How Texas PACE Authority uses Basis to automate actuals and reporting
Texas PACE Authority is a nonprofit that helps local governments administer PACE clean energy finance programs.
Texas PACE Authority (TPA) is a nonprofit that helps local governments in Texas administer clean energy finance programs. The financing program allows commercial, industrial, and multifamily property owners to obtain low-cost loans for water conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects that they repay over time through property special assessments.
TPA co-founder Jonathon Blackburn served as Managing Director in the nonprofit’s early years before stepping back into his current Strategic Advisor role.
Jonathon actually used Basis at a different company, a Series A renewable energy startup, prior to bringing the platform to TPA. He explains, “at the company where I first implemented Basis, we had originally run FP&A in Excel, which is pretty common. But we could see that Excel was just too unwieldy as the company grew, especially when it comes to integrating actuals versus your forecast.”
His team ran a thorough search reviewing several products and interviewing many teams before deciding on Basis.
Basis had the accounting, sales, and HR data integrations we needed and it could deliver everything that we wanted at a fraction of the cost of the other platforms.
Jonathon was also advising TPA on strategic finance at this time where “everything was running in Excel as well, and we had a similar issue where pulling actuals and then comparing it to what we had budgeted every month was a really tedious process, especially as we added accounts or deleted accounts.”
TPA had also recently brought on a new board of directors that met more regularly with quarterly board meetings and monthly committee meetings, which gave the company additional urgency to move planning and reporting into Basis: “We wanted to have more professional reporting for the board, and, with my prior experience with Basis, I knew it would do exactly what I needed.”
Getting started on Basis was straightforward for TPA because Jonathon already had a working model in Excel. The Basis solutions team recreated Jonathon’s Excel model in Basis and set up the data integrations to automate actuals.
The team at Basis has been very easy to work with and very helpful and kind of taking my Excel model and translating it into a cloud based platform. The level of support has been pretty impressive.
Jonathon was able to jump right in since the Basis worksheet system is very similar to Excel: “It's pretty intuitive for me to use, because I built the original Excel logic behind it, and I can understand the various data references in the formulas.”
Using Basis allowed Jonathon to start automating budget vs. actual reporting on the cost side for operating executives and their departments.
He created a dashboard for each department head that shows them their current staff, hiring plan, cost budgets, and how the actual costs compared against the plan month over month.
“It’s been very useful to have one place where you can see exactly who you have on staff right now and what positions you're planning on hiring at what cost levels. We set up line items to kick in hard and soft costs when the model shows a new hire coming on.”
Getting faster feedback on actual costs versus what was budgeted has been valuable for reinforcing cost-consciousness in managers. Jonathon explains, “for smaller teams, tracking costs can get lost in the noise of the day to day grind, but having a simple platform where managers can view costs in real time with actual data forces your department heads to be more disciplined, thoughtful, and just more informed on where they are spending money.”
Jonathon uses Basis scenario plans to model “what if” scenarios around revenue cases because “we can project costs pretty accurately, but revenue can be much more variable.”
Being able to model out what the company looks like under your optimal revenue scenario versus ‘What happens if that doesn't materialize?’ is essential.
“When you're a smaller company, a nonprofit or a startup, cash and cash runway is really important.”
Basis has saved Jonathon a lot of time on board meeting preparation while also improving the speed and quality of the reporting.
He developed a dashboard that he has shared with all of the board members to give them access to the projections and actuals as they close. Jonathon adds that “the dashboard has also “streamlined the board meeting itself” because he uses the dashboard “almost like a rolling slide deck.”
I have it structured where I have KPIs at the top with key metrics, and then further detail such as a revenue versus projection graph, and then a full P&L. I found that I can present from the dashboard rather than put together a slide deck in most cases.
Basis has been a tremendous time-saver for Jonathon: “Having to manually download QuickBooks data, and then import it into Excel and then line everything up. That's a process that used to take several hours a month. Now the board has access to an up to date dashboard that they can access any time and we can just cover a lot more in each meeting.”
Jonathon has now successfully implemented Basis as the budgeting and reporting solution for two of his companies. How does he view the platform?
“In smaller organizations, startups, nonprofits, things like that, most of the organization is geared towards product development or sales. That can sometimes lead to neglect of the finance and accounting side. Software like Basis allows you to fill in those gaps and give you a robust finance function without having to hire a huge amount of staff.”
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- Saved hours each month by replacing manual copy and pasting with data automation.
- Used department dashboards to instill financial discipline in managers.
- Created a financial dashboard for board members to streamline reporting and enhance communication.