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May 4, 2020

Overhauling our finance system during lockdown, are we mad?

Overhauling Difrent's finance systems during lockdown

When I joined Difrent at the beginning of last year our Operations team was relatively new, and we had drawn on specialists to ensure that we had all of the key processes and systems in place to support the business during the growth from startup to scale up.

I was itching to get stuck in from a Finance perspective - I had experience in implementing Finance systems, so my focus was on de-risking and streamlining our Finance function.

Within the first six months, I changed how we banked as a business, and how our people dealt with their timesheets.

This work made our Finance function stable, got us away from living in spreadsheets, and made the payroll process a lot less reliant on potentially error-prone manual processes. This was not, however, enough...

Going the whole hog

Steve and I have a great working relationship, we can (and often do) chat numbers for hours. It was during one of these conversations that we had the idea of going the whole hog - relying a lot less on our accountants, bringing all of our Finance in-house, and implementing a new all-encompassing Finance system.

This would save us money, time, and give us genuine control over our ways-of-working, processes, and future.

I had a very clear vision of what we needed from a Finance system, so took my requirements to the market.

It took very little time to realise that Xero was the best solution, so I prepared a presentation for my SLT colleagues. Then COVID-19 happened.

Whilst the lockdown interrupted this process, it was only really a minor blip, as we are so well-prepared for remote working.

COVID-19 also had an unexpected side-effect - it made me realise just how much we relied on third-parties for significant parts of our financial processes (especially payroll) and how we needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, as soon as possible.

As you would expect from a company that lives and breathes ‘Agile’, the SLT made a decision fast on purchasing Xero fast.

Implementing new systems

We implemented Xero at the beginning of April. There were a few tedious weekends of data entry (to get our data to mirror that of our accountants), and a lot of reading of the manual, and I was ready to run the first payroll!

To be honest, doing something this new and important whilst working from home, I felt isolated and totally alone, and knew that a mistake from me (or from the system that I had chosen), could delay my colleagues and friends being paid.

But you know what? It turned out that there was no need for the worry or the drama, it was really simple, and it has made our payroll process faster and less prone to error.

It isn’t just payroll. Xero allows us to be on top of all of the financial aspects of the business, and to produce actionable insights that apply to both short-term processes, as well as longer-term strategic planning.

Final thoughts

So, would I recommend implementing new systems remotely (in the middle of a lockdown)?

It wasn’t without some discomfort and fear for me - it's always nice to have someone nearby to figuratively (or literally) hold your hand, but Difrent already had the physical and cultural support structure in place that made the switch to remote working as painless as possible.

Even in lockdown.

Written by Nicola Carney- Finance & Operations Manager @ Difrent