Highlights of my conversation with David Watson

  • Benefits of cloud integration for franchise businesses
  • What you need in place to offer advisory services
  • How cloud technology is disrupting traditional business intelligence
  • Benchmarking for small business owners
  • How to maximise your time at conferences

Subscribe to Episode 16 of Cloud Stories on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/cloud-stories-heather-smith/id908333807

Heather:        Hello, this is Heather Smith here. Thank you so much for joining me on the Cloud Stories podcast. I’m really excited to share with you today an interview with David Watson. I have been trying to get David on the show for about a year now, so finally it’s happened. David Watson is a cofounder of Fathom, a cloud based management reporting and financial analysis tool, which helps assess company performance, monitor trends and identify improvement opportunities.

David has been involved in the design and development of financial analysis and performance management systems for the past 12 years. David’s experience includes the development of several analysis and benchmarking tools for public and private sector entities and government institutions. He is passionate about creating insightful and visual applications which help to measure and track financial and nonfinancial performance.

Fathom, the company, is a team of designers, developers and business analysts. They’re based in Brisbane, Australia, and help advisors and business owners from all over the world with their reporting needs. The Fathom application is an easy to use management reporting and financial analysis tool which helps you assess business performance, monitor trends and identify improvement opportunities. I started by asking David:

If you could bottle something from your childhood, what would it be?

David:            Heather, good question and personally, my absolutely pleasure today to be doing this podcast with you. My childhood was a little bit different to probably many. My dad had a job that involved a lot of travel, so spent basically the first 10-12 years of my life living out of a suitcase and traveling around the world. I’ve done about three and a half to four years in Africa, a few years in the Pacific Islands, a couple years in Asia, and some time in Europe as well.

My fond memories of my childhood are just that sense of adventure, that sense of travel, and just that sense of being able to explore and see a lot of the world. Life today is very different. Brisbane is home and I love Brisbane, love being in this region of the world. Still travel for holidays but don’t travel nearly as much as I used to growing up.

Heather:        Absolutely, that’s so interesting. Wow, that’s fascinating. I should now go and say I lived overseas for 10 years in three separate countries and I think Brisbane is the best place in the world.

David:            That’s right.

Heather:        So with your travel experience, is that the conclusion you came to too?

David:            I do, I love traveling and seeing other cultures and seeing other parts of the world but probably similar to you, Heather, I think there’s no place in the world like Australia. I love Australia and in all of Australia, I love Brisbane. I always enjoy traveling and get to do a bit of travel for work these days but I always enjoy coming home.

Heather:        Absolutely, that’s great. I love Brisbane too. We’ve just got to not let other people know about it. Keep it quiet.

David:            That’s right.

David, you are one of the cofounders of Fathom as you are probably aware. Can you explain to our listeners what Fathom does?

David:            Sure. Fathom is a tool that’s specifically designed for accountants and advisors but also for small business owners as well. It really has a couple of core functions and that’s analytics or analysis. It’s a reporting add-on as well for Xero but the goal of Fathom is really to take your numbers from Xero and convert those numbers into a rich range of visual reports, analysis, insights, to really help you understand what’s happening in your business. So it’s really about getting clarity into your business performance and identifying opportunities for improvements.

It sort of fits into a broad sphere, some people call that business intelligence, some people will call it analytics, some people will call it KPI tracking, performance management. Whatever you call it, it really doesn’t matter, the goal of Fathom is the same and that is to help you understanding what’s happening in your business and how to improve your business’s performance.

Heather:        Okay.

What programming language is Fathom built on?

David:            In terms of the technology stack that we use, we’re all very much Microsoft focused. We use SQL Database in our backend. It’s written in .NET using C# as the primary programming language. In terms of the front end, there’s a whole range of modern JavaScript Frameworks that we use as well but primarily we use the similar technologies to what Xero use as well but predominantly Microsoft technologies to develop Fathom.

Heather:        Excellent.

What sort of clients benefit from using Fathom?

David:            I could probably classify those clients, Heather, into three different broad categories. The first of those is bookkeepers, accountants and advisors. They’re typically using Fathom with their clients to really engage their clients and deliver some great virtual CFO, virtual financial director type services. So being able to sit down with your client, the advisors client … the adviser being able to sit down with their client on a regular basis and have a conversation about how their business is performing and what their key numbers actually mean. That’s one broad category of user.

The other type of user of Fathom is the actual business owner themselves or business management who are really looking for a reporting tool that helps them to just improve and streamline their monthly reporting for the board or their management team. So they’ll just simply integrate Fathom with their own Xero account and quickly produce some reports and some analysis for their own use.

The third broad category that we help or assist with is multi-entity organisations, franchise groups and other groups similar to that. The key benefit for them using Fathom is the ability to do comparative analysis. In Fathom, there are a whole range of benchmarking tools and the ability to compare but also the ability to consolidate your entities as well. That really helps them to get a helicopter view of all the different stores or schools or franchises or business units, and how each one rates, ranks and compares against the other.

So in summary, accountants and advisors, business owners and managers, and franchise groups and other multi-entity organisations are our typical client base.

Heather:        Yes, it sounds like it can be really powerful for all of those three groups. I imagine with the multi-entity one, now that we have cloud based technology and the information is almost within a few hours being real time information, they’re in a position to act very quickly to performance management, etc., and contact people.

I know I heard someone from one of the big coffee franchises say that if every franchise lost $5 a day, it was just a huge amount of money. They would watch their analysis and if within an hour, something went red, they would be on the phone to them saying, “What’s going on?”

David:            That’s right.

Heather:        Then if it didn’t improve within a week, the team would go in but using your sort of tool, that’s what people can actually … the reality of what they can actually do.

David:            Absolutely. One classic example I remember Heather, is of … this is going back three years ago but I was at a Xero roadshow actually and a franchisor came up to me and said, “Listen, I’m here today to hear about Xero because I’m sick of the first phone call I get being from my franchisee saying, “Listen, this isn’t going well and we’re closing the doors today.””

The reason for that is they had this franchise system with everyone on desktop accounting systems, no transparency into how each franchisee was doing, so the business was … the transparency or the visibility into the performance of each of those franchisees was just constrained because of the technology they were using. They ended up transitioning the entire franchise group and all its members onto Xero.

It’s interesting, you often hear people say, “I love the cloud. I love the cloud.” I always like to press a bit deeper and actually find out what they actually value. Often what you find they actually value when they say, “I love the cloud,” is they value integration. They value the fact that data flows from your bank feeds straight into your Xero account and then downstream from there, you know data can flow into a tool like Fathom for reporting but you’ve got these other systems, inventory systems, your point of sale systems all feeding in as well.

They just love the fact that data flows from one system to the next and all of that data is accessible. It’s always within arm’s reach because you just need a browser and internet connection to access it. So yes, it’s just an anecdote there or a story but … and we were able to assist at that real estate group, that franchise group to once they moved onto Xero, then being able to put Fathom over the top to help them to give that overall view of all the different entities on Xero and the performance of each of those.

Heather:        Yes, it’s incredible just in the last few years how far the cloud solution and what you can do has come. It’s a no brainer for anyone who’s in a franchise group, who is leading that group and business coaching or mentoring that group, to have Xero and to have a solution like Fathom doing the business intelligence and sort of multi-entity reporting. It’s just a no brainer that they should have it. It’s relatively straight forward to getting it up and running, isn’t it?

David:            Absolutely. The value proposition and the benefits for those multi-entity groups and those groups that are working across different geographical regions and across different countries, that a cloud based accounting system just provide immediate significant benefits.

I do understand that with franchise groups, often they have the challenge of mandating what systems, that there are some constraints there. They often can’t just come in and mandate the systems that the franchisees have to use but apart from that, the benefits and the value to going to using a cloud based system like Xero is just so obvious and clear in my opinion.

Heather:        Yes, you would think that they would, as part of implementing … not that I want to turn it into a franchising discussion but you would think that part of joining a franchise or getting a licence is, “Here is the solution we recommend you use. Here is the chart of accountants we recommend you use. Here are the tracking categories you monitor.” You would think that that would actually be part of the business process overlay that happens when you buy into the solution.

That’s interesting that you’re saying that they don’t have that. Maybe what I’m assuming is they target the marketing side and the product and service delivery side but not the backend side which can really help obviously with the cash flow side.

David:            That’s right.

I believe using a tool like Fathom, an adviser can increase their income by using this business intelligent tool, so for advisors who have been working “in compliance”, what would you say is the first or easiest step for them to start using Fathom?

David:            That’s a really good question. What we like to suggest, Heather, is when you consider advisory services, a lot of accountants out there have got the … you walk past the front door of their offices and they’ll have Accountants and Advisors printed on the glass. The reality is that what we find in our experience, when we ask a lot of accountants, “Are you doing much management reporting. If so, what systems are you using to help you deliver those management reports?”

The common feedback we get is, “Yes, I am doing it but I want to do more,” or another common feedback we get is, “No, I’m not doing much at the moment but I really need to do more.” It’s clear that to deliver engaging management reports and not just an Excel spreadsheet but more than that, and to do it in a scalable way, to do it in a way that’s not going to take you hours and hours each month to perform, you really need some tools to assist.

There’s a broad range of great reporting add-ons for Xero, and we consider Fathom as being one of those. To really help your clients, I guess you need a couple things in place. You need the tools and the systems to deliver it every month in a really efficient way we think but also in an engaging way. We find that if you’re … what we try and do with Fathom is we’re trying to get away from anything that looks like a spreadsheet.

We discovered it by accident but when we were developing Fathom, often we’d go to accountants and we’d say, “Hey listen, we’re developing this management reporting tool,” and the accountants would say, “Well, I’ve got a spreadsheet that does that.”

So our goal was right. We’ve got to make sure whatever we develop doesn’t look like a spreadsheet. We developed visuals, pictures that help explain what’s happening in terms of your cash flow, your profitability or your break even or your growth or your key performance indicators in your business or how your key numbers are trending. So lots of different pictures, and we found that really engages and communicates so much more effectively than a Trial Balance or a big page of number or text.

If you can show your clients a picture that says, “Hey, this is what’s happening in your business. These are the strengths. These are the weaknesses. This is how we’re trending over time.” It communicates so much more effectively. The old adage that a picture tells a thousand words, we think is very true.

That’s just coming back to my point earlier that I guess for accountants that are looking to delivery more advisory and more virtual CFO services, having the right system in place that allow you to deliver it in a scalable way, deliver it really efficiently, and having the right systems that will deliver some really compelling and some really engaging reports for your clients, is important I think.

Heather:        So we’re going scalable tools in place, systems in place, and get something out on a monthly basis that’s engaging with the clients.

David:            Yes.

Heather:        Do you suggest that they simply email it to the client or that they have a meeting with the client every time they produce a report like this?

David:            That’s a really good question. The approach we’ve taken in Fathom is to realise that there are multiple different ways that advisors like to interact with their clients. We go from one firm to the next and everyone has a different approach. Some firms say to us, “Well, I really like, I really value being able to print out a printed report for my clients and just issue that, send that in the mail, or deliver it to them when you see them next.”

The next advisor will say, “Well actually, I prefer to reserve the use of Fathom for the monthly or the quarterly or the annual meeting with the client. When I sit down with them and say to them, “Listen, let’s go through your numbers,” it really enables the conversation with the clients about their business and what’s happening in their business.”

The other way that advisors like to deliver their services is to actually … within Fathom, you’ve got the capability just to share access, like you do with Xero. There are no user fees, so it’s a simple case of sharing access to the analysis and the reports that you’ve prepared. The client can log in in their own time and go through those visuals and those reports that you’ve set up for them.

We find that there are different ways to interact, and we’re trying to provide … make it easy for you to interact and deliver the advice and the reports to your clients in whatever way suits that client best.

Heather:        Yes, many different clients work in different ways, don’t they?

David:            That’s right.

Heather:        That’s really interesting to hear you say that. I used to have a beautiful, wonderful client who I would go and do work for every three months, and she’d always have a bun there and we’d have a cup of tea, and then I’d leave. By the time I’d get home, every single time there was a phone call, “Heather, why doesn’t the profit equal what’s in my bank balance.” Every single time! So one of the beautiful charts that you do have in Fathom is the cash flow waterfall chart. Is that the correct name?

David:            Yes.

Can you describe that for listeners?

David:            Sure. What we’re trying to do with the cash flow waterfall chart is to take your typical cash flow statement but visualise it. It’s really a tool or a report that’s designed to answer the question that clients often ask, and that question is, “Where’s the cash gone?” I made this much profit but what’s happened to my cash?”

If you can show a client … and we tried a few different ways to represent it but we thought the best way to do it was what you referred to as technically a waterfall chart. That just shows you green represents cash flowing into the business, red represents cash flowing out of the business.

It’s really helping to understand as well three key cash flow numbers. That’s our cash flow from our operations, our operating cash flow, our free cash flow so after we’ve invested future growth and our investing activities, we get our free cash flow number, and towards the bottom of the report is our net cash flow, and that’s after our financing activities, so after we’ve made payments back to our shareholders and our debt holders. What’s the bottom line? What’s the net cash flow that the business has left?

It’s a really popular … that’s a really popular visual for just helping understand what’s happened to my cash and where the cash has gone.

Heather:        Yes, I absolutely agree. I think that sometimes when it comes to numbers and information, the client gets overwhelmed but that’s one of the key things they’re always thinking in the back of their mind, “Why isn’t the profit equalling the bank balance? Why is that?” To give my client who I mentioned initially kudos, she did actually ask the question. She asked it every time but she did ask the question.

I’m sure there are so many clients out there who wonder it and don’t think about it. it’s one of the reasons to actually have a look at Fathom, just so you can actually see that cash flow waterfall … it is called the waterfall chart? I didn’t just put that in did I? The waterfall chart and see if that simple chart is one way you can start talking to your clients about business intelligence.

Following on from that discussion and you may have already touched on this but how do you believe the cloud is disrupting traditional business intelligence?

David:            That’s a really interesting question Heather. It definitely is something … I’m a little bit more … my background I guess is I started … less than 15 years ago I studied accounting. I graduated. I went and worked for a couple of years in a small … in business services in a tax practice here in the city. During that time, during the last 12-15 years, I’ve seen some significant changes in the way that … the process for creating management reports, for creating some really engaging monthly and quarterly reports for clients.

I revert back to when I started and the systems and tools that we used involved a lot of keying of data. You’d take the financial statements from your accounting system and rekey those into a reporting system or you’d export to Excel and do some mapping, and then import that into an analysis system. One of the things we’re really excited about I guess is the cloud is just bringing huge efficiencies and it’s really changing the way that business intelligence systems can work. That’s why harnessing data through integrations, there are just huge efficiency gains.

What we’re really seeing is a positive reengineering of the information value chain, how data flows, as I mentioned before, from the bank to Xero and then from other systems into Xero and then out of Xero to the reporting systems like Fathom. The process for getting data from our accounting system into our analysis system is far quicker than what it used to be when I, not that long ago, started working as an accountant. The cloud is really effectively … it’s removing the time cost of BI reporting, that’s the way I see it.

Heather:        Yes, absolutely.

David:            And a couple of other things I think that the cloud is enabling as well is that typically in the past as well, with business intelligence systems, often it was something where you needed … within organisations and within businesses, it was something that IT was responsible. IT was responsible for publishing some reports and some BI content. In the past when you wanted some reports run, it was go to the IT department and generate … get some reports generated for you.

It’s a bit like … and we’re seeing some disintermediation there, so it’s a bit like, in the past, when we used to have to … many, many years ago, if you wanted to make your long distance phone call, you used to have to ring up the telephone operator and get them to connect you into a long distance call, in the same the cloud and new tools are enabling decision makers to access business intelligence for themselves which is really speeding up the decision cycles. That’s another big change we’re seeing. Definitely the cloud is bringing efficiency. It’s enabling self-service. It’s enabling access to significant more volumes of data as well.

I think we’re living in an era where there’s just an explosion of data. I heard some statistics the other day which said … it stuck with me, it’s a really interesting one, it said, “From the dawn of civilisation to 2003, humans produce (they estimate) 5 exobytes of data,” so in that period, the dawn of civilisation to 2003, but now they estimate that we produce the same volume of data every two days.

Heather:        Oh my goodness.

David:            So we’re living in an era of explosion of data. What I think and what we’re trying to do with Fathom is there’s this explosion of data but our brains haven’t, during that time, changed to significantly process or handle and compute all of that significant amount of data. I think we’re looking … you’re seeing this explosion of … the other trends that you can see or extrapolate is infographics and things like that. We’re trying to do more thinking with our eyes. I think that’s becoming more increasingly popular as well.

A lot of the business intelligence tools that are cloud based that you see coming out are generally getting better and better at being visual and helping you to really visualise the data that you’re trying to analyse and report on. They’re just some of the trends that we see and some of the ways that the cloud is enabling a new era of better business reporting.

Heather:        Do you think there will come a time … one of the things you spoke about was speedy decision cycle. Businesses are the accumulation of decision. I think when you go from being an employee to being a business owner, you’re just overwhelmed with actually the number of decisions that you actually do have to make.

Do you think these solutions are going to be able to actually suggest what you’re decision … what the actual question needs to be and what the decision actually needs to be? Do you think we’re going to get to that stage?

David:            I believe so, definitely Heather. When you consider what the future holds for this space, there are lots of definitely predictive analytics. You hear buzz words like machine learning and artificial intelligence and big data and all these things are out there being talked about. They’re going to be key trends to watch in the business intelligence space but definitely systems, business intelligence systems, getting smarter and more advanced in the future to help you really find answers to problems even before you know those problems exist …

Heather:        Exactly, yes.

David:            Will be an interesting thing to watch. I don’t know how it’s all going to happen but it’s going to.

Heather:        So theoretically, thinking in the future, we could set up … we could plug in all these add-ons together and they could just run the whole business without us doing anything.

David:            That’s the dream.

Heather:        They can just say, “We’ll look at the temperature and we’ll buy umbrellas. We’ll look at the temperature and we’ll sell ice cream.”

David:            Yes.

So within the Xero ecosystem, what add-on solutions are you aware of that work well with Fathom and perhaps, I’m not sure, do other solutions feed in information into Fathom as well as Xero?

David:            That’s a really good question. At the moment, Fathom doesn’t integrate directly with any other Xero add-ons. The way I visualise it, it’s almost like a hub and spokes, almost like the wheel of your bicycle. Xero is at the middle and at the moment you’ve got all the spokes are all these different add-ons. I think in the future it’s definitely going to be a much more tangled web that you’re going to start to get.

We’ve definitely had a lot of requests from Xero users out there who say, “I use Xero and I love that I can use Fathom to report on my financial performance but Fathom has the capability to track nonfinancial KPIs and my nonfinancial performance as well, and I’d love to get some of my point of sale data from Vend and my inventory data from Unleashed and this HR system and this other time recording system.”

“If I can start to get a better view of my operational, production or marketing or manufacturing activities by pulling these nonfinancial data and that’s sitting side-by-side with my financial KPIs coming from Xero, then that would give me a great overall view of my business’s performance.” That’s the goal that we’re working towards.

The challenge is that there are so many of these systems out there. It’s sort of knowing which add-on to build an integration with first is a challenge. At the moment, what we allow you to do in Fathom is we allow you to bring in nonfinancial KPI data from any of those systems via Excel, or you can key numbers into Fathom as well. You can bring in data but it’s not automated via a KPI but I really see that as the future.

I think you’re going to see a lot more of Xero add-ons integrating with each other to really enable integration. I think that’s going to be really exciting as well.

Heather:        I don’t know whether you’re aware but when you talk about the hub spoke and Xero in the middle, I went to a Vend seminar which was the product that you just mentioned, which for listeners is a cloud based point of sale solution, and they actually show a chart where Vend was in the middle and Xero was one of the spokes, and it had all of the other add-ons that kind of worked with it.

I actually sat there in shock going, “What is this?” It was Vend’s toolkit or add-on eco space that they worked with. It was a bit of a revelation for me, “Oh okay, this is what …” I use the term, “Add-on solutions actually need to think about,” whereas they consider themselves to be an independent solution that works with Xero.

David:            That’s probably a progression. As these add-ons mature, like Xero matured, it took Xero a while before it built up its ecosystem. So you can imagine all these add-ons building out their own ecosystems as well.

Heather:        Yes, absolutely.

One of the things that your solution does it benchmarking. Theoretically, benchmarking sounds great and it sounds good when you went through university and you did it, but how practical is it for small business owners to do? Where do they start? Where do they source data for benchmarking? I think for big businesses it’s fine because that data is available but where does the small business start if they want to benchmark?

David:            That’s a great question Heather. When we talk about benchmarking in Fathom, it’s really the capability for you to create your own benchmarks. It really enables, if you’re in a business and you have multiple entities, you could use the benchmarking and the comparative tools.

If you’re an advisor, perhaps you have a specific focus on a unique vertical of clients, maybe you service a lot of pharmacies that you’d wish to benchmark against each other. Obviously if you’re a franchise group, you can benchmark all your franchises like I discussed before. But what Fathom really enables you to do, it doesn’t provide any external benchmark data. We’d love to really locate a really reliable source of external benchmark data but that’s sort of like the golden oracle that we’re chasing. It’s really hard to actually get.

But in the interim, what Fathom really provides you with is the capability to create your own benchmarks. The beauty of Xero is that Fathom integrates with Xero and it takes literally two or three clicks, less than a minute, to get your data from Xero into Fathom. You can do that if you had 10 entities for example. You could do that very, very quickly for 10 different companies. Then within another minute or two, start getting a helicopter view, not just analysing the performance of each company in isolation but doing comparative and relative performance analysis.

That’s where we can say, “Right, this is how my business did but how did it do versus other peers? How did it do verses these other similar companies, my other companies, my other entities, my other clients, my other franchisees?” And being able to really compare how the business is doing versus those other entities.

The other thing that Fathom can do then, if you don’t have … if you’re a small business operator and you’ve only got the one company for example, if you do have access to any benchmark statistics, whether that’s from some published sources or from Ibis … in different countries there are different sources you can go to, to locate some of those industry statistics.

What you can do is you can key those into Fathom as targets and very quickly produce reports that show you how my company is performing against the industry as a whole. So my result versus the industry averages. You can quickly produce those types of reports if you have access to that data.

But the real interesting thing to monitor though … I know Xero have hinted at this and made mention of it but with Xero, the way that it’s scaling, the number of ledgers that it has under analysis or basically in its … or using Xero now, that really represents a really rich repository of financial data.

At some point in time, you can imagine when Xero really enables and starts sharing and exposing that data, for you to be able to know, “Right, I’m a baker, how do I perform against all the other bakers that use Xero in my region or in the country?” I’m sure that Xero are … one day you can foresee that that will be available, and that will be really exciting. I think that will open up a whole new capability to get real time business intelligence in that sense, real time industry statistics on how a company is performing versus other companies.

Heather:        Yes, that definitely is something that they’ve talked about. Obviously they need to get business’ permission but I think one of the things they’ve said is … when you sign up for Xero, you select what industry you’re in. so if you selected a baker … I’m just sharing this with people who are listening, when you selected a baker, you then may say, “Okay, let me do a comparison of the bakers in Brisbane,” and actually pull it down to that small geographical area.

I wonder whether, for that to actually be useful, is they need to have a really clear understanding of a similar chart of accounts, while you’ll get bulk income and bulk expense figures, splitting that out between operational and cost of goods sold, etc., will make it more beneficial but yes, that’s something that they are talking about doing.

David:            Yes.

Heather:        So essentially, I think what I’m hearing from you, if you’re the really small business owner and you don’t have access to this information, you’re creating the benchmark yourself, and it may be sort of another term for a goal. You’re creating a goal and you’re putting it in Fathom and then you’re comparing.

David:            Yes, that’s correct.

Am I correct in understanding that the Singaporean government uses a version of Fathom?

David:            Yes, it’s similar to Fathom but not exactly the same system. Prior to starting Fathom, one of the last projects our team developed was for one of the organisations in the Singapore government. It was a benchmarking system and it benchmarked every incorporated company in Singapore, in the country, on a real time basis, sort of real time. Every time you filed your financial accounts for the year with the government body, by midnight that night, that data would be available for benchmarking.

Heather:        Wow! Midnight … wow!

David:            The technology behind that system was … not getting too technical but Singapore mandated a standard, a financial reporting standard, called XBRL which stands for Extensible Business Reporting Language. In summary, what that is, is EBRL sought to do what the barcode did for a can of baked beans, it really sought to do the same thing for a set of financial statements. It almost made it … I’m not sure if that picture makes sense …

Heather:        Standardised. Yes, standardised it.

David:            So that the data could go from the shareholder to the accountant to the bank to the investor, and everyone didn’t have to rekey the data. The standard set of financial statements could just go from one system to the next and really streamline that process. We were really, really excited about XBRL as a technology going back through the 2000s, 2005-2010, because we saw that from a management reporting point of view, the potential to go from your accounting system to analysis system using XBRL would just be game changing and awesome.

And that was the case in Singapore and the Singapore government systems there. The reality though is that APIs, so using the transfer of data from one system to another using APIs, is really providing the same benefit, isn’t it? That data can go from Xero to Fathom, through the web, online securely in a matter of seconds, is providing that same benefit but it’s just a different approach, different technology.

Yes, so the Singapore government uses the system that’s very similar. It’s got obviously the same design, same developers but we really cut our teeth on benchmarking, developing that system for them.

Heather:        Are they still using it?

David:            I think it’s still being used internally, yes.

Heather:        Okay. I remember I used to be able to find it publically but I went and looked recently and I couldn’t find it.

David:            That’s correct.

Heather:        Okay, excellent. That’s just amazing and Singapore is always very far ahead when it comes to a lot of these technological innovations because they have a smaller community to work with.

David:            Yes, that’s correct.

In your business David, what do you look forward to doing most?

David:            Wow, that’s a good question. That’s a really good question.

Heather:        Leaving. Going home.

David:            That’s right. What I really enjoy about our business here is probably the variety of work that we get. I love the fact that no two days are the same. I’m just about to leave for a two week road trip around the US, so you go from spending one day working with the development team doing design sessions to another day attending events to the next day working on some … actually working with a major client on an implementation. Every day is different and I really enjoy the variety of it all.

Yes, it’s hard to know what I look forward to most but I do love my job and I just enjoy each day, to face new challenges and to … it sort of feels like … being a start-up, we’ve been going for almost five years. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of late nights and a lot of long days but it feels like an adventure and something that I’m really keen to keep going along the journey and see where it takes us.

Heather:        Absolutely.

You’ve got a two week road trip coming up in the US. Fathom has been present at numerous road shows and conferences that I’ve attended. What tips do you have for people attending these conferences, the delegates, what tips do you have for them to sort of maximise what they’re doing at the conference?

David:            That’s a really good question. Obviously the conferences, there’s so much to see and do. Often there are some fantastic speakers and some excellent sessions to get along to. In most of the conferences that we attend, there’s always an exhibition hall as well.

I always recommend, to maximise your time, a little bit of preparation beforehand considering what are the key speakers and sessions that I definitely don’t want to miss, and then also making time as well to go and visit some of the exhibitors. I think for any advisor or any business, getting the right technology stack, getting the right set of tools behind your system, is really going to provide a competitive advantage for your business, so getting your tools and processes in place.

I think conferences are a great time to actually go and research what’s best practise, learn about the different add-ons, the different tools, learn more about Xero as well but really learn about the tools that are available and just do your research thoroughly at once so you’re going to be able to go up to a specific stand and ask a few specific questions and get the information you need quickly to make an evaluation of that system, but then so that you’re armed and prepared to go away after the show and take a trial of that add-on if you need as well. Does that answer your question?

Heather:        Yes. I think that conferences, you can spend one or two days at them as an attendee and you can be so time poor because there are so many things happening.

David:            That’s right.

Heather:        I sometimes try and work out which sessions will be recorded so I can catch them later, so I can actually go and have the conversation with … like come up to Fathom and actually have that conversation while it’s a quieter time because it’s not normally a three minute conversation, it might need to be a significantly longer conversation when you actually have that opportunity to talk to people and understand how it can fit into your business.

Not that you shouldn’t go to the sessions but I also play … I always say I’ve got a dance card or I play conference bingo. Make sure that these are the people, these are the things that I need to sort out. So if people are attending these Xero roadshows, if they’re attending Denver Xerocon and they need a business intelligence solution, make sure you put Fathom down on your dance card and make sure you spend some time talking to David since he’ll be flying out there for it, so big commitment to fly out for it.

David:            Thanks Heather.

Heather:        Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners David?

David:            Good question. Very good question. No, not specifically. I’d probably let everyone know that Fathom is a system that’s continually innovating and we’re continually trying to scale the team here and the capability of Fathom itself.

At the moment, we’re busy working on … we’ve just in our last release, we’ve just released multi-currency consolidation which is getting a really good uptake for all those businesses that have international operations or if you’re entities that are working across different countries and you want to consolidate that … your results all back to a single presentation currency and see how you’re doing. We’re assisting with that and we’re also, in the upcoming next release, releasing our tracking category reporting as well, so the ability to track your business units to division, locations using our tracking categories from Xero as well.

But my closing statement is I’m always keen for feedback. One of the things we love about attending the trade shows and events is not just the great opportunity to learn things but the thing I enjoy the most is actually just forming new relationships and meeting people.

That’s often … you get a lot of value from, in our case, talking with other add-ons and discussing the businesses and what’s working well for them, in the same way accountants and bookkeepers can meet other accountants and bookkeepers and just exchange ideas. That’s often beneficial but we love just getting feedback from the marketplace and different accountants and bookkeepers and business owners.

If you do have any feedback for us, if there are features you’d like in terms of specific reporting requirements, then please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us, we always value that.

Heather:        Yes, it is actually a great research opportunity for solutions such as yourself. I know that when I spoke with Matt Bullock from eWAY, he said that the clients were upset with the additional charges when something went through. He said they rebuilt the system in three weeks      and made it optional because it does seem, in this environment, this cloud solution environment, if someone says something, it may be a three week build, it may be really simple to implement. If that’s a different uptake for you guys then you need to know it.

David:            That’s right, so valuable.

Heather:        Thank you so much for speaking with us and I’ll leave in the show notes how you can get in contact with David. I’m sure you can probably Google and find him as well. Really appreciate it, thank you.

David:            Thanks Heather. Thanks everyone.

Mentions

  • Fathom – http://www.fathomhq.com/
  • Xero – https://www.xero.com/
  • Vend – http://www.vendhq.com/
  • eWAY – https://www.eway.com.au/

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