Aircall’s finance tool stack: a look inside a global tech unicorn
“If you’re paying for a tool you’re not using, that’s a failure in some sense. Don’t hesitate to ask people to get help…because a tool is only successful once you implement it and use it.” - Paul Mondollot, Aircall
Your finance tool stack should be able to grow with your company. But because there are so many tools on the market, it’s hard to know how to get started. And once you’ve got a few tools in your arsenal, how can you ensure they’ll handle a scaling company?
Paul Mondollot, VP of FP&A at Aircall and finance tool expert, shared how he and his team constructed a tool stack that fit their needs.
Aircall is a business phone and communication platform used around the world, so their finance tools need to be efficient, operable in every country, and interconnected.
Paul shared his steps to creating a solid stack from the ground up, plus insider tips on how to keep everything running smoothly. Read on to find out how Aircall built and optimized their scalable finance tool stack.
Aircall’s current finance tool stack
In the image below, you’ll find Aircall’s current finance tool stack. The ERP Oracle NetSuite lies at the center of the stack, with links between Aircall’s payment systems, spend management, HRIS, tax, banks, and all other tools.
Paul’s tips to build the ideal tool stack
1. Prioritize projects and assess risk
Before you can optimize or implement any tools, the first step is to take a look at the big picture.
Paul suggests you start with the obvious questions: why are we implementing a new tool? What are we trying to achieve?
He explains: “This will help prioritize what you want to work on. You need to understand what the issues are in your organization. It depends on your organization, your current tool set, and your ongoing topics.”
He says that your top priority should be identifying risk, and then go from there.
“I’d recommend going by processes and understanding your level of risk. Do you have risk tied to a process that could kill your company?”
For example, Aircall ran into some complex issues related to taxes in the United States. “Looking at the complexity of US taxes, we chose to fast track our tax tool Avalara in order to be aligned on taxes.” This was a priority because any sort of tax issue is a big risk in terms of liability.
Paul offers another example: “Maybe you’re struggling to understand the data and you can’t forecast. In that case, start with BI tools or an EPM.”
This is the best way to begin your finance tool stack evaluation: start with your highest-risk challenges and prioritize those first.
2. Build a stack suited to your company
Looking at Aircall’s finance tool stack above, you’ll see tools suited to Aircall’s business model, industry, and structure. There’s nothing superfluous in the stack – every tool has its use.
But building a stack takes time. Paul says that Aircall’s current tool stack took a total of five years to build.
Paul points out that Oracle NetSuite, the enterprise resource planning tool, sits front and center in the stack. He says of NetSuite, “It’s central to our tool stack today. We have different modules that are part of NetSuite.”
There are tons of ERP options out there, but Aircall decided that NetSuited suited them best. And in the end, it was the right decision. He says: “Netsuite has been a game changer because of how modular it is and how central it is to our stack. We couldn’t live without it because it does everything for us.”
He goes on to describe a few other tools in the stack and how they interconnect:
“GoCardless and ProcessOut are connected to NetSuite. 100% of Aircall’s payments are fully automated. We have three banks to address all our needs in all the countries. There’s a connection from JP Morgan to NetSuite; we’re able to trigger payments to NetSuite.”
He continues: “Order to cash at Aircall is kind of complicated because we have a high volume of small customers worldwide, in over 100 countries and over 1,000 SKUs in the system. We invest massively in this. We have Salesforce CPQ, where all the sales reps and CSMs build quotes and contracts.”
“It’s not perfect, we can always improve, but this is our current tool stack at Aircall.”
3. Reassess periodically
As Paul says, the finance tool stack is always a work in progress.
Because pretty much every tool today is subscription based, Paul suggests that the renewal period is the perfect time to reassess your tool stack and whether certain tools are still working for you. He outlines how the SaaS renewal process works at Aircall – not just for finance, but for every business unit:
“Three to six months before the renewal, the business leader has to come to their peers and explain how the tool is being used at the moment, what the plan is for the renewal, whether there’s an alternative, etc.” In his opinion, this is a healthy procedure.
“If you want a new tool, you need to be able to justify that it will have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line. It has to be more efficient. At Aircall, we request a business case to explain in detail why this will provide benefits to the company, and it’s checked by the finance team, security, IT, etc.”
4. Keep your eye on the market
The tools you have today probably won’t work for you forever. Paul suggests you keep an eye on the market to watch out for new software: “I feel like there’s a new tool every day. There’s a new generation of business tools that are coming.”
Even Aircall’s beloved NetSuite, around which they’ve built their tool stack, isn’t guaranteed to be the best option forever. “Priorities and the landscape change. NetSuite is great for us for the moment, but maybe in ten years there will be something better out there.”
Anything could change, so finance leaders should be aware of emerging tools and technologies that could increase efficiency or save the company money.
This goes for AI, too. And while Paul hasn’t adopted any AI tools just yet, they’re on his radar.
“For finance tools, there aren’t many using AI successfully. It will come, it’s just a matter of when. AI will take more and more importance in finance, but it will take a little more time than the rest of the departments, who are already using AI.”
When more AI finance tools emerge on the market, Paul suggests you be ready for them.
“Generative AI isn’t useful for finance now, but don’t fall behind the curve. Everybody should take some time to play a little with ChatGPT and get to know the technology. It will be implemented into the tools we use today: chat bots, search bars. It will change everything in terms of efficiency.”
When should you implement an ERP?
One of the most crucial questions that comes up when building or optimizing a finance tool stack revolves around when (or if) you should implement an ERP.
Paul estimates that implementing an ERP early on was the best decision they made for the finance tool stack.
“Originally, we didn’t have an accounting program. We used Excel. Our CFO wanted to internalize the accounting function. So the question was, ‘Should we get an accounting tool or go straight to an ERP?’ An ERP is more expensive, but we knew we’d need one down the line, and it would be even more expensive later when we had more data. It paid dividends over the long run.”
Because NetSuite is an ERP that includes an accounting system, it made sense for Aircall to implement it sooner rather than later.
They ruled out an accounting solution because they wanted a cloud-based ERP from the get-go. But that won’t be true for every company. There are significant barriers to entry, including price, set-up time, dedicating FTE to maintenance, and other blockers. (Learn more about the best ERP tools here.)
Watch the entire webinar
Throughout the rest of the webinar, Paul answered questions from the audience, including:
How do you reduce your SaaS spend?
How do you speed up the closing process so the team can spend more time on valuable analysis?
How flexible is the Adaptive Insights tool?
If you’re interested in hearing Paul’s answers and learning even more from his expertise, you can watch a replay of the entire webinar here:
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