Industry Insights—A Conversation with Steve Wolford

For our latest industry insights post, I interviewed Steve Wolford from Frank, Rimerman + Co.

Frank, Rimerman is comprised of consultants and CPA’s that combine deep technology expertise, broad business experience, and operational and accounting knowledge to assist clients with state of the art solutions based on industry standard practices. Steve managed hundreds of solution implementation projects and held roles as controller and financial analyst prior to joining Frank, Rimerman. Steve has also developed extensive experience from both the client and consultant perspectives of software implementation projects.

During our interview, Steve spoke with us about the technology criteria for small versus larger businesses, challenges customers may face when migrating to a cloud-based financial system, and what pain points trigger organization’s to change their accounting solutions.

INTACCT: You’ve been with Frank, Rimerman + Co. for over 12 years now mainly focused on technology solutions. What have you found is the most common trigger point for companies making a change to their accounting solution?

FRC: The most common trigger point for accounting solution changes is when inefficiencies can no longer be tolerated. For instance, for software companies the inefficiencies are often centralized around contract management and revenue recognition. For earlier stage companies these critical elements in the business are most often managed within Excel. A range of issues will arise from this including time intensive manual processes to keep the Excel models up-to-date, accuracy issues, and exposure to single point of failure with a single Excel author.

The same is true when considering reporting output, which is critical for operational decision-making and regulatory compliance such as VSOE. For organizations with significant inventory considerations there are both operational and cost-accounting issues that arise when an accounting, or ERP, solution does not have specific functionality to effectively manage these processes.

I mentioned reporting earlier, this is nearly as significant a trigger point as process inefficiencies. Nearly all of our clients come to us with a significant need to improve reporting. Some of this is the result of carrying data in both their legacy system and Excel, with no easy way to bring the data together, while other factors include insufficient data structure and lack of flexible reporting/querying in the accounting system.

INTACCT: How do you help a company select an accounting package? What’s the value add that your organization provides?

FRC: My team takes a very consultative approach, with an objective of educating our client so that they are making a decision rather than being sold a solution. This has been our culture since before I began with the Firm 15 years ago. We take, what I feel is, an extraordinary amount of time in working with a client to come to a collective understanding of how they most effectively execute their business. From process origin to completion, and at a field-level understanding, we familiarize ourselves with the organization.

We are assessing feature and functionality fit with the solutions we support, as well as with those we don’t support, but know to have had success in similar situations. There is a lot of care taken to assure the client understands the assessment process through which we are taking them and that they are feeling confident in making decisions that support their objectives.

INTACCT: When it comes to financial software, how do the technology criteria differ for small versus midsize or larger businesses?

FRC: Along with company size, there is also company maturity—particularly with regard to the investment in infrastructure that has been made prior to us working with them. Smaller organizations tend to be younger and therefore have a more current approach to technology deployment. Cloud strategies dominate technology deployments in younger organizations.

We see a range of maturity in the mid-to-large company. Again, younger companies are executing cloud-based strategies, opting to keep IT personnel and capital costs low. However, the older organizations may have made an investment in, let’s say, virtualized data center 1-5 years ago. The data center has capacity and deploying business solutions within that data center is in alignment with the strategic goal within which the investment was first defined.

INTACCT: What are the biggest challenges you find that customers typically face when migrating to a cloud-based financial system? How do they overcome these?

FRC: This is a great question and topic to discuss. That said, I don’t feel the discussion should be based on migrating to a cloud-based solution; cloud solutions have proven to be as feature/functionality rich, if not more, than the popular on-premise solutions. Whether migrating to the cloud or deploying a new on-premise solution the client’s challenge is resource commitment. We do much of our work in the SMB space, but I sense the same holds true in the Large and Enterprise space, the biggest challenge is committing the internal resources needed for a successful project. If you are about to deploy a cloud-based financial solution, then you have already done your due diligence and confirmed it will meet your business needs now and in the future. You have also selected an implementation partner that you are confident can lead you through the project. All that is left for the client is to commit the resources the partner has advised the client are needed, and supporting that commitment through the go-live date.

INTACCT: Once the migration is completed, what positive feedback do you usually hear? Do they wish they had do it sooner or are they grateful for the cost and time-savings?

FRC: Really, all the above. That said, they are usually not throwing a party since they now have so much functionality, process efficiency, access to data, etc. and jump right in to take advantage of it all. It is common for them to ask “what’s next?” Typically, we start talking about integration or planning and business intelligence.

INTACCT: How have cloud-based systems changed the role of technology solutions leaders like you?

FRC: If you were to have asked me a couple years ago, one thing that would have been prevalent in my role is educating clients about what the cloud means to them. Today, not surprisingly, organizations have a deeper understanding of the cloud and how it can help them meet strategic goals. So today my role as a leader is much like it was five or more years ago—educating companies about how they can benefit from deploying leading business solutions like Intacct, Adaptive Insights, and Concur. In some ways it is easier today as we do not have to have the discussion about the IT infrastructure needed to run those business solutions. We get to focus on what matter most to the client.

INTACCT: And a few questions just for fun.

If you weren't working in your current role, what would you be doing?

FRC: No doubt I would be much more involved in youth athletics. It is such an incredible feeling to see a child’s confidence grow the moment he or she learns to do something that they were not able to do just minutes before. I love being present for those moments.

If you could go back in time, what year would you visit and why?

FRC: Wow, so many choices. I’m drawn to moments of inspiration and passion. The SF Giants’ 2010 World Series win and 1980 US Olympic Hockey team gold medal run are easy to connect to and enjoy because of our access to media; you feel like you are actually there witnessing it happen. But imagine being present for the decade leading up to the Declaration of Independence and being a part of the movement that inspired the leaders of that day to take such extraordinary actions. To see them choose such a challenging path with such limited resources is, for me, a vivid picture of inspiration and passion. Though, I’ll need some help packing for that visit.

What is your favorite restaurant in San Francisco?

FRC: I am not so much a foodie as I am an experience person. I like places at which I’ve had really good experiences. This typically involves good food, but also the people working and other guests. I’ve had a few really fun experiences at Tropisueno on the plaza side of the Marriott Marquis. First, they have this crazy good salsa trio that you’d swear has cream blended into it, but nope. Their mojito’s are the best I’ve found in SF. The place has a great feel, with latin music and décor, and a real relaxed feeling. The owner, Erin, is so easy going and her team follows her lead.

Have additional questions for Steve? Feel free to post them in the comments section and we’ll track down his responses. To find out more about Frank, Rimerman, + Co. please visit their website. You can also connect with Steve on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Be sure to follow Intacct on all our social media channels, including FacebookGoogle+LinkedIn, and Twitter. Also, join the Intacct Cloud Accounting group and the CFOInsights group on LinkedIn; they are a great place to network with other people interested in cloud financial applications.