Helm Speeds Up Cash Flow and Forecasting with QuickBase Sync for CSV
Since 2010, Helm Inc. has reduced operational costs by $300,000 annually by transforming the way it does business with QuickBase. With the release of QuickBase Sync for CSV, Helm saw even more opportunities to automate key business processes, eliminating wasted time and driving better inventory forecasting and a healthier cash flow.
- Manual Accounts Receivable (AR) process slowed order-to-cash cycle
- Lack of visibility into invoice status from on-premises financial system
- QuickBase Sync for CSV to automate data flow from on-premises system to QuickBase AR app
- Automated notifications to update sales managers of past-due invoices
- Easy-to-use forms enable sales managers to comment on overdue invoices quickly
- Shortening of order-to-cash cycle by 2 weeks (estimate)
- 300 hours saved from automated process
- Stronger cash flow
The Need to Automate Accounts Receivable
Using QuickBase as the platform of choice for any app outside of the company's core financial and inventory management systems, Helm has enabled citizen developers to solve their own problems with fast, highly customizable apps. With the release of QuickBase Sync for CSV, Helm can automate more than ever, driving a shorter cash flow cycle and streamlining a key inventory forecasting process.
QuickBase Sync for CSV enables app builders to automatically import data into QuickBase from virtually any data source — both cloud-based and on-premises — via Box.com, Dropbox, and Google Drive. The result is nearly limitless opportunity for innovation, as business users can create scalable, effective apps and workflows using the exact data they need.
At Helm, the QuickBase Sync for CSV feature immediately opened opportunities to improve operational efficiency and drive a stronger cash flow.
"We believe that we can shorten our order-to-cash cycle by at least two weeks by automating the Accounts Receivable process with QuickBase Sync for CSV. With 14,000 invoices per year, you can imagine the positive impact that would have on our cash flow. In addition, the new process will save our accounting team about 300 hours a year," says Michael Wacht, VP of Operations at Helm.
Shortening the Order-to-Cash Cycle
As a provider of branded merchandise, marketing services, and multichannel fulfillment to clients in several industries, Helm generates around 14,000 invoices per year. Tracking and collecting on outstanding invoices with a small accounting team requires a high degree of sophistication.
Previously, a staff accountant would export data from Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains), the company's financial system, run several formulas in Microsoft Excel to organize past-due payments, email the spreadsheet to the company's sales managers to collect comments, then aggregate those comments and create charts and graphs for presentation to the company's senior leadership team.
With QuickBase and QuickBase Sync for CSV, Helm was able to automate that entire process, removing human error from the equation entirely and giving the sales, accounting, and leadership teams real-time insights on accounts receivable. Scott Lazenby, Financial Planning & Analysis Supervisor at Helm, spotted an opportunity to leverage QuickBase to improve the entire process.
In less than 10 hours of development time, Lazenby built a QuickBase app that could sort open invoices into three groups: 0-30 days overdue, 30-60 days overdue, and 90+ days overdue. Then he created trigger-based notifications that alert the appropriate sales manager when an invoice reaches 30, 60, or 90 days past due so they can contact customers promptly. Clicking a link in the notification takes the sales manager to a simple form in which they can add comments to offer context for the leadership team.
Next, Lazenby turned his attention to the source of the data. He had a programmer from the IT department create the functionality required to export the right data from the ERP system into Excel. A series of Excel macros formats the data, which can then be converted to a CSV file. That CSV file is then placed into a Box.com folder.
QuickBase Sync for CSV then grabs the latest version of the CSV file and automatically updates the QuickBase app with the latest data. Lazenby set up his QuickBase Sync for CSV connection to update daily, giving Helm an always-accurate view into a key accounts receivable process.
"Consolidating this process in QuickBase made it much easier to collect on invoices," says Lazenby. "Our sales managers get notified when overdue invoices need their attention, and management gets daily — rather than weekly — visibility into our receivables."
With QuickBase and QuickBase Sync for CSV, Helm has created a more efficient and transparent process that saves time, reduces the potential for human error, and shortens the cash flow cycle.
"QuickBase Sync for CSV transformed how we use QuickBase by creating a bridge between our IT developers and citizen developers," says Wacht. "It enables IT to quickly build data sets that can be easily synced to QuickBase — unlocking valuable data that had limited potential when stuck in a hard-to-reach core system. The result is our business staff can spend more time leveraging data than collecting it."
Streamlining Inventory Management
Helm had already achieved remarkable success with an inventory forecasting app built on the QuickBase platform. The app takes historical snapshots of data from the company's core warehouse management system and performs multiple calculations to predict demand for more than 5,000 products over the next 90 days. The accuracy of that QuickBase app has already paid off — Helm was able to reduce its warehouse space requirements by 75,000 square feet and increase inventory turns, driving hundreds of thousands in savings annually.
QuickBase Sync for CSV offered Helm a chance to improve the way that app collects data. Previously, several team members were responsible for retrieving data from the warehouse management system and uploading CSV files into QuickBase to generate their forecasts.
QuickBase Sync for CSV has automated the process entirely. Now, historical product data from the warehouse management system is exported directly to a CSV file that is stored in a Box.com folder. QuickBase Sync for CSV then grabs the most recent CSV file and updates the QuickBase forecasting app automatically.
The result is a process that is as frictionless as possible, eliminating human error and giving Helm business staff more time to focus on innovation and delivering for the customer.
Best of all, says Wacht, QuickBase Sync for CSV enables Helm's citizen developers to drive even more innovation than ever by reducing dependence on IT to deliver customized data integration solutions.
"I think what catches people off guard is how easy QuickBase is to use. In our world we're used to dealing with the complexity of EDI and Fortune 500 IT groups, when all we need is a Box.com folder and a CSV file. It's really dramatic."