This content, written by Ben Beebe, was initially posted in Looker Blog on May 11, 2017. The content is subject to limited support.
Looker is growing very quickly. While our growth is dramatic, our ability to scale using Looker may be best demonstrated (in my not-so-humble opinion) by the Looker Finance Department.
When I joined Looker a few years ago, I was the first finance hire outside of our CFO. Today, after several years of 100%+ Yr/Yr growth, two new business entities, and roughly 250 more employees, I have a team of two and we use Looker to help manage and track so much of what we do.
How we Looker
As an FP&A professional, we have several core systems that we leverage to do our jobs and provide the company with key metrics and guidance: a General Ledger & ERP system (NetSuite), a Budgeting or Financial Planning tool (Adaptive Planning), a CRM (Salesforce.com), and often a BI tool to help with reporting and Analytics (Looker).
Outside of those tools is the finance professional’s swiss army knife/crutch: Microsoft Excel. It’s often a “go to” for and creating reporting packages for things like Operational reviews and Board of Directors packages. It’s a bold statement, but I’ve spent drastically fewer hours in Excel since coming to Looker than I have in my previous work experience.
At Looker, we’ve been able to centralize the data from all of the above systems in a single database, and then use Looker (the tool) to build our reporting logic into LookML (the modeling layer).
The secret sauce that allows my team to scale our reporting infrastructure is Looker’s reusability. We can build everything once and then reuse that same report framework at the close of every fiscal period.
This has enabled us to drastically cut down the time to value for Monthly/Quarterly KPI’s because our reporting package is pre-built within Looker. Once the accounting team closes the fiscal period, I just press “Run” on our Executive dashboard and I’m instantly presented with updated Revenue, Gross Margin, CAC, MTR, MRR/ARR, and just about anything else I choose to dig into.
Because we can drill in and do our ad hoc analysis directly within Looker, we rarely do any .csv exporting of files and massaging in Excel. Not only does this save time, but it also removes the element of potential human error while still being able to drill into the details of a given report.
NERD ALERT: One of the coolest use cases we’ve built in Looker is our A/R aging report.
We have 900+ customers of various billing structures and payment schedules, all managed by one person on the Accounting team. Looker makes this possible because we can join our NetSuite A/R data with the matching customer record from Salesforce to bring in Account Manager and other information about the account. This data allows us to leverage the sales relationship to collect on any delinquent accounts, and allows us to slice and dice GAAP compliant financials by the infinitely many fields that can be created in Salesforce.
ERP software is often rigid and not meant for the capturing the same type of business specific customer data that Salesforce enables. In the traditional FP&A reporting structure we would have to take the two systems’ Excel extracts and mash them together in Excel via manual effort. With Looker, we mapped the fields together one time and again leverage the reusability of the modeling layer. Although I can’t disclose the exact state of our A/R as a whole, we are very happy with our ability to fund a large portion of our daily business operation through our collections.
As our team continues to support Looker’s incredible growth, I’ve found scaling the business by leveraging Looker to be one of the most rewarding parts of my work. As FP&A professionals, we’re constantly looking for efficiencies and ways to improve or do something better. Looker presents me with those opportunities in my work every day, and I wouldn’t be able to do my job without it.