Edwine Alphonse on How to Ensure a Successful NetSuite Implementation
In this episode, our host Joe Michalowski welcomes Edwine Alphonse, a controller at Ramp. They talk about the biggest challenges with NetSuite implementation, tips for tackling some common issues, and the importance of cleaning your data before you start the process.
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Edwine Alphonse on How to Ensure a Successful NetSuite Implementation
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NetSuite implementation is a large, challenging project, as it includes many different phases and complex steps. But an experienced implementation partner can make all the difference.
In this episode of The Role Forward podcast, our host Joe Michalowski welcomes Edwine Alphonse, a controller at Ramp. They talk about the biggest challenges with NetSuite implementation, tips for tackling some common issues, and the importance of cleaning your data before you start the process.
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Edwine Alphonse has a proven record in accounting and auditing. Before Ramp, she worked at several startups as director of accounting and financial controller. At Ramp, she’s the first financial controller, where she’s responsible for accounting, financial reporting, tax compliance, and other accounting processes.
- NetSuite implementation is a big project. Implementing NetSuite software takes time and work — and has a reputation for being a nightmare. Make sure to understand limitations with your current ERP, as well as any issues that may arise with team bandwidth and data migration.
- Your implementation partner gives you technical support. While it's vital to have a good implementation partner, you're the one who's in charge of data cleanup. Your implementation partner will technically support you, but you will guide them through your company’s work tools, processes, and reconciliations to ensure the proper setup for your team.
- Communicate about challenges and expectations with implementation. The longer you wait, the more data you accumulate, which adds to the timeline and potential to lose or compromise your data. When you prepare and are aware of the challenges, you can ensure that you gain support at the right time, and establish clear communication to make the implementation a success.
Episode Highlights from Edwine Alphonse
09:50 — How the Volume of Transactions Makes NetSuite Implementation Challenging
“Usually, it’s the volume of transactions that makes it difficult. For us at Ramp, we have a big volume of transactions because we have a lot of customers, and customers do thousands and thousands of transactions. So in the process of switching software, sometimes there could be a completeness issue and an accuracy issue. Completeness — not all the data might be transferred; there might be a break. And accuracy — let’s say you book something into one period, so that kind of creates a big mess.”
21:59 — Compromising Is Key to Successful NetSuite Implementation
“We did it well. There were no big surprises. And the reason is that we were prepared, and we had a good partner that made it easier for us. One thing I would not do is the data migration thing. I would’ve liked to have all of my data in one system. I don’t really like going back and forth between systems. My audit mind doesn’t like that, but I was okay with making the compromise. I had to compromise. I was like, ‘Okay, I understand.’ So at some point, you need to make some decisions and move on and just decide what’s best and what you can live with.”
27:29 — Clean Data Pays Off in Better Decisions
“The importance of cleaning your data is extremely linked to the importance of having accurate and timely financial statements because your data are supposed to give knowledge to your stakeholders, your executive team, your investors, your banks, your lenders, and sometimes the government or the IRS ’cause they want to know all the company’s doing, and they want to know what type of decision to make and the sooner they can make the decision, the better it is for the company usually.”
30:45 — Why Investing in Accounting Sooner Benefits Early-Stage Companies
“Usually, people don’t invest in accounting from the get-go because it’s not a money-generating function, unfortunately. They would invest in product, in engineering, in sales ’cause that’s what gets the money first in the door. And I agree, it’s important, but at the same time, if you have a good clean financial statement, it makes it easier for you to get lenders, to get investors as well.”
[00:00:00] Edwine Alphonse: The importance of cleaning your data is extremely linked to the importance of having accurate and timely financial statement because your data are supposed to give knowledge to your stakeholders, your executive team, your investors, your banks, your lenders and sometimes the government or the IRS ’cause they want to know all the companies doing.
[00:00:20] And they want to know what type of decision to make. And the sooner they can make the decision, the better it is for the company.
[00:00:52] Joe Michalowski: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Role Forward podcast. My name is Joe Michalowski and this episode is brought to you by Mosaic, a strategic finance platform that transforms the way business gets done. And today my guest is Edwin Alphonse, Financial Controller at Ramp, the Corporate Card and Finance Automation company that is simplifying spending.
[00:01:07] Edwin, thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:01:09] Edwine Alphonse: Thank you, Joe, for having me.
[00:01:11] Joe Michalowski: Amazing. Before we get into our main topic, which is a big one, I’m very excited about it. We talked about this right before we hit record, that nobody ever wants to talk to me about this, don’t wanna bury the lead too much. But before we get to it, do you mind giving everyone the quick background about yourself, your finance, accounting experience, how you got to Ramp and, and all that?
Edwine Alphonse Introduction
[00:01:29] Edwine Alphonse: Yes, thank you, Joe. So, I’m Edwine Alphonse, and I’m the Controller at Ramp. Prior to Ramp, I’ve worked at different startups, like Circle, Vecna Robotics and Traackr.
[00:01:38] Joe Michalowski: Oh.
[00:01:39] Edwine Alphonse: In all of this previous role, I was either the Director of Accounting or the Controller.
[00:01:44] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:01:44] Edwine Alphonse: And before my journey in startups, I worked at PwC and Ernst&Young for close to 10 years.
[00:01:52] So, my background is in accounting, but mostly in auditing. At Ramp, I am the first Controller, the first Financial Controller, and I’m responsible for accounting, financial reporting, tax compliance, and any processes that do for accounting, such as cash disbursement, payroll, auditing. So, my responsibility is pretty much to make sure that Ramp is ready for any potential exit event, but also that Ramp, uh, has the tools and the processes needed to operate.
[00:02:29] Joe Michalowski: That is a, uh, a great way to end that statement because it’s exactly what we’re gonna talk about, the tools and processes to operate. We are talking NetSuite implementation today, and I, like I said, I was searching for somebody to talk about this. We have a lot of our own prospects and customers who have to go through this.
[00:02:46] And, like I said, it’s just a, it’s a really big, hairy topic that nobody wants to touch. But I saw that you wrote an article on Ramp’s blog about Ramp’s process of moving from QuickBooks online to NetSuite. And so, I was like, “Perfect. I will get her on the podcast.” And you are gracious enough to join me.
[00:03:03] So, thank you for that. But I saw in the article that you wrote, it was, uh, I believe in May last year, you decided you were gonna make the switch. Before we get into the, like, meat of the topic, can you set the stage, like what, what made you guys make the switch, what were some of the reasons for deciding that you needed to move to NetSuite?
Why Ramp Made the Switch from QuickBooks Online to NetSuite
[00:03:21] Edwine Alphonse: Yeah. So, I started at Ramp in March 2021.
[00:03:25] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:03:26] Edwine Alphonse: And, and my first mission was to clean up the book first and make sure we can, uh, prepare audited financial statement for uh, uh, uh, lenders. ‘Cause part of our first line of credit was to provide them with audited financial statement. So, when I joined Ramp, I would say that we were using an old accounting software and most of, most, like, of startups, like any, anybody’s using them.
[00:03:53] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:03:54] Edwine Alphonse: And it can get the work. But there are no controls in this accounting software. So, for me, as an ex-auditor, controls are extremely important because I expect to have financial reporting operate the way an auditor would want it to operate.
[00:04:14] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:04:15] Edwine Alphonse: So, that was the first, uh, kind of like, uh, set up for us. I was like, “Oh, my God, we have no joint entry controls. We have no solution of the dates.” So, we needed something better.
[00:04:25] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:04:27] Edwine Alphonse: The second thing is, like, Ramp has been going a lot. So, when I joined the company in 2021, we were about seventy employees. Right now, in 2023, we are getting close to 500 employees. With that growth, we also getting different type of entities. So, when I started, we only had one or twenty days
[00:04:49] with different line of credits, we needed to create more SPVs, so more entities, different product as well. Each product has their own entities because we want to make sure we meet in the regulatory requirements of different states, and we have to apply for licenses, and each license, like it’s better usually to have different entities for that.
[00:05:11] So, all requirements and our needs have changed, in the past years. Uh, and, and one of the biggest one is the need to consolidate. As you know, like, it was probably, like, impossible, not impossible, but kind of challenging to be doing, uh, consolidation in Excel. So, we wanted something that can automate the consolidation process for us and also support us in a closed process.
[00:05:39] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:05:40] Edwine Alphonse: So, that, that brings me to a third problem, which was like the closed process. Again, when I started at, we were not closing and, and my goal is, like my north star is to always make sure we can close on time. And, and my goal in life, I always tell everyone, is to do daily closing. Like, I do want at some point to provide like, uh, at the end of the day to provide like a full financial statement
[00:06:06] to my executive team or to anybody and tell them, “This is how much money we made today. This is, like, how much money we have in the bank.” And any type of information like that. So, in the process of closing, we needed to, um, be more efficient with the systems that we, we were using and that brought us to start looking for different accounting software that could accommodate, like, a faster close.
[00:06:32] Uh, providers of the controls that we need and also, like, allow us to, um, consult, lead it automatically. And the last thing I would say is, uh, Ramp is also a finance automation software, and we want to be able to, um, share the experience of our customers. And most of them they’ve had to, uh, migrate to bigger, uh, ERP, like enterprise resource, like, uh, software as well,
[00:07:00] just like us. So, when we were making a decision to go to NetSuite, we were like, “Okay, what is a, what are customers doing?” And most of them that are all-size, they add to migrate to NetSuite, as well. I think 60% of our customers that migrated, they went to NetSuite. Okay. And why they did that is because they wanted to have a system that was scalable and that could provide them with a level of integrations
[00:07:28] that was necessary for them to automate and, uh, operate efficiently. Like, as you know, like Ramp does integrate with different type of accounting software such as QuickBook NetSuite, Zillow. So, we wanted to make sure, as we were doing this, uh, implementation as well, we are able to test and understand our customer’s experience.
[00:07:52] Joe Michalowski: I mean, very kind of you to take that on and say, “Hey, we’re gonna go through this rough process a little bit because we know you are too.”
[00:08:00] So, I love that. But I also love the, the daily close idea. I, I hope you get there. I know people talk about it a lot, and I, I know it means, it’s more than just like, there’s one, like I know just because you put NetSuite in doesn’t mean you can actually, like, just get there overnight.
[00:08:16] It’s like a constant battle. So, I think it’s a really cool sort of mission and goal to get to. And I love all the reasons you provided for moving to NetSuite. So, I want to keep rolling into the conversation. We will get to the actual, like, steps of implementation, but I, I think before we get there, I want to talk about kind of your concerns going in.
[00:08:34] Like, you knew you were gonna do it, your, your customers are all doing it. You know there are reasons to do it, but there’s a, a bit of a stereotype, a perspective about NetSuite implementations that they can be a nightmare.
[00:08:46] So what were some of your biggest concerns before the project started, what were you thinking about as you headed in?
The Challenges of NetSuite Implementation
[00:08:52] Edwine Alphonse: Yeah. So, my biggest concern, like you said, I didn’t want to be in a nightmare. I didn’t to be, like, in a thriller, and then, at this time, like my team was only, like, two people. It was just me and a Senior Accountant. So, I understood my limitations, and I didn’t want to spend, like, so much time doing this and fail at it.
[00:09:12] So, that was the first concern, like, just making sure we had the bandwidth to undertake such a big project. And the second concern was, like, the data migration. At Ramp, at the time of the migration, we had about two or three years of data since the company started in 2019. So, I wanted to make sure that my data was properly transferred to NetSuite.
[00:09:36] Joe Michalowski: I guess is like the, my question, I hear people say that, but what, to me, like, somebody who’s outside looking in, like, you know, get your spreadsheet uploaded in NetSuite, you’re good to go. I know it’s not that simple, but, like, so what, what makes that so difficult?
[00:09:50] Edwine Alphonse: Well, usually it’s the volume of transaction that makes it difficult. For us, at Ramp, we have a big volume of transactions because we have a lot of customers and customers, they do, like, multiple, like they do, like, thousand and thousand of transactions. So, in the process of, like, switching software, sometimes there could be, like, a completeness issue
[00:10:11] and an accuracy issue. Like, completeness, like you, not all the data might be transferred, there might be a break. Accuracy, like some, let’s say like you book something into the one period, so that kind of, like, create a big mess.
[00:10:25] So, we had to make some decision related to that, just to make sure that we were being efficient with the data migration. So, one of the decisions I made, for example, is rather than, uh, migrating like a full set of data, we only migrated, like, the monthly TBs, the monthly trial balances.
[00:10:45] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:10:46] Edwine Alphonse: So, for the period from 2019 to 2021, only the end in trial balances for every month were migrated to NetSuite.
[00:10:57] Joe Michalowski: Mm.
[00:10:58] Edwine Alphonse: So, so what that created for us is like, we still need to use our old accounting software for any transactions before 2021.
[00:11:08] So, if we want to get the details and the support and backup, we have to go back to the old accounting software. So, the pretty much, like, we pretty much have to keep that subscription alive, but that was the compromise that we had to make. So, the, uh, so I talked about, like, data being, like, one of the challenge, and the other one is, like, our own internal capacity.
[00:11:31] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:11:32] Edwine Alphonse: And, and the third one is just like setting expectations upfront with my executive team, with our own engineering team, my product team. And actually, I’m blessed, I, I like to say I’m blessed because everyone understand that whatever accounting is doing is important, since we are in the finance automation platform.
[00:11:52] So, we want to make sure that, like they always want to know what’s going on and they always support any of my initiatives, and I had to get their support and also set expectation, “Okay, this is the first phase, like, we implement NetSuite and we only implement in the financial module. And maybe next year we can implement Salesforce,
[00:12:13] integrate Salesforce to NetSuite, maybe after we can explore, like, how to get bonus and commissions into NetSuite.” So, I think like getting, setting expectations is important and setting timeline, as well. And the reason I’m talking about timeline is we add, like, limited capacity. Like, it was just me and my staff accountant, and I wanted to make sure that we were not creating problems for, for sales. Like, like, I didn’t want to be overwhelmed, like overburdened.
[00:12:45] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:12:45] Edwine Alphonse: And not do a good, uh, transition.
[00:12:48] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:12:48] Edwine Alphonse: So, we decided, for example, that we will do the transition after the audit period, during the summer when it was a little bit, like, of a slower time for us.
[00:12:59] Joe Michalowski: It makes a lot of sense. I know one thing you mentioned in the article, one thing that everybody mentions is like you, you basically, I don’t know if anyone can do this without an implementation partner, it might be like a requirement, I’m not really sure, but I know you had one.
[00:13:12] So, before we get to the steps of the process, you were talking about bandwidth, like how, how does finding the right implementation partner, Like calm some of these concerns? And what’s, like, the breakdown of time? Like, you’re talking about your investment of time, like what are they doing versus what you’re doing on, like, a daily basis?
[00:13:30] Edwine Alphonse: Yeah, this is a good question and, I like to discuss this because, like, as accountant, sometimes we like to think we’re superheroes and we can do everything.
[00:13:39] Joe Michalowski: You are.
[00:13:39] Edwine Alphonse: And sometimes just a matter of controlling expenses, as well.
[00:13:43] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:13:43] Edwine Alphonse: For me, I like to be straight about it. I’m not an implementation specialist.
[00:13:49] It’s not my expertise. So, I was straight with my team and my, uh, boss and my executive team and telling them, “This, if this is something we want to do, we need to hire specialists for this and make sure that they do a good job.” So, part of the assessment was finding the right partner to support and lead us to this project. So, we were able to find hires all along, and I can say, like, to this day, they’ve been absolutely awesome, and they supported us from point A to Z, from the beginning to then end. So, in term of time, like investment in time, we did have to invest some time in that. And when I realized that I focused on hiring someone that had previous experience with a NetSuite transition.
[00:14:42] So, we ended up hiring, like, Audrey, and she came out as an accounting manager. And because she had that experience before, transitioning to NetSuite, when she was working at Bulletin, she was able to take a lead role in that implementation and support that project. So, in term of time invested, like usually it took, took us about, like, 10 to 20 hours per week. Sometimes at the beginning because we had to clean up the data, we had to review some of the specifications with the implementation partner, but that was like heavy work at the beginning. As the project like, uh, was ongoing, like he was maybe like five, six hours per week and then, to be honest, like Myers, our implementation, oh, implementation partner.
[00:15:29] They did most of the work for us. But as the data owner, like we had to do our own cleanup. We had to do our own review, and we had to provide these, uh, files, like these trial balances to the implementation partner, so they could, uh, do the work for us. We also had to give them some guidance. Like, they had to do work tools of our processes, of our reconciliations, so they could do the right setup for us.
[00:16:00] Because they were work, they working for us. So, we had to give them the guidance and the support that they needed for them to do the good job.
[00:16:07] Joe Michalowski: So, the implementation partner really is just, just the technical side. Just like, “How do we connect the dots in NetSuite? How do we set up your GL in NetSuite? How do we get these workflows working correctly?” They don’t actually, like, they just take the data you give them. So, if you gave them, like, uncleansed data and a mess, like they’re just gonna upload that.
[00:16:28] Like, it’s, it’s all on you to make sure that that data is going in properly.
[00:16:33] Edwine Alphonse: Exactly. I, I think, as a responsible accountant or, uh, accounting owner, like if you want the process, you have to make sure they did ask Lane. Like, Myers is, like they don’t know, like, what certain account is supposed to look like or what the balances should be. Like, as a controller, I know, and I need to make sure that any data that was transferred to them was accurate, complete, and reasonable.
[00:16:58] So, you kind of have to do some work on your own to make sure that it’s not garbage in, garbage out.
[00:17:05] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:17:06] Edwine Alphonse: And you, I feel like you’re just kind of helping yourself.
[00:17:10] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. I mean, I, listen, it still sounds like a really daunting task, and I, I want to get to the process now, which is, I saw in the article you kicked off the project in March, I believe, and set a goal to finish by August of last year.
[00:17:25] So that gave you, what, a six-month time period?
[00:17:28] That’s a lot of time. So, can you walk me through, like, what that six months looked like? I’ll just, I mean, I can step outta the way and just let you…
The Steps for Successful NetSuite Implementation
[00:17:34] Edwine Alphonse: Yes. Yes. So, lemme talk to you about it. So, it is interesting. So, this took us a long time. I would say that I started at Ramp in March, 2021, and by August, September 2021, I kind of, like I made the decision that we needed to, uh, uh, get a better accounting software. And that’s when we decided that,
[00:17:55] uh, NetSuite was the right one. So, we decided on NetSuite, like, I would say at the end of 2021. And then we had two, um, software we were assessing. It was NetSuite and Sage Intacct. So, NetSuite was a final choice, and we signed agreement with them in February 2022. So, between October and February we took time, we did a demo.
[00:18:20] We assessed different implementation partners. We signed an agreement with Myers-Holum, and we also work on a timeline on the contract agreement. The contract terms, like IT team and my InfoSec team. They did review the control we put, they reviewed the integration reports and anything that could raise any red flags, as well.
[00:18:44] And, as of February, we were all ready to start. So, from March to August 2022, we spent a lot of time working with Myers-Holum. First, like, they analyzed our data, second, they created some specs for us, they did the work tool. And then, third, they validated their findings and what we wanted. So, that took them about, like, three, four months.
[00:19:12] And by June, July they were ready, they were like, “Okay, we’re ready, we know what you want.” And they moved us into a testing environment, like a sandbox environment of, uh, NetSuite. And that’s where they, they started, like, creating, like, a chart of accounts. They started, like, uploading the TBs and, uh, and doing like some work transactions, like creating invoices, drawing entries, like syncing with, uh, Ramp just to test and making sure that everything was working fine.
[00:19:45] So, once they did that, I think they did that like June, July, and we were ready to go live in August. So, August, we went to the actual, um, production environment, which was like the actual NetSuite phase for us. And we’ve been, like, in NetSuite since August 2022.
[00:20:05] Joe Michalowski: Wow.
[00:20:05] Edwine Alphonse: And, and it’s still like, I would say like we still, like, implementing, ’cause we all learning to use it effectively and to maximize the different functionalities.
[00:20:16] Joe Michalowski: I don’t know why, but I, I probably shouldn’t have been, but when you went through those first, like, three steps, you were like, “All right, they’re gonna analyze the data, they’re gonna do the walkthrough, they’re gonna verify.” And I was not expecting that to be all the way to, like, June, July when you said it took three or four months.
[00:20:30] And it makes sense. It makes sense that that is, like, the bulk of the project. Um, but I was a little taken aback. I was like, “Oh, wow. That is, that is a lot of effort that went in up front before you even really touch anything in NetSuite. That’s crazy.”
[00:20:42] Edwine Alphonse: Exactly. Because they, they want to know what you want first. And this is why it’s good to have an implementation partner because they do have a process to get you to where you want to go.
[00:20:54] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:20:55] Edwine Alphonse: And, and for us, after I have, like, we have multiple bank accounts, for example, because we have bank accounts for every products that we do, and most of our customer transaction flows to our bank accounts.
[00:21:06] So, one of the things that was important for us is make sure we have the right bank integrations and all the data properly syncing and refreshing as we needed it for a bank reconciliation of closed process. So, that took time to make sure all the data I was flowing accurately and completely.
[00:21:25] Joe Michalowski: It makes sense, still just like, you know, my little, uh, Director of Content, writer brain is like, “Oh, wow, that is, that is some effort on the back-end,” which is amazing that, I mean, amazing that you hit your goal. You hear so many horror stories about NetSuite implementations gone wrong. So, first off, congratulations on
[00:21:42] on just hitting your timeline, getting it out the door when you wanted to. Maybe there aren’t. I, I kind of had this question I was gonna, I was wondering if you had encountered surprises along the way, were there things that you didn’t expect that happened? Maybe, maybe it went all smoothly, but I’m, I’m curious, did, did anything happen that you weren’t expecting?
[00:21:59] Edwine Alphonse: I would say like we did it well. Like, there were no big surprises. And, and the reason is we were prepared, and we had a good partner that kind of, like, made it easier for us. The one things I would not is, like, the data migration thing. Like, I would’ve want, I would’ve liked to have all of my data in one system.
[00:22:23] Joe Michalowski: Yeah.
[00:22:24] Edwine Alphonse: Like, I don’t, like, I don’t really like going back and forth into systems. Like, my audit mind doesn’t like that, but I was okay making the compromise. Like, I had to do the compromise. I was like, “Okay, I understand.”
[00:22:37] Joe Michalowski: Yeah.
[00:22:38] Edwine Alphonse: So, at some point, you need to make some decisions and move on and, and just, like, decide what’s best.
[00:22:45] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:22:46] Edwine Alphonse: And what you can live with.
[00:22:49] And data is where people usually, like, uh, mess up.
[00:22:53] Joe Michalowski: Yeah.
[00:22:53] Edwine Alphonse: Cause, like, you know, like accounting is all about data information. So, if the information is not transferred properly, the information is not clean, you get in trouble. The other thing is like, make sure that, I, I’ll tell people, like, just to make sure they communicate with their auditors if they have auditors because this is a big project and you want to make sure your auditor is aware of that.
[00:23:16] Uh, and especially because they would have to test the, the data migration just to make sure there were no losses in information.
[00:23:25] Joe Michalowski: Right.
[00:23:25] Edwine Alphonse: Of course, they probably charge you more to do that kind of additional work.
[00:23:30] Joe Michalowski: listen, it costs stay compliant. You can’t…
[00:23:32] Edwine Alphonse: Yeah. Yeah. It’s money just to make sure that nothing was lost. So, they have to test, like, whatever got in, got out.
[00:23:40] So, auditors need to be included and, and also like, uh, if you have to do, like, any integrations, understand if you will need a connector for this integrations. I think, for us, I think that was one of the lesson we learned, like we’re not IT or data specialist. So, as we, uh, after implementing NetSuite, we were like, “Oh, we, we would like to be able to, uh, transfer during NetSuite financials into Luke or QuickSight.”
[00:24:11] And we realized, “Okay, we need to have, like, some kind of connector to do that. Like, we were able to do it, but this is not things we were thinking before because this is not our area of specialties.”
[00:24:24] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. I, I’m curious, how, how much time are you spending still in the old system? Like, do you, do you often go back and have to look at that old data? Like, is there a, a certain workflow that requires you to go back, like, when, when is it necessary to look that far back?
[00:24:42] Edwine Alphonse: Yes, for us, we, because we, the way we did it from January, 2022 to August, let’s say, to July 21st, 2022, all of the data and all the entries resided in the old system. And, of course, like, anything from 2019 to 2020, it’s in the old system. So, whenever we have to go back and look at this old entries, old transactions, we have to go to the old system.
[00:25:10] Like, right now we are doing our audit, and the audit is covering the full 2022. So, of course, we have to go back to it. So I do imagine like a world, like maybe next year when we are done, we’ll do audit. We don’t have to go that much into it. But, I would say, like, maybe like, uh, it’s not significant, like, we have pretty much everything in NetSuite.
[00:25:31] We used to it now. And the reason we are spending time is because we, we doing the 2022 audit. So, I’m not going to, uh, cancel the subscription because this is where three years of data reside, but we will be using them less and less, as time goes by.
[00:25:52] Joe Michalowski: Makes sense. I want to, I wanna stay on this, like, ERP data cleanliness, uh, sort of topic. Because I mentioned to you before, it’s something we hear from Mosaic prospects and customers a lot is like, I always, we talk a lot about data cleanliness, data hygiene, but I always heard about it on, like, the CRM front, like “Oh, our Salesforce data.” ‘Cause Salesforce is so customizable.
[00:26:13] And so, like in my head, I, that was where the data integrity issues came from. More recently, I’m hearing on the ERP side, which I didn’t realize was such a challenge. Can you talk a little bit if you have advice or any insight into how you’re, you got that data clean through the process and how you’re keeping it clean now?
The Importance of Clean Data
[00:26:35] Edwine Alphonse: Yes. So, I think, keeping data clean is part of having like a, a good close process.
[00:26:41] Joe Michalowski: Hmm.
[00:26:43] Edwine Alphonse: And at Ramp we, we do like monthly close.
[00:26:46] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:26:46] Edwine Alphonse: At some point, hopefully, we’ll get to daily close, but right now, we still, like, in the monthly close, and our timeline for close is moving toward, like, five days. We’re currently at eight day, nine-day close, but hopefully, by mid-year, my goal is to get to five-day close.
[00:27:02] Joe Michalowski: Amazing.
[00:27:03] Edwine Alphonse: So, you need to start cleaning your data as part of your close process. So, when I started at Ramp, like, it wasn’t done, like, we didn’t have a good close, and some of the data was dirty. And when I talk about data, I’m talking about the accounting records, and accounting records, they are translated into three or four main statement balance sheet, P&L, cash flow, shareholder equity, equity.
[00:27:29] So the importance of cleaning your data is extremely linked to the importance of having accurate and timely financial statement because your data are supposed to give knowledge to your stakeholders, your executive team, your investors, your banks, your lenders, and sometimes the government or the IRS, ’cause they want to know all the companies doing.
[00:27:50] And they want to know what type of decision to make. And the sooner they can make the decision the better it is for the company, usually. So, it is extremely important to have good financials. In these financials, they results on data ’cause the data tells the story. So, for me, actually, when I started, like, I made sure that I went back from day zero to review all the transactions.
[00:28:18] Like, for example, we had like an investor transaction, like fundraising, that was done from the beginning. Made sure everything was properly categorized, properly dated, and properly recorded. And part of the recording is sometimes like you have to make some judgemental assumptions that are appropriate based on the, um, accounting standards like US GAAP.
[00:28:42] Like, we use US GAAP.
[00:28:44] So, it start, like, from reviewing all type of transactions, but also setting up a framework for that review. And the first framework is your chart of account.
[00:28:55] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:28:56] Edwine Alphonse: Like, how are you going to categorize transactions and how are you going to create that first kind of ledger and knowing, “Okay, I want to show this like that, like I want to show my balance sheet with, like, cash, restricted cash, like, investment, all automat already, like available for sales, like prepaid, like…” So it’s, it’s a lot of planning because you want to make sure that, uh, that story that you’re telling makes sense
[00:29:24] for the company. And he’s also in agreement to what the founders, the executive team who wants to portray of the company. So, from the chart of accounts, I had to agree, “Okay, this is how we were going to show the balance sheet. This is how we are going to show the P&L and, like, some expenses, like are we going to opt them as part of goes profit like in, in cost of good or services provided or we going to have an operating expenses.” So, there’s a lot of mapping needed and necessary to clean that data, as well. So, I would just, like, advise people to start from the beginning.
[00:30:01] Joe Michalowski: Yeah.
[00:30:02] Edwine Alphonse: Because the beginning, you’re just making sure when you clean the data, you have the right books first.
[00:30:07] Joe Michalowski: Yeah.
[00:30:08] Edwine Alphonse: And then you can show them and allocate things properly.
[00:30:12] Joe Michalowski: Is this a factor of, you know, if you’re starting from the beginning, you’re talking about the founders, is this, is this a matter of being time-consuming or is the advice really like, you know, work with an outsourced accounting firm to, like, get this figured out as soon as possible? Like, is it, is it just that since you’re not held to, like, a publicly traded company’s standards of compliance, like you can just get by without putting this in place and then eventually, you know, three years later, someone like Edwine comes in, and she’s like, “Hey, what were you guys doing for three years?”
[00:30:42] Like, why, why does it get off on the wrong foot, I guess?
[00:30:45] Edwine Alphonse: Uh, usually people don’t invest in accounting from the get-go because it’s not like a money generating, like, function. Unfortunately, like, they would invest in product, in engineering, in sales, ’cause that’s what gets the money first in the door. And I agree, it’s important. But at the same time, like, if you have a good, a clean financial statement, it makes it easier for you to get, uh, lenders, to get investors as well.
[00:31:12] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:31:13] Edwine Alphonse: So, for me, it’s just not top of the mind and it’s not priority, especially if you are in a situation of, uh, scarcity.
[00:31:21] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:31:21] Edwine Alphonse: And you can get by like really, like you can get by for a long time. I’ve been, like, an external accountant that will do, like, just pure bookkeeping. And I always remind people, like bookkeeping is not accounting.
[00:31:35] Joe Michalowski: Okay.
[00:31:36] Edwine Alphonse: So, there’s a difference between bookkeeping and accounting. Bookkeeping is just like debit credit, whereas like accounting, there’s like, um, more judgment and more expertise needed to tell, like, the story of that, that the company want to tell, you know?
[00:31:51] Joe Michalowski: That’s a, that’s a really, that’s an important distinction that I honestly like, it’s probably really obvious. Maybe that’s why no one ever brings it up, but no one’s really brought that part up. So, usually, when, you know, people tell me like, oh, “Early stages, like, you have your outsourced accountant, which is basically the bookkeeper.
[00:32:04] It’s like, “Hey, just make sure you can produce a financial statement.” But, yeah, you’re right. It is much different than, like, telling that story, having those categories mapped out the way you want to. Yeah, haven’t heard anyone really talk about that. That’s a really important distinction. So, thank you.
[00:32:18] Edwine Alphonse: Yes. It is an important distinction, and some companies are not ready for that yet, and it’s okay. All they need is, like, some cash accounting to be done, know, like, how much money they have in the bank so they can do proper, like, cash flow or management and cash flow forecast. But as the company is growing and as you start looking for, uh, more sophisticated investors or lenders, the requirement to provide, like US GAAP appropriate financial statement will start to, to, to rise.
[00:32:45] And that’s when you need, like, more expertise. And that’s all be when like, usually I start walking, like they usually we chat, and I get onboarded.
[00:32:57] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. Makes a lot of sense. I think, listen, this is all super interesting. It’s as complicated a story as I expected it to be because nobody wanted to talk to me about it. Uh, so thank you for bearing with me as I ask you all these questions. I have a few more, but I think the, the rest of my questions are a little bit broader.
[00:33:13] So, I’m, I’m gonna stop grilling you about these, the specific implementation pieces. But we had the Ramp Head of Finance, Alex Song, on the podcast, uh, a while back, like, uh, I dunno, it’s like episode 14 or something. And he made a really big point about how, like, the Ramp, Ramp’s goal is, like, a vision of, like, strategic finance, strategic accounting, being on like the cutting edge of these things.
[00:33:36] And we talked about tech a lot. And so, one question I had for you is like, was it all hands on deck for NetSuite, or were you also implementing other pieces of software at the same time? There’s, there’s like so many different things you could be putting in place to get to five days for a close or a daily close.
[00:33:53] So, curious, like, what other tech implementations were going on or if this was it for six months?
Other Tech Implementations for Strategic Finance
[00:33:59] Edwine Alphonse: Yeah. So, this is a great question. And I did implement other software at Ramp. What, what, I’ve been here, so, actually I’m going to have two years, I’ll be, like, at Ramp for two years at the end of the month.
[00:34:10] Joe Michalowski: Congrats.
[00:34:11] Edwine Alphonse: Thank you. So, in my two years, we’ve implemented like four, maybe three, four software, like, pieces of tech.
[00:34:18] The first one is, we implemented like Paylocity which is our payroll processor. We went from a PEL to Paylocity. And the reason we had to do that is because we have, like, a significant increase in headcount. And as your count is going, it doesn’t make sense to stay in a PEL because you need to control more your employee expenses and your benefit expenses.
[00:34:41] So, I was able to do that at Ramp in the late 2021, and we were able to start using that new pay processor as of January 2022. So, that was on the same times that we were implementing NetSuite. So, NetSuite, we had to implement it because we needed to be like better and more efficient. We were accounting close and accounting records, so we didn’t NetSuite.
[00:35:04] And after NetSuite implementation, which ended in August, September. We started looking at how can we make the close better and more efficient, and also how can we document our controls better. So, we started looking at the close software and there are many of them, like, they’re like black line, floor cast, numeric.
[00:35:26] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:35:27] Edwine Alphonse: There’s net close.
[00:35:29] So, we looked at most of them, like all the big players, and we currently implementing one, like the one we implementing is Forecast because that was the one that we thought was a better fit for a Ramp. And the reason we’re doing that is because we want to get to that five-day close and potentially that one-day close.
[00:35:49] And, and as you know, auditors, they want to see, like, evidence of controls, evidence of sign-offs, like reconciliations. And the best way to do that is to, one of this, uh, software because that’s where you can automate ’cause we thought automation, there is no efficiency in, like, closing or in accounting. So, my role philosophy at Ramp is to automate as much as we can and to also, like, spend time where we need to spend time.
[00:36:19] Like, it, it doesn’t make sense to spend time, like, doing expense report and that’s what Ramp is helping people with. The same time, doesn’t make sense to, like, spend time doing their reconciliation or sign off on them when you can do that to, like, close software or to NetSuite, for example.
[00:36:34] Joe Michalowski: Yep. Makes a lot of sense, I think. It’s a lot of what I expected. Sounds like you kind of bookended the NetSuite implementation. Like, the, the Paylocity was, like, right at the beginning, and then as it was ending, it’s like, “Okay, like now we can kind of Ramp up.” But before the time that you were implementing NetSuite, it was like, “Hey, like we’re, we’re not throw in a new payroll system and three pieces of close software.”
[00:36:53] It’s like, “We really have to focus here because…”
[00:36:54] Edwine Alphonse: Exactly. And we’ll be implementing more, like, I think we have some more to implement. I know on the side, they’re looking at implementing, like, a budget software that can help us go and provide insight. Uh, we also have like data software that we use so we can provide like more, better corporate information as well.
[00:37:13] Like, we used Luke, for example. So, a, well, like I said, like, I try, like we want to make it easier to get data and provide that information to the people that need information so they can make better decisions timely.
[00:37:27] Joe Michalowski: Yep. Makes sense. I think, it’s a good way to lead into it to my last two questions. They’re super high-level. I’ll leave it a little more lighthearted than the, the deep NetSuite conversation.
[00:37:36] But one is just in general, you mentioned one lesson learned earlier, but I’m curious, like now that the project is, well, done, done is a strong word.
[00:37:44] ‘Cause I know you gonna keep iterating on it. But now that the main part of the project is done is there, like, a major lesson learned from the process? Anything that you would share with people who might be, uh, a little nervous to get started themselves?
[00:37:57] Edwine Alphonse: I think you have to do it, so the lesson learned is just like we talked to band-aid and get it done. And the sooner you can get it done, the better. Because if, if you wait longer, it’s, it’s more data, it’s more time, it’s more power. And more data is more, uh, risk of losing that data or having that data compromised.
[00:38:16] And it’s easier. Like, the less processes, the less people you have the easier it is to move to a better solution.
[00:38:26] So, just get it done. We put in, and if you need help, like ask for the help, ask for support, like get an implementation partner. Get a consultant. And then, my last point is to communicate,
[00:38:38] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:38:39] Edwine Alphonse: Like, communicate, like timeline, communicate expectations, communicate problems. ‘Cause there is always someone that can help. Like, for example, I know I’m not like a technical, like, product engineer. And, for us, when we were doing that integration with Ramp, we wanted to make sure that we could sync properly between Ramp and NetSuite. So, we did involve our engineering team and our product accounting team just to make sure the syncing was done properly, and we were able to test different type of functionalities, like bill pay or credit card to, uh, Ramp and NetSuite, as well.
[00:39:14] Joe Michalowski: I love the rip-off the band-aid point. Especially if you know, like you’re that like high-growth company, like, you know where you’re gonna get there and so, like, the longer you delay, like, maybe the, the worse it gets. So, I like that idea.
[00:39:24] Um, and communication always, like, key to that.
[00:39:26] Edwine Alphonse: Exactly. And if you don’t have time to get it done, like, it’s okay to invest in getting the right support to get it done.
[00:39:36] Joe Michalowski: Yep. Totally agree. Obviously, yeah, I’ll gladly tell people, “Go, go spend the money. It’s not my money.” So, uh, it makes a lot of sense, but, um, it’s a good point. It’s…
[00:39:45] Edwine Alphonse: Yeah. But make sure you have the money as well. Like all, all of this, like people, they, they cost money. Like, you need to make sure you have the money to do this, as well.
[00:39:55] Joe Michalowski: Yeah.
[00:39:56] Edwine Alphonse: And then planning for it is good. Mm-hmm. And the longer you wait, the more expensive it’s going to get because things keep get, getting more expensive and it’s more data, it’s more hours, it’s more cleanup needed.
[00:40:07] Joe Michalowski: Yep. Uh, makes sense. I, I wanna leave you one last question I ask everybody that comes on. It has nothing to do with NetSuite. It could, if you wanted it to be about NetSuite, but, uh, it’s just, what’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your accounting career?
[00:40:22] Edwine Alphonse: Oh, that’s a good question. One thing I knew, like, one thing I know is, like, accountants or think, like we’re all different.
[00:40:29] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:40:31] Edwine Alphonse: And usually, like, you think accountants are, like, boring being counters, tax specialist, and that’s so not true.
[00:40:41] Joe Michalowski: Yeah.
[00:40:42] Edwine Alphonse: Like, accountants are fun, exciting, they can be boring too, but they’re different type of accountants.
[00:40:48] Like, when I was becoming accountant, like, my idea was, like, of an auditor, ’cause that was the first like CPA that I had to interact with, like, directly.
[00:40:59] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:41:01] Edwine Alphonse: And after, I’m like, “Oh, my God.” Like, you can be like doing so many fun things, like you can work at startups and be challenged. You can work in a public company and have more consistency, more stability, and just be like doing more technical accounting.
[00:41:16] You can also work in a, as like investigator or forensic accountant, you can work as a strategist. Like, you can do so many things. And, and the best part of this is just like, it’s just like different type of stories you get to tell.
[00:41:32] Joe Michalowski: That’s so nice. I love that. I think, I would agree. There’s like this perception that the accountant is like the, like you said, the, the bean counter, the back, the back office scorekeeper, and you can really, you can have, like, a strategic impact. Like, I think your, your position is so much more than just counting numbers in the back of Ramp’s office. Like, you are doing a lot for that company, and I, I think it’s nice to kind of put that out there as like, that’s your.
[00:41:54] Edwine Alphonse: Exactly. And, and I feel like it’s empowering in, in some way because, uh, for me, I know that I do have the knowledge. Like, I usually tell people I know more than everyone because you see the numbers, you see, like, the transaction going to, and sometimes you can read, read between the line of these transactions.
[00:42:14] So, accountants are like the knowledge older historian. And, for me, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and I guess, like I, I like accounting because of that.
[00:42:24] Joe Michalowski: I love that. We had, one of our first episodes was, uh, with Timmy Vasco. She’s the Controller at Gem, was another really great episode we did. So, I enjoy talking, uh, to you all in the accounting side. So, I think it’s a good way to, or a good place to leave it. I know, uh, I don’t wanna take up too much of your time, but I just wanna say, Edwine, thanks so much for, for being on.
[00:42:42] I, I’ll turn the floor over to you. Where can people learn more about Ramp, connect with you, give you a chance to plug that newsletter that we were talking about before? The floor is yours.
[00:42:52] Edwine Alphonse: Yes, thank you, Joe. So, people can find Ramp on ramp.com and, as you know, Ramp is a finance automation credit card platform for businesses. Like, we are the best accounting and finance automation platform. And the reason I joined that’s because when I got the demo, I was like, “Oh, my God, this is what I’ve been looking for.” And, for me, people can find me on LinkedIn. I do have a newsletter that I’m studying. I think we have 12 articles so far, and that newsletter is named The Balanced Sheet.
[00:43:26] Joe Michalowski: Yep.
[00:43:26] Edwine Alphonse: And I explored the intersection of accounting and regular life. So, please subscribe and please leave me, uh, any comments, any thoughts, like, if you don’t agree with some of my posts, always leave comments and let me know why you don’t agree.
[00:43:42] I’m always open to chat with anyone and have a conversation. But thank you, Joe, and thank you for, everyone for listening to this.
[00:43:51] Joe Michalowski: Yeah, thanks so much. I will link out to the newsletter to you, to Ramp, everybody in the, in the show notes. But, yeah, thanks so much for being on The Role Forward, and I hope we can do it again sometime.
[00:44:00] Edwine Alphonse: Thank you, Joe.
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