Slice of life – A financial analyst at accountants

It was in August 2018, after obtaining my BAA in finance, that I began my professional career at Cofinia. My mandate was to participate in the development of financial models, to prepare financial projections to support SMEs in their request for financing, necessary for the realization of their projects.

By carrying out these reports on a daily basis, I realized that the entrepreneurs who used them also needed advice for their analysis, as they were key tools in making management decisions.

Indeed, entrepreneurs may be the greatest connoisseurs of their product or sales in the company, but it is not given to everyone to be comfortable with financial data. The entrepreneur’s business insights can grow the business, but if management decisions are backed by data and analytics, it’s more reassuring to move forward and forge ahead.

Being an entrepreneur herself, Marie-Andrée was aware of this issue. Although she had the advantage of having the financial knowledge necessary to analyze her financial performance, she wanted to develop a financial dashboard, allowing her and her clients, not having the necessary means when hiring a CFO, visualize financial data quickly in order to optimize business decisions.

Before my arrival Marie-Andrée had started designing the dashboard with popular tools such as Power BI and Tableau. However, these tools had certain limitations, for example the distinction between the period of a financial year versus the calendar year. This aspect was essential when designing a dashboard. Although it is convenient to have the actual data up to date, it can sometimes be biased by the accounting process. There must therefore be the possibility of aligning oneself with the results of the financial year or of a given period.

It was the discovery of Zoho Analytics that solved several pitfalls, including accounting periods. Since the app was connected to Zoho’s Books accounting software, it automatically considered the company’s financial year. Interestingly, there are also connectors for Quickbook online and Xero.

As Cofinia’s growth was going fast, Marie-Andrée needed to focus more on the management and business development aspects. Driven by the opportunity to create a new product useful to entrepreneurs and having a base in programming, I got involved in this new project.

A not inconsiderable aspect of the application is that at the time of configuration a good number of reports and graphs, which we call visualizations, are available and can quickly give an overview of the possibilities of the application. This first level of visualization is interesting, but it is by knowing more about the application that we realize all the possibilities. Visualizations can be customized, grouped into dashboards, and created from SQL queries.

You probably have several management reports in Excel that are tedious to update every month. Quite intuitively for me and my analyst colleagues, it is possible to link different tables of data and have all the information in the same table. No more need to extract several files from our accounting software, to manually copy into your Excel and to validate the different links of your formulas. Once the queries and visualizations are completed, the data will automatically refresh each day. It is also possible to automate the sending of reports by email or to consult them on your smart phone or tablet.

Since April 2019, it is now possible to have a single environment for a multitude of other Zoho applications such as Zoho CRM, Zoho Project and Zoho People. In doing so, it is possible to cross-reference data from your CRM and Zoho Books to find out, for example, the profitability of your customers.

Zoho Analytics is a great discovery. If you are already a ZohoOne subscriber, the app is part of the suite at no additional cost. We have developed in the last year a number of reports for our clients, you can consult a sample of our achievements here.

Alexandre Lachance

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