All-in-one solution with hundreds of data sources
Automation is personal for the team at Causal. Just talk to Tim Nowacki, who drives business operations and integrations at the three-year-old, all-in-one business planning platform.
Nowacki, like most of the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) startup’s team, earned his keep in finance and analyst roles. He’s done the manual, energy-consuming work required to provide budgets, forecasts, and recommendations for four years prior to joining Causal.
Causal’s product enables customers to create live, cloud-based, financial models, and present them with interactive dashboards. As a byproduct, it means freeing up finance teams from doing manual work with CSVs, enabling them to become truly strategic business partners.
Key to Causal’s vision to enable teams to be as strategic as possible is to give them data and insights they need to make and communicate key recommendations. That means unifying payroll, financial, and CRM data in one platform:
Headcount planning is often the biggest expense for most SMBs and software companies, and payroll and employee data lives in HR systems. Being able to see historical pay rates and forecast future expansion is essential to financial planning.
Historical forecasts and granular transaction data lives in a company’s accounting system — which could range from an SMB-focused Quickbooks or Xero, to an ERP like Workday Financial or Netsuite.
Deal flows and associated values, living in CRMs, allow companies to forecast future revenue and upsell potentials.
Nowacki sums up what that looks for teams that use Causal, ”FP&A done well looks like up to date CRM data flowing into your forecast, HR data informing headcount plans tie in, and accounting data providing historical records. That’s the Holy Grail.”
Competitive Angle: the FP&A Legacy Gap
The value of offering dozens of integrations isn’t just in quality of data, however. It’s in ensuring that customers can realize that value as quickly as possible.
After all, legacy FP&A tools require a hefty set-up. According to Nowacki, companies often pay “a consultant tens to hundreds of thousands dollars to come in and implement this system for you.” Causal wants its product to be a lot easier, and more self-serve, than the legacy competition.
After building in-house integrations with QuickBooks and Xero, the Causal team knew that if it wanted to expand its integrations, it needed a scalable solution that offered deep access to financial data. That’s how it found Merge.
Leveraging Merge to deliver enterprise-grade ERP integrations, quickly
Causal was able offer integrations with 20+ HRIS providers and 2 major Accounting providers in 3 weeks each.
With Merge, Causal had two goals for its Accounting integration strategy with Merge:
- Leverage the depth of Merge Accounting API to enhance its SMB-focused Quickbooks and Xero integrations and drive value for customers, faster
- Position its product upmarket by offering ERP-integrations with Merge’s out-of-the-box NetSuite, Workday Financial, and Azure Cloud connections.
Here’s how Causal’s team partners up with Merge:
One major focus is easy access to transaction data. As Nowacki says, “You have your QuickBooks data, where every single transaction that your company made in any given month exists. But then you have a slide deck or model which is pretty disconnected from individual transactions.”
Causal uses Merge and its Transactions model to help its users “identify changes or adjustments to transactions, and tell them that they need to pull those into the model.” This, combined with Reports from Merge, help Causal’s customers easily analyze their business performance.
Transactions provide the granular data, but access to key ERPs like NetSuite and Workday ensure Causal has a path upmarket. Causal’s main customer base is SMBs and self-serve segments, but Nowacki says it recognizes that, “Most companies will switch over around 100 to 150 employees from something like QuickBooks to NetSuite.”
Causal is able to execute on their long-term strategy to move upmarket by partnering with Merge.
“We historically have spent a lot of time internally wrangling data to get NetSuite into a good format.” Unfortunately, concepts like multi-entity consolidation are difficult to standardize in one ERP — let alone three.
“Having a common model for the more complex ones, and then being able to report financial statements based on [standardized data] is the real value add that we're hoping for in the future.”
Merge’s ERP integrations are key to Causal’s upmarket pitch.
20% faster time-to-value with Merge
For the customers that are already ramped up on Causal’s QuickBooks integration, the results are clear: “Our customers get the impression that these integrations provide them value, and it's something that they clearly asked for. It’s obvious that it's something our customers care about,” says Nowacki.
With their transaction drilldown feature, Causal understands that “it will meaningfully increase the stickiness of the product.”
Aside from powering the use cases Causal needs to position themselves up as best-in-breed, Merge provides a seamlessness that helps drive home Causal’s value proposition. Onboarding users through Merge’s UI component, Merge Link, takes minutes and provides the proper context and information about PII information to eliminate end user anxiety.
At the end of the day, Causal uses Merge’s cross-category integrations to drive success for all of its customers. Looking forward, it’s planning to build out integrations with CRM.
Nowacki says onboarding customers and adding new integrations is “like pressing a button.”