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Cloud-based Forecasting with Jirav

Published by Summit Marketing Team on 27 Oct 2021

The Virtual CPA Success Show: Episode 48


Today, we sit down with Jake Grimm, our Director for Technology and Martin Zych, CEO & Co-founder of Jirav to discover how cloud-based forecasting solutions like Jirav can help maximize your potential as a firm.

Jirav's ultimate goal is to help companies realize their growth through solutions made accessible to companies of all sizes.






Jamie Nau: Hello, everybody. Welcome to today’s podcast. I'm very excited about this one for one reason, and one reason alone. I'll talk about that in a second, but we have Martin Zych here and he is going to talk about his product. And the reason I'm not saying his product name is cause it’s the reason I'm excited to have him here. One of the biggest debates here at Summit is how to pronounce his product. I would say everybody pronounces it differently. So, I'm going to get the answer right here, send the recording to my team and let everybody know the proper way to pronounce your company name

Martin Zych: [Laughter] So our company is called Jirav. You can say the R or the V softly together and blend it, but it's a complete misspelling of the word giraffe.

Jamie Nau: There you go. So, it's not giraffe. It's not any of the other fancy names people at a Summit try to say it.

Martin Zych: I blend the R and the V just together.

Jamie Nau: Okay. That's a creative way to do it. Obviously, the picture with the logo helps a lot, but it's still tricky for people, at least at Summit, Jake, you got that?

Jake Grimm: Yeah. I will have to make sure that that info gets passed along to everyone. Giraffe is probably the most common way of hear it. I've heard multiple times talking with Martin and his team, but we never formally asked though. Definitely glad that you asked, Jamie, on air and everything.

Jamie Nau: So, at Summit we made the move to Jirav recently. Jake, I'm going to throw this over to you to start and to talk about why we made this move, of all the tests we did prior, and what helped us make this decision before Martin goes into all the great things that Jirav does.

Jake Grimm: Yeah, sure. I mean, I think the biggest driver to start with out of the gate was a cloud-based forecasting solution. So that was kind of like requirement number one that we needed from our forecasting solution. In the past we were using a desktop-based platform. It had some issues here and there, and finally it was time to get something cloud based. So that was the first thing. One of the underlying options and needs from that as well was an easier way to share our forecast information with our clients. I think our clients could feel like they were a little bit, it was a little bit of a black box and in some manner from a forecasting solution in the past of like, okay, I've got to wait to have my forecasting call with with Summit so they can pull up their software. We can talk about changes and I can see it on the call and they might be able to give me a couple PDFs, but from there you know, then I got to wait till the next conversation to really kind of play with the drivers. See how things might change my forecast based on a couple of decisions that I want. And obviously that's not a perfect solution going forward for a forecasting solution for our clients. So being able to give them access, that could be a variety of different levels for different people. It could be view only, it could be just a couple of small fields, whatever that might entail that can make sense for the client. Their needs were definitely a major factor. Some other smaller items, just the ease of being able to build out a forecast that’s user-friendly for our team to be able to get a forecast up and get up and running without spending, you know, 40 hours to get it up and going. So that, that's definitely a big thing. You can, for the most part, get a pretty robust forecast up and done in a day. And that might even be a little bit extreme. I mean, it can be a lot faster than that, depending on the complexities of what's needed for the client. So that was probably the last biggest item for us initially out of the gate of kind of the three bullet points of what we were looking for and what we inevitably found with Martin and his team at Jirav.

Jamie Nau: So, Martin, I can definitely agree with what Jake said. I did spend several years as a CFO at summit, and that was one of the frustrations for me as a CFO, as well as my clients, was sitting down with them and walking through the forecast and them being like, that's awesome. Can I play with it? And me saying, not really. I can build something for you to play with or find ways for you guys to look at it. So, after Jake laid out that criteria for you, how'd you go about talking to Jake and talking about Jirav and how it would work for Summit’s needs?

Martin Zych: Yeah, well alot of what we built actually was stemmed for, like, I used to be an outsource CFO as well. So, I've like been in your guys' shoes and this was a tool that I wish I had when I was, when I was doing this stuff. I have, you know, six or seven clients work. Spending like a day, a week on each one's books and making sure you know, that everything was clean and that in a month do the monthly reporting package and forward that package. So that was the core guts of what we built. And then you know, and then from there, when, when we started working with the Summit team, I think Jake built a couple of kind of trial accounts, tested it out. And then we worked really closely with the team actually. And you guys have been invaluable in providing feedback into that as well. So then, you know, by having the groundwork and just talking to folks like you helped us improve the platform too, and then, you know, put in a lot of your best practices in place.

Jamie Nau: Yeah, I think you'll, I think our listeners, they've heard this mentioned several times that we do that with a lot of tools. I think that companies that are willing to do that and willing to listen and willing to work with us in terms of, yeah, you guys are 75% of the way there. Anyway that we can get another 5% or another 6% or maybe another 1%, like companies that are willing to do that I think really have a strong partnerships. I mean, would you agree with that Jake?

Jake Grimm: Oh yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, it definitely is not a requirement out of the gate of like the first priority. But it definitely tilts the scales pretty heavily when we can have a little bit of influence on what the end product needs, looks like and operates. Just because we do have a lot of experience in the space and feel like we can offer a lot of valuable insights that obviously will help us you know, provide better services to our clients, but inevitably also help you guys you know, build out the product and make it an easier sell to other people that are looking at your product.

Jamie Nau: I think that the common thing, I've been in those conversations before, and I think the ones that are frustrating is we bring stuff up and we'll say, when is A B C going to happen? And they say, oh yeah, that's coming up in 2.0 which is going to happen in like three years from now. And it's like, oh, okay, well, we'll wait for three years from now to sign up for it. So, how often do potential clients come to you with these types of requests, Martin?

Martin Zych: I mean, we talk to our clients every day and what's really great is we do a new release every time. So like we've got a great engineering team and we're just consistently improving the product. Like if I see, you know, if we see someones opinion on we've got like a live support chat, even if someone's like, Hey, how do I do this? And we have a ton of help articles and all of that, but if we see a common question, then we take a look at that part of the app and go, how do we make this easier for folks? And we just iterate and iterate, and you know, every 30 days you'll see constant improvement in the platform.

Jamie Nau: Yeah. I think that's as long as the improvement is going in the right direction, and with every improvement we've had from you guys has been awesome for us. And so, we definitely appreciate the constant communication. I think that's made it helpful. So, I'm going to now circle back to something Jake also said during his introduction of why we moved to you guys, and that is ease of forecast. You know, a lot of times, a lot of tools we looked at prior to you, it was you needed a specialist, or you needed a scientist to go in there and build the forecast for the client. So even if the client had access to it, they'd have no way to know how to play with it. So can you talk a little bit about that journey for you and how you went about creating something that was user friendly?

Martin Zych: In terms of kind of creating that user-friendly aspect, we really looked at you know, what is the end output that we're trying to accomplish for our customers? And when I was building Jirav, we actually worked with a couple of outsource accounting firms, like you guys, and look at those end outputs. So if we could do what we learned from that for everyone, it would be amazing. And then we worked backwards from that to then start building up, you know that process and, make that easier and easier. So we went from those outputs, then into how to build the inputs. And as you mentioned, there was that, you know a lot of times the person that would build a forecast before it would be, you know, 10 plus years of experience. They've mastered the thick book on like how to use every formula in Excel and in every little corner, and it's super hard to do. And what we did was we just looked at it and I said, what are all the common patterns? How do we make it really easy to prop up like a three-way financial statement model that just your balance sheet ties out, your cashflow statement ties out automatically. You don't have to think about that. And then you can just think about the drivers of the business. We call everything a driver because any line in your model can drive any other line and that can drive the next line. It's all interrelated from there. And when we looked at those common patterns, then we saw that there were a lot of other people that thought the same way and wanted to iterate on that.

Jamie Nau: It makes a lot of sense. We talked about this on previous podcasts, over the last year, we've had a lot of new hires. And they all talk about or allude to being an Excel genius. They think they will come in and knock our socks off with all this Excel knowledge. Then they found out that we've actually moved pretty far away from those tools and are looking more towards web apps. Like yours. So, Jake, do you want to talk a little bit about that move and kind of how Jirav has worked into that?

Jake Grimm: Yeah, it's definitely been a continuous path that we are going down and something that'll probably continue to be, you know, we're probably not even halfway down that path of getting out of, you know, Excel documents and desktop platforms and being more, just completely cloud based. But just one you know, being a distributed company for us and our clients being anywhere, our team members being anywhere you know, I think it's cool that can mean you don't necessarily have to have this big, robust set up per se, and have really heavy hardware and desktop computers and that sort of things to power these robust spreadsheets. I mean, we definitely have some power users at Summit that require that, but as we can continue to have more and more of our team members do their stuff on a laptop and kind of go anywhere, I think that's one really cool thing. Being able to access things anywhere. So, that's a big driver. I think for us as we kind of just go down that path, definitely figuring out solutions that can solve for things that we currently do in Excel, or did in Excel or whatever sort of desktop platform. How can we get into a cloud-based model instead? I think also as we want to be innovative in the accounting space, I feel like PDF deliverables to clients that they get emailed or whatever, print is a thing of the past. And being able to have an interactive item that they can log into, that they can play with is what clients inevitably are looking for. Even if, sometimes they don't realize it out of the gate, you know, that's something that they wanted until they can see it and they operate with it. So, figuring out solutions that can, you know, kind of help power that and automate that process to give that kind of full package to the client is kind of what we are striving for.

Jamie Nau: I think the other part of that too, that I've noticed is that we're actually relying on you Martin, a lot more for our fixes than we would have in the past. When we were in Excel and something went wrong, like I would knock on Jake's door and be like, all right, dude, I can't figure out this formula. Can you help me fix it? And it was all internal. And so now, you know, if something goes wrong and we see something weird in an online platform, we have to go directly to the company. So, can you talk a little bit about that? Like how often you work with people versus accountants nowadays? And how often do you like have to fix those bugs and do updates in order to make sure that those things aren't happening?

Martin Zych: Yeah. So, you know, we pride ourselves on pretty good code quality because we need to the financials right. And calculate everything right. So we've got you know, we've got a really large dev team that's always improving and making that work. But you know, in terms of that support, within our app, you've got that live chat that is 9 to 5 most days. You'll get an answer in a few minutes on there and we can then help you diagnose if its something like a pilot error versus a bug. Usually it's pilot error and we can go in, and this is one of the cool things about your our app is like, I think I've seen probably 1000 financial models in Excel now, like where people, you know, send it and they're like, hey, can we rebuild this thing in Jirav? I've yet to find one without a bug in it, like literally like every single Excel model has some bug in there. And within Jirav, we built up a pretty good way where we can see like all the drivers in one spot and kind of diagnose and take a look at it and be like, here's all the formulas. This is another really great thing about using an online platform like this. You could have a support person who has never seen your model be able to figure out what's going on in like 5 or 10 minutes versus taking all afternoon to figure it out in an Excel.

Jamie Nau: Yeah, it's much more efficient. I'll tell you that much. I can't tell you how many times I had to wait in line or try to fix something myself with a character formula that Jake built. And I'm like in character 3000 before he can find me and help me. So, I've been in those situations, and I do think that we're definitely a lot more efficient now. And so the second part of that question is so do you find yourself working more with people from companies? Or do you still find it's just a smart accountant, like Jake who understand the IT side?

Martin Zych: I think it's almost 99% smart accountants. That was one of the big goals that we had when building the platform. No code needed. Like you don't need to understand all these big complex 10,000-character formulas. It's more human readable in the drivers and the formulas that way. That helps not only the accountant who's building the model, but also like when you share this with your clients and they're trying to take a look, they can, you know, if you send this to a non-finance person and I'm sure we've all had where you sent like a 15 tab, crazy Excel file, people are just like, I don't know what to do with this. In Jirav, one of the big things when the pandemic hit was everyone was remote. So, it's like, we put a lot of work in collaborative planning, and we built a way where you could even select specific tables and then tag tasks to them. And then it's almost like filling out a DocuSign for those department managers to go through. So, it makes it just a lot easier with no code needed.

Jamie Nau: Great. I'm going to ask this question to both of you. Againm I know Jirav is always moving forward. So, Jake, I'm going to start with you in terms of next steps with Jirav. What are the things we're looking for and what are the things we're hoping to move forward with next?

Jake Grimm: I think the biggest thing, which I know is heavy on their roadmap and I think already in development, but there they call it, Martin can correct me, but dimensionality. Really expanding on that with some of our clients. So some of that can be forecasting like right now, Forecast by their QuickBooks classes or locations. You know, sometimes we might need a little bit more detail on expensive vendors or customers that we want to be able to forecast by and have that stuff pull in automatically. I think another big area kind of in that same realm is consolidations. Having where we have 3, 4, 5 plus companies that are interrelated, and we need to be able to provide a consolidated forecast to that client. I think that's one of the other big areas that we are excited for in the future with Jirav being able to handle that. We have a couple of forecasts that we can't move into the platform until that's possible. So, you know, definitely will be excited to kind of check that off the list as well. And probably the only other thing I can really think of is further expanding potential on integrations and how those interlock with a forecast. I don't know if that's something that's in the near future or not, but something that I think of. There's a lot of different data points that can help drive a forecast and to be able to pull those things in and figuring out how to, how to pull in different data points and utilize that for an intelligent forecast is a pretty powerful and pretty impactful. Not only just different accounting platforms to just be able to have a quick and easy forecast for different accounting platforms that are out there. But then, you know, some of the other non-financial stuff that can help drive a forecast.

Jamie Nau: Martin, he answered long. You're not allowed to copy his paper. When new things are you guys are working?

Martin Zych: I'll confirm that all of those are really high up on our roadmap and we've got a ton of really smart, great engineers working on them. And one of the big ones too, on the integrations front, just to add a little more color to that because we integrate with all the major cloud accounting tools. So Intact suite, QuickBooks, online CBO, and desktop and enterprise. Then also one of the other big underlying data sources that drive budgets for our head count data. So, you'll see a lot more from like payroll integrations. Bringing all the major kind of providers on that side because that's 80% of the costs in a lot of businesses. One of the other parts where, you know, we're constantly growing. So, I'm with the dev team over the next few months. And we've got like 10 engineers, we're going to have 20 pretty soon, just working on each of these big, big things and I think you'll see the multidimensionality is actively being worked on. The other kind of big, big parts that I'm focused on too, is just, you already have pretty good ease of use, but even more kind of like guided onboarding. Think of it being like almost bumper bowling for when you're setting up the new account and go through that process. So a lot more templates.

Jamie Nau: Okay, you stole my next question. Let’s talk about that onboarding. I think that's important for our listeners to know. I think a lot of people are afraid or intimidated to go into a new tool because it’s just going to take us too long to switch over from what we have. So how do you guys, again, it sounds like you're making it better, but how do you currently do it and what kind of changes do you plan on making there?

Martin Zych: Yeah, so we have right now, like a free trial where you can go sign up, come in, log in, set up an account. There is a getting started guide with about five kinds of lessons with little YouTube videos on how to do each of the core components of Jirav. And then, you know, by the end of that, you could build a dashboard tile, customize a report, and build like a formula in the app. So, that's a core kind of starting point as well as for outsource accountants, we have a whole partner program. Where we've got a team that can actually help train up your group too. So, you know, if you've got a whole team that wants to run a pilot account or anything else we can come in do live sessions as well as kind of asynchronous kind of resources with every nook and cranny of the app.

Jamie Nau: Jake, I know we made this move not too long ago, but any tips that you might have for any listeners that are thinking about making this move?

Jake Grimm: I mean, I think taking advantage of the trial and getting in and playing with the platform is definitely the first thing that you kind of have to do. And just connecting something that you're very familiar with, whether it's your own company or one of the clients you've worked with for a long time and, you know, play with some of the data models. I think that's one of the biggest things. Experience with their support team has been great. I think, at least from my experience, their always willing to help and kind of offer some insights and best practices. Definitely take advantage of reaching out to them when you hit a roadblock, or you have questions. They can definitely help guide you through that set up process.

Jamie Nau: I do think that's key. It's funny. I actually have one browser on my screen that just has like three tabs open. The things I want to do trials on, but I don't actually have time to dedicate playing with it. The worst thing is signing up for a 7 day or a 30-day trial and you spend 5 minutes or an hour just playing around with it, and then you have to cancel the trial. I think the key is making sure you actually have time to go in there. And, you know, before you sign up for the trial have some things ready to move in there because the last thing, you'd want to do is sign up for it and spend the first 20 days just trying to make sure you get the right company to pull into it. So, we are running close on time here. I want to get some final thoughts from both of you. Jake, any final thoughts on a Jirav or any other forecasting issues going on?

Jake Grimm: I don't think I have any other final thoughts that we haven't already hit on. I really can't think of anything else. I think, especially with a lot of the things that Martin and his team has put out this year with driver build-outs, sustained standard drivers. The time to value that he was just talking about is definitely felt with both drivers set up. So from a perspective, they hit probably 90 plus percent of the basic items that we forecast our clients methodology. The last 10% just gets way more complex than it needs to be in a standard driver. It's more building out some custom table stuff that they, that we can do inside of their platform as well. But you know, most of their standard drivers out of the box you know, we can kind of get through and build out a forecast pretty quickly, especially with bulk drivers set up and really kind of get those things up and running and kind of ready to have an educated conversation about a forecast with the client. So, I think that's big.

Jamie Nau: Great. How about you Martin?

Martin Zych: Key takeaways. I think I'll leave it on a fun note. You know, you asked about how to pronounce Jirav. But the other biggest question people always ask me is why a giraffe? You know our goal, I love the concept of spirit animals, and we love how the giraffe is the tallest animal in the world. And we want everyone who kind of engages with us to feel like they've got their own giraffe looking out for them above the trees. Above all the bushes in every direction. And you know, that's our goal. And what we're hoping you guys feel like, like you're the giraffe for your clients.

Jamie Nau: Got it. Now I understand why you did all that work. It gives you a great ending here. I do appreciate that, and I want to wish you luck. I know that doubling your team right now. We are in a hiring mode as well. Not easy to do so I'm sure that's taking a lot of your time. So good luck with that. I appreciate all you guys do for us. It's been a game changer for us this year and I really enjoy the product. So, I appreciate you coming on.


Cloud-based Forecasting with Jirav


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