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How One Business Transforms Everyday Spreadsheets Into Sophisticated Financial-Planning Tools

DataRails CEO Didi Gurfinkel talks with 'Entrepreneur' about how business-finance professionals can make the most out of today's advanced technology.

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Didi Gurfinkel is the co-founder and CEO of DataRails, a powerful software product that helps CFOs and financial planning and analysis (FP&A) pros with their planning and reporting needs. Gurfinkle recently sat down with us to to talk about his company and how it works.

Didi, can you give us an overview of your company?
I founded the company after a few years at Cisco. I saw how Cisco relies on Excel, and we decided to try to take Excel and transform it from a personal application into an enterprise application. The idea was to pull the data from the spreadsheets in the organization and sync all this data into a centralized database in the cloud. So users will keep using Excel, but the organization will have the control and the governance on a centralized database. Excel for the financial professional is an essential tool. We let them leverage and keep using the power of Excel with the robustness of the database.

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How has your product evolved?
In the first years of the company, we sold this solution to banks, insurance companies and financial institutions to solve their compliance issues, data integrity and control. After a few years, we saw the competitive edge or the value that it provides to FP&A and financial people for financial consolidation, financial automation, analytics and the meld between the flexibility of Excel and the robustness of databases. So we decided to move from the horizontal approach of a platform to the FP&A vertical.

When you look at finance pros today, many are attached to spreadsheets. How does DataRails address their pain points?
When you look at the financial people and Excel and spreadsheets, it's a love-hate story. They have a lot of challenges with Excel — the time that it takes, the amount of errors and mistakes, the lack of analytics. Excel is flat; they don't have the depth and the multidimensional database. So we actually combined the two. We kept the flexibility of Excel and the familiarity of Excel, so they used the same tool with all the goods and the best of what Excel can bring, and we connected the database behind it. So they have all the robustness, the ability to drill down with all the multidimensional and the layers of the database, to get full version control, to get powerful analytics, advanced analysis. All this capability in a database is almost a commodity, but in Excel, it can take days.

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What are some ways that business finance professionals can make the most out of today's advanced technology?
Sometimes people try to solve everything, 100% of their processes. It's almost impossible, and even if you succeed and succeed to do that, in a quarter or two, you will have another spreadsheet and another spreadsheet for more processing. So sometimes it's better to solve 80% of the problem rather than nothing. The most important part of digital transformation is the insights — the ability to organize the data, on the right tool, on the right platform. You can still run a few manual processes, a few, a day or two month, it's not the end of the world. Focus on the insights.



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