a modern data stack, you can easily build integrity checks on top of the data in your warehouse. BI tools like Looker and Tableau have sophisticated and highly customizable alerting systems; you can set them up to notify you if, for example, a key transaction identifier is missing or inappropriate for the transaction, or if sales revenue falls to zero. These alerts are far easier to set up in a BI tool than in services like NetSuite, and they’ll surface issues much faster.

5: Access All the Raw Data From Your Financial Services

It’s impossible to access everything you need in the UIs of financial services like Quickbooks, Xero and NetSuite. If you rely on the Xero UI, for example, you won’t have access to unique transaction IDs, object relationships, or changelogs, and you won’t be able to do lookups on your data or tie it together. You may get as little as 10% of the total data Xero generates. Fivetran connectors, on the other hand, replicate all the raw data a source generates, with normalized schemas optimized for SQL-based analytics.

6: Access Deleted Data

Generally speaking, financial data should never change over time — and yet it does. When FAs and FPs find new inconsistencies on core financial statements like balance sheets, income statements and outstanding bills, they need to be able to understand what created the inconsistency and how to reconcile it. Often, that requires access to deleted data. Being able to view deletes and grasp how numbers have changed over time is essential to maintaining accuracy. Fivetran connectors provide access to this data, so you can quickly identify the source of inconsistencies and understand how and why data is changing over time.

7: Keep Your Financial Data Secure

Data security and privacy are critical issues for every modern business, and financial data requires an additional degree of care. Fivetran takes privacy and security extremely seriously, employing a host of security measures to protect our customers’ data. These include:

  • Encryption for data in transit and at rest. Using a key unique to each process, we encrypt data both in transit and at rest as it passes through Fivetran systems.
  • Column hashing. Fivetran customers use column hashing to anonymize warehouse data. The hashed result is the same across data sources, so you can still join on key fields without the risk of exposing sensitive data.
  • Column blocking. Fivetran users can block specific columns from replicating to their warehouse, avoiding storage of sensitive data.
  • Custom roles. Top-level administrators can create roles with custom permissions, including which data sources a role can create, edit or delete. 
  • Compliance with security standards. We’re compliant with SOC 2 and conduct an independent AT101/SOC 2 audit annually.
  • Strict data retention policy. Customer data is never stored longer than 24 hours on Fivetran servers, and all customers retain ownership of and control over their data.

To learn more about deploying Fivetran finance connectors for your business, reach out to sales@fivetran.com.

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