Back-office processes can seem like a pain, but are essential to running a business. Without functions like HR and accounting to oversee processes like hire-to-retire, procure-to-pay, regulatory compliance and ops planning, your business could not stand. Oftentimes, as these processes are not customer-facing, they can be considered last for innovative tools like automation and AI/ML to transform their work – but in order to truly transform business, you have to provide all teams with tools to increase efficiency and automate the more administrative, mundane tasks so that everyone can dedicate more time to complex, value-added work.
This was the topic of the back office solutions session at Biz Systems Magic, the first and only conference for Systems leaders. Adam Cole, senior manager of enterprise apps at Tango Card, spoke about the unique challenges he faces with systems at his company. As a leader in the incentives space or RaaS (rewards as a service), Tango Card wants to make it extremely easy for businesses to be able to send and receive gift cards, and just as easy for internal staff to run the processes that power this mission. With no service fees or plans to subscribe to, customers can begin to use the platform right away – which may sound great for external users, but can cause problems internally for both daily transactions and down the road when it comes to reporting. Here’s how the company solves them.
Approach to Enterprise Apps at Tango Card
Tango Card is a historically digital-oriented company with a main focus on ecards and digital incentives – making it easy for the customer “to say yes”; if you’re trying to impress a lead, for example, says Cole, this really helps. In order to better monitor their systems, Tango Card breaks them down into three groups: administration, automation and integration. Within their tech stack is a wide variety including NetSuite, Salesforce, HubSpot, DocuSign, Intercom, and others. Separating them into groups, therefore, was done to help get the most use out of them, leveraging the systems in an integrated environment and having them recognized as sources of truth. This also helps them PM-wise when it comes to asks from business. When a stakeholder approaches them with a project, this helps them determine what they’re trying to do, what the value of project is, and how it equates to moving the company forward.
Because the company is also relatively small, they use Kanban to implement agile software development, which requires real-time communication of capacity and full transparency of work. Projects are represented visually on a Kanban board, allowing team members to see the state of every piece of work at any time. For Tango Card, this has proved successful as they do a lot of planning through mapping, which everyone can see all at once. “It allows you to have a starting place and have somewhere to go,” Cole said.
Streamlining Bulk Files Processing
Tango Card allows customers to submit CSV or spreadsheet files with the names of the recipients they want to send cards to as well as the type of card, as part of their concierge service. Initially, there were some problems ingesting and organizing the files, which led to missed SLAs (as this was a customer-facing service). Misclassification led to poor visibility around the process – which also had to scale, as the team was processing 40-60 orders daily for a segment of up to 300 customers and couldn’t afford to get any slower (or less efficient).
The team quickly realized that they needed to build a structure that helped organize their file ingestion system. Previously, customers uploaded their spreadsheets via Citrix ShareFile, which were then sent to a case management system – but the emails that were sent weren’t coded and internal teams wouldn’t know what the customer asked for until they manually investigated it, which could take hours. By using an integration and automation platform with a native ShareFile connector, they were able to transform the process.
“Today if somebody uploads a file, it sends a Webhook into Workato. We then use white label connectors to sort of reach back to the ShareFile API to get a wealth of information. At the end of it, there’s a nicely-packaged case ready for the team with all the front-office visibility they need,” said Cole.
“This saved a lot of time,” added Cole. “It would take one person half a day each day even as we scaled just to do coding…and I can tell you they don’t miss their time being spent in that way, so we were happy to solve this for them.”
Solving Data Integration Challenges With ETL
Tango Card is a company that handles Order to Cash (O2C) and Procure to Pay (P2P) en masse. They process at least 50,000 transactions per day, which require successive transformations into NetSuite. In moving massive amounts of data between systems daily, essentially terabytes per month, they needed to incorporate a BI ETL to be able to pull data from disparate sources and load it into a centralized warehouse to programmatically analyze and discover business insights. The data must be transferred from Tango Card’s Platform (RDP) to the general ledger in NetSuite in the correct way for this to work.
Because they’re an incentive-based company, Tango Card isn’t really focused in AR – but there are tons of transactions occurring in their production system daily. Their BI team would handle the extraction and transformation pretty well, but couldn’t load the data correctly and at the speed in which they needed it.
“Folks in finance ops would spend an ungodly amount of time – at least half of their day, everyday going through a 35-step manual process that nobody wanted to touch because they were scared they’d accidentally break something in the system if they tinkered with it,” Cole said.
They also needed to scale the system because the amount of incoming transactions per day was increasing. To solve this, they consulted NetSuite Professional Services and had them build a custom tool that meet their needs and flexibility. Tango Card’s enterprise apps team put the power into finance’s hands with this solution, building some exceptions into the architecture for certain rules or custom orders that required further review. The solution involves SuiteFlow, NetSuite’s workflow building tool, as well as Map/Reduce, a high-volume processing method through the SuiteCloud Platform.
“This surprised us,” Cole said. “That was not the vision I had going into it, but we focused on the problem and that’s where we ended up. And really, this was one of the first big things that really opened people’s minds as to what you could do with systems.”
Automate Revenue Sharing Between Partners and Customers
As Tango Card is a company that works in digital incentives, which are backed by brands where recipients spend their money and customers who give said incentives to the recipients, they’re naturally involved in a revenue-sharing model.
This had become a huge problem for their finance team. At the beginning of each month, an analyst would go through the process of transforming the data into the margins owed per participant. Because some of their prior processes were manual, many of the problems prone to manual data entry were reflected in their reporting, which was hard to update. At any point, a change in data or status of a partner or customer could have occurred, which means the information they had was ripe for change. There’s also chances for new opportunities at any time, which also had to be factored in accordingly.
One of the things they wanted to come out of this scenario was to calculate margin on a shorter cadence, and through this, provide greater visibility and predictability for customers (which were also businesses). As customers were part of the revenue model, they cared a lot about margin share and were looking to get paid at the beginning of the month.
The process was previously done over a 4-day period through spreadsheets, but after consulting many of the team members involved, Cole’s team was able to build a custom tool that workflow automation operates around. On regular intervals, their automation platform checks for active margin shares. It then determines the eligibility of those shares based on customer credit card usage. The process then runs through the attributes of the margin share calculator: share type, standard versus custom SSID, and whether it’s an issuance or redemption. At that point, the platform can begin to calculate margin share and generate a report to send. With this, they identified opportunities to store crucial data which provides visibility, improved reporting (now on a daily basis), and lent predictability to customers in which they get what they expect on time.
The success of this highlighted future opportunities. “We’re close to launching a mirror image of this in Salesforce so the front office can see that same data and know it’s interacting with the source of truth in NetSuite,” said Cole. “Our BI team is also looking to enact a similar process.”
Cracking Hard Challenges With Business Systems
In implementing these three unique solutions, Cole said he and his team welcomed the challenge. “That’s what [business] systems is all about, right? Finding solutions to your problems.”
“Systems is all about engaging with people,” he continued. “You want to pinpoint their problems, the constraints, the players involved. ‘What is your process and where is [the data] stored?’ You want to quantify that pain and prioritize it – everything will be a good idea (with multiple asks coming from multiple people), but your team is only so big, so you’ll have to balance and make your reasonings clear.”
“Back up the pain with data and keep it simple. Ask them, ‘How many hours per week/month is this taking you?’ Align this ROI with your business goals, if possible, to keep executive sponsors on board.”
“And of course, innovate and have fun. Some of these problems may be hard to tackle, but in the end, we’re all moving towards the same goal – greater efficiency – and if a part of business benefits and others are inspired, then we all benefit. That’s the end goal of systems.”