DATA ANALYTICS

Drinking Our Own Champagne: How Sigma’s Finance Team Uses Sigma

Julian Alvarado

Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Sigma

The recent fluctuations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted organizations worldwide – and yours is no different. As the fiscal year is coming to a close, your CEO asks your team to prepare a few different versions of 2022’s projected revenue based on various factors.

But due to the size and complexity of your organization’s data, the fully detailed 12-month fiscal plan and other historical trends contain an enormous volume of records spanning at least a dozen sources.

You ping your BI team for help collecting and analyzing the data, but they can’t get to your request for another two weeks. You can’t tell your CEO to wait that long, so you attempt to export the data from each application into a CSV and combine it in Excel — only to realize that it can’t process more than a million rows of data without crashing or slowing down.

Frustrated and unwilling to return to leadership without any results, you decide to bite the bullet and work the entire weekend to analyze summarized data manually – and pray you haven’t made an error along the way. Sound familiar?

The Struggle Is Real

From Anaplan to Oracle, SAP, NetSuite, Workday, and more, finance teams use a combination of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) solutions to support budgeting, planning, and forecasting efforts. But consolidating data from these sources to manage and report performance is a manual, time-consuming process that is highly prone to error.

Our finance team at Sigma knows what it’s like to work across multiple data sources with no single source of truth between them. The nature of financial reporting makes even the most remedial, repetitive tasks cumbersome when the same report has to be updated manually every few weeks. But it’s essential: Leadership uses these reports in every single decision they make.

We’ve all downloaded data to spreadsheets that quickly became slow, outdated, and impossible to collaborate in. We can’t even count the number of times someone accidentally deleted a row or backspaced a column. But at Sigma, we have a secret weapon.

Streamlining the Budget Monitoring and Reconciliation Workflow

Finance teams consolidate data from multiple sources for general ledger reconciliation – and Sigma is no different. Maintaining an accurate general ledger is critical to a business’ overall financial health, as it is the basis of all financial reporting and is used to inform decision-making.

But the task is easier said than done. It’s not uncommon for businesses to record 100s of millions of individual transactions in their ledger, and the sheer volume of this data makes the process incredibly error-prone and unwieldy. Every transaction must be verified to confirm it was recorded correctly by comparing the ledger against the original financial documents such as expense reports, accounting records, invoices, etc.

“We’re a high-growth company that closes a lot of deals at the end of the quarter. In the past, at other companies, every time a new account closed, I had to manually update the ‘Revenue and Deferred Revenue’ spreadsheet with invoice number, actual cash value (ACV), Subscription start date, and end date. This was a tedious and time-consuming process. And because the spreadsheet wasn’t connected to Salesforce, there was the risk of missing an invoice. But with Sigma, everything is live and connected, so you never have to worry about manually updating a spreadsheet again,” says Firdaus Kahn, Sr. FP&A, Sigma.

“With Sigma, everything is live and connected, so you never have to worry about manually updating a spreadsheet again.”

Firdaus Kahn

Sr. FP&A, Sigma

Typically, finance teams manually update spreadsheet extracts from a variety of financial software solutions with information like new subscriptions and renewals, upsell/downsells, customer churn percentages, etc. But humans make mistakes, and when dealing with 100s of millions of rows of data, the likelihood of minor inaccuracies or missing transaction is high. Errors like these add up over time and are difficult to spot until it’s too late.

As such, finance teams are forced to rely on BI teams to help them to bring these data sources together using traditional BI solutions that require knowledge of coding languages like SQL. Unfortunately, these highly technical BI solutions limit finance teams to high-level, static reports on the organization’s overall financial health. But the inherent “what if?” ad hoc nature of general ledger analysis means that the data needed to make business decisions is often buried several layers beneath the dashboards provided by BI teams. Follow-up questions are sent to the back of the reporting request queue and can take weeks to answer.

This broken analytics workflow forces teams that need answers now to resort to spreadsheet extracts, which are error-prone and unwieldy –– and open organizations up to unnecessary risk. Because of this, finance teams need a single source of truth that contains live data across all these systems and records: a tool like Sigma.

Work Smarter, Not Harder, With Sigma

Sigma is a cloud-native BI tool purpose-built for the cloud data platform. It leverages the compute scale, power, and speed of the cloud to seamlessly analyze billions of financial data points down to transaction-level detail. Data is always live, accurate, and up-to-the-minute.

Firdaus goes on to say, “ With Sigma, hours of manual work is gone: The data is live and accurate, so my accountants can focus on other month-end closing activities. From there, I can repurpose their work for more complex analyses like revenue projections that require lots of historical data and scenario modeling of live, up-to-date data. For example, creating a sales productivity model for ACV forecasting takes a fraction of the time in Sigma compared to other tools I’ve used in the past.”

Sigma’s intuitive spreadsheet-like UI allows finance teams to independently access and drill into the data underpinning financial dashboards and analyses. Non-technical users can easily expand and collapse aggregates, bring in additional calculations, slice and dice quickly, and even create well-constructed pivot tables with ease! Just like Excel but with complete access to live, cloud-scale data.

“In the past, I’ve used a combination of Workday Adaptive Planning with either Tableau or PowerBI for financial planning and reporting. But Sigma is the best of both worlds: I can perform complex iterative analysis within Sigma and create shareable dashboards for reporting purposes. If my stakeholders have any questions, they can drill into the dashboard at any time,” says Firdaus.

Faster, More Accurate, and Less Error-Prone Financial Planning

Being able to independently access, integrate, and analyze financial data in real-time has eliminated manual, repetitive, and time-consuming day-to-day tasks our finance team is responsible for. With Sigma, they can quickly combine and analyze a wide range of data sources, without fear of missing something or making mistakes.

Want to learn more? Read the following articles to learn how Sigma is bringing about the next phase in the evolution of the spreadsheet:

See how Sigma helps finance teams take back control of their analyts workflow.

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