Why ‘Move fast and break things’ doesn’t always work for mission-critical function for Finance

~ 6 min read | February 5

“Move fast and break things”, Facebook says.

“Ship to learn”, Intercom reiterates.

A great approach to building products in general. But there are some things that shouldn’t be broken. Even if it comes at the cost of speed.

When it comes to finance operations, for example, breaking things is just not acceptable. Dylan Ortega writes, “When there are few or no consequences of failure, there is little motivation for your team to produce quality products or to run accurate tests and experiments. Over time, this can create a culture of “spaghetti testing”––throwing ideas at the wall until something, anything, sticks.”

Imagine being allowed to break things in your books by forgetting to account for your discount campaigns. Take it up a notch. Imagine being allowed to break things in your finance operations that present incorrect metrics on your next investor report. That’s not Rev Rec anymore – that’s Rev Wreck!

And that’s the story of why we chose to not ‘move fast and break things’ when we built the integration between your two mission-critical functions — subscription accounting in Quickbooks, and recurring billing in Chargebee.

The complexity of subscription accounting…

“I am stuck on the batch upload of invoices into my accounting system”.

“There seems to be no way to account for coupons to know how much we’re losing on the campaign”.

“Deferred revenue accounting for annual subscriptions is sometimes a mess”.

“I ran a script to sync my billing and accounting data but the numbers don’t seem to be accurate”.

“Manual reconciliation is an absolute nightmare!”

Subscription accounting is hard. And we’ve heard these pains time and time again. Varying billing models, mid-cycle upgrades and downgrades, discounts, ad-hoc charges, updating tax rates, accounting for multiple-currencies – you solve for one, you run into another complexity.

Add to this, accounting and billing don’t talk the same language. Attributes that are tracked in your billing solution often do not directly map to fields in your accounting tool. As a result, despite the automation, a majority of the accounting tasks require manual cleanup and cross-checking.

Finance teams need complete visibility into the financial state of their business. Ops teams are burdened with ensuring the billing and accounting speak to each other. And not just speak – but speak well, accurately, and as often as possible. All this, so that finance teams can focus on financial growth instead of the manual grunt work.

Integrating Chargebee with QuickBooks was a given. But this had to be done well. One brings in the cash-flow, and the other keeps it in check. You can’t afford to go wrong with either.

But there was a challenge in implementing the subscription accounting plus recurring billing integration.

We had to be more mindful of what we were building. Because we were taking our customers’ data and automating critical decisions for them. For instance, a finance person’s operations are dependent on what invoices are synced into their accounting system, and when.

The inherent impact of finance operations is high. One wrong input and it could break what would be their fundamental truth… Maintaining the sanctity of financial data is absolutely crucial. No matter how often we repeat that in one blog post!

For an accounting-related action, there’s no roll-back. That led us to a basic question – how do we play safe without compromising on the sanctity of your data?

We decided to turn the old adage around – to “Move slow and make things” the right way.

Move Slow and Make Things…

Even with SaaS, sometimes you need to add friction – depending on the criticality of what could break if you don’t add it.

And that’s what we did. Introduced friction.

We didn’t want to prematurely automate what shouldn’t have been automated yet. The first integration between Chargebee and QuickBooks did not allow certain functions to be carried out on the interface. You couldn’t map information such as contacts, taxes, or chart of accounts, generate gateway statements from Stripe and sync offline payments directly since an error here could affect your entire accounting process.

Instead, we chose to move the burden of clarity to our support team – adding a layer of friction to ensure you didn’t accidentally set it up in a way that might result in any loss, duplication, or disparity in your books.

“We are here to service customers first. Software is only a means to that.” – Krish Subramanian, Co-Founder & CEO, Chargebee

We used this time to learn, build and iterate. For example, we learned from interacting with our customers that we needed to have a General Ledger per product, or per line-item, as opposed to simply sending sales to a specific chart of accounts. We learned that businesses have different charts of accounts in their accounting system… That they account for discounts, bad debts, and write-offs separately.

The turnaround time for getting on calls and taking feedback was high, but every call gave us a deeper understanding of another unique workflow. We learned the possible errors and resolutions for issues around configuration, updating mapping, and enabling and disabling certain capabilities. We understood that the needs were volatile and kept changing.

And then, about 2 weeks ago, we released the updated Chargebee + Quickbooks integration, with a completely reinvented experience.

We had to do the integration right the first time. But after close to 2 years of conversations with more than 100 customers and 2500+ support interactions, the level of detail in this integration is the deepest we’ve built yet.

We decided to move slow and make things. We waited to learn.

Introducing the swanky new UI for Chargebee + QuickBooks…

How do we continue offering accuracy to finance, without impacting their autonomy to build and retrieve the information on the go?

That’s why we re-engineered our subscription accounting and billing integration, that defines how you manage the account receivables for your subscription business and automates some of your daily decisions. The two systems are built to be doubt-free.

Doubt-free. That is the keyword here.

Doubt-free design. Doubt-free integration.

Now we moved the burden to the product. The revamped Chargebee – QuickBooks integration, is a lot smoother, with fewer overheads and manual intervention. Subscription accounting workflows can now be automated so that billing, payments, and accounting needs are managed flexibly and seamlessly.

The new UI comes with a simple setup wizard with smart defaults that let you get started in seconds. And it’s so simple even a 5-year old could map your books to billing. Okay, maybe that was a bit much.

Head to the app, give it a spin and let us know what you think. 

Want to learn more about how Chargebee can empower your finance team? Sign up for our forever-free sandbox account. Alternatively, talk to our Subscription Billing Consultant here.

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Divya Ganesan

Internal Communications at Chargebee