CFO · Excel

Looking for financial forecasting/modeling tools and CFO types

Eugene St.Clair Chief Executive Officer at Humanproof

August 8th, 2013

I am reading a book called "Growing Pains" and it talks about staying out in front of infrastructure needs as you grow. Unfortunately, I find myself in between systems where I have an accountant, a book keeper, quickbooks, and excel charts all trying to reconcile with bills, invoicing, accounts, etc. Does anyone know one tool that can pull it all together and report all the numbers an executive needs to see a year or more into the future without having to build 20 excel spreadsheets, pay thousands of dollars for an "enterprise solution", or hire 6 different people?. I literally had a CPA tell me yesterday "no one has ever asked me for that". Sounds like we should build it! I know these tools must already be out there. Does anyone know about them or have recommendations? I want to track contracts, invoicing, employee cost, profitability, and forecast into the future to see how different scenarios play out for infrastructure buys, strategic hires, new offices, etc. I know excel can do it but that is far too much work to maintain. Also, I'd like to chat about when its appropriate (size-wise) to bring in a CFO type or start getting consulting guidance on CFO-type support. There must be a critical mass you can anticipate for this. Thanks!!

Nick Amabile Data Analyst at Etsy

August 8th, 2013

Hey guys.

I've worked in finance and operations for two eCommerce companies and worked in consulting as a data analyst. I've faced similar problems where data is spread across disparate systems making a high-level view of the business difficult.

Unfortunately, I don't know of specific tools that would aggregate data from accounting systems, customer databases, CRM, etc. In the past, I've built custom dashboard applications in addition to managing a collection of spreadsheets, SQL queries, and third-party reports. 

In eCommerce this is maybe a little easier than in other industries since many of the tools we use have APIs to build on top of. It's also probably not cost effective to build a custom solution until you have well defined processes and metrics that you're already comfortable with.

For forecasting and modeling, I'm not aware of a better solution than Excel. The process is generally very iterative and qualitative, and Excel provides the flexibility to create models specific to the drivers of your business.

I would check out, or some competitors. It's tough to know if any of these apps would fit your needs, since it would depend heavily on your business and exactly what you were trying to accomplish.

For most small to medium sized business, the tasks of managing spreadsheets, creating dashboards and reports, and building forecast models can generally be handled by a single skilled Business Analyst. This would be someone who had both technical ability and business acumen.

I'm happy to go into more details about processes and solutions that have worked for me in the past or make more specific recommendations if you provide a little more detail about your business and your goals.



Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

August 8th, 2013

Hi Eugene.

You sound a bit exasperated with just the accounting part. My $0.02 is nail that so all your basic accounting functions without much manual integration and then keep your planning model separate. Maybe you have to copy/paste a few numbers every time you want to re-forecast, but generally what I've seen is that you want to loosely couple your operational from planning systems... you probably don't want to reforecast every time you have a good or bad week.


Rob G

August 8th, 2013

Eugene, gearing up for that ourselves so i'd be interested in the feedback. quickbooks will likely be the primary data store.  I suspect there is an ecosystem of add-on QB apps that can address much of this.  i would have to think there are plenty of bean counters out there who have crossed this same path many times. maybe a contract CFO would be a good place to start. 


August 11th, 2013

I'm also not aware of a single system that pulls everything together, however this may be helpful to you -

I'm looking at giving a shot for managing the financials of a couple small projects that are in development.  They also have a list of accountants on the site and I'm thinking that the accountants they list may be a bit more forward-thinking in using apps and systems other than Quickbooks.  Despite my best efforts to find a different system, it seems like I'm not able to avoid Quickbooks, which is the direction my accountant keeps pushing me towards.

Good luck and I'd be very interested in what you learn along the way!

Bruce Eckfeldt Entrepreneur, Inc. 500 CEO, Coach, Writer & Speaker on Organizational Performance

August 20th, 2013

A friend of mine is working on this exact problem actually. 

They're designing a forecasting tool that pulls Quickbooks data and lets you build a dynamic financial model on top.  It's focused on decision making (so forward looking) but can track data feeds to show past performance as well.  It has a scenario manager so you can run multiple scenarios - and they're building a dashboard to show graphs of past, present & projections.

They're in stealth mode at the moment but I can put you in touch with the founder if you want to speak with them.