Productboard is a fast-growing SaaS company offering a product management system to help companies get the right products to market fast. Senior Accountant, Arianna Cesareo, was the second hire of a two-person accounting team and was charged with bringing the accounting function in-house. The U.S. company operates with distributed work teams, so Arianna knew they faced the control challenges typically associated with managing expenses for remote teams. Arianna also knew that the meteoric growth in the company’s size would not be mirrored in the finance and accounting department.
“We were doing so much so fast and yet, the finance team was not going to grow at the same rate.” To support the overall growth, she would have to find ways of doing more — a lot more — with less.
Productboard uses QuickBooks Online and had just rolled out Brex cards when Arianna joined the company. Even though employees were all given limits on Brex spending, visibility into spend only happened after it had been committed. She worried that with so many employees spending money, Productboard did not have strong enough controls in place. “As a funded startup, we have both the leadership team and investors that need assurance that we have control over our budgets,” Arianna says. Real control meant a system that provided approvals before spending took place. She began to research other solutions and found Airbase. The rest is history.
Productboard found the visibility and control they were seeking by switching to Airbase cards and selecting the advanced approvals module, which is an enhanced version of Airbase’s already robust request and pre-approval workflows for all spending, including card spend. Airbase advanced approvals give companies options to customize more complex and contingent routing sequences for purchase approvals.
Advanced approvals is particularly helpful for Productboard’s software subscriptions, which make up a significant portion of employee spending. Previously, an employee could purchase a SaaS subscription without the IT department first evaluating it from a security standpoint.
“With Brex, if someone wanted software, they would just purchase it, but I had no way of knowing if it met with our security standards,” Arianna remembers.
With advanced approvals, all third-party software that any employee wishes to purchase is automatically routed to the security team first for their signoff. Having all of these requests and approvals in one place has also helped the company as it embarks on a project to adjust its packages with vendors to more efficient ones.
Advanced approvals also help the company in administering the work-from-home budgets that were introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. By adding her name to the approval chain for this category, Arianna can verify that expenditures are within company policy guidelines before approving. The system is configured so that if an employee submits for items that exceed their allotted amount, Arianna approves payment up to that amount and the employee picks up the difference.
Productboard was not initially planning on replacing Bill.com with Airbase’s bill payments product, but once it was clear that Airbase could provide the same functionality, they decided that the benefits of a single platform for all non-payroll spend made the switch more than worth it. Arianna also found some real additional efficiencies in Airbase’s bill payments product because of the “expense owner” designation in the system.
“Before Airbase, we had no way of knowing when an invoice would arrive, who to reach out to for more information, or which department it should be allocated to. Now we can correctly allocate expenses to the right department, and department heads can see how much is being spent with a specific vendor.”
Before Airbase, Arianna maintained a spreadsheet to capture all expenses, then synced the information to the GL. “Now, with auto-sync, bills sync with QuickBooks right away instead of me having to do them manually. I hate that spreadsheet. I’m so happy I don’t have to maintain it anymore!”
In terms of eliminating manual work, Arianna says, “Our biggest saving came from being able to amortize expenses. QuickBooks Online didn’t have amortizations, so I had to do the entry every month, and amounts had to match.” Now it all happens in the Airbase system. Arianna also identified another benefit she expects to enjoy when there is a future audit: Airbase’s creation of a full audit trail of compliance with spending policies.
So what does Arianna have planned for her next big improvement to Productboard’s financial operations? The company is looking forward to rolling out Airbase’s international payments and adding in Airbase’s new employee expense reimbursement product. And then, “I just need to find an accounts receivable solution to match the efficiency of our Airbase spend management solution.”