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Leading the Digital HR Revolution, Xref, Realizes Data Control With Calumo

22 02 Casestudy Xref Case Study (1)

Xref is an online reference checking tool that is trusted by businesses all over the world to empower great hiring decisions. It offers a fast, simple, and secure alternative to traditional, manual reference checking methods while delivering greater value and assurance than other tech-based solutions.

Xref Needed Greater Efficiency From Its Data to Survive and Scale

In 2016, James Solomons joined Xref as CFO, taking on the role while still working as Head of Accounting for Xero, a cloud-based accounting software platform for small- and medium-sized businesses. At the time, Xref was a lean, fast-growing tech start-up, working hard to re-educate the HR market on the benefits of digital referencing. One of the biggest hurdles for Xref was consolidating its data to stay ahead of the market and deliver maximum benefit to the business.

However, financial data was siloed across multiple systems. Work needed to be done to put information in the hands of the management team to respond to changing market conditions and seize opportunities as they arose. When COVID-19 hit in late 2019, companies around the world put a freeze on hiring. Solomons and his team were faced with the challenge of an uncertain future where being able to utilise data to predict market conditions was key to Xref’s continued success.

“I sat down with the CEO & Board and advised them about the significant impact the pandemic was having on our sales. For two and a half weeks I didn’t do anything else but use Calumo to forecast and re-forecast to find that sweet spot of cash flow break-even,” said Solomons.

Thankfully, after engaging Calumo in late 2018, Xref was well prepared and was able to tighten the purse strings in all the right places to enable them to weather the initial impact of the pandemic.

Xref Was Confident Calumo Was the Right Solution

In late 2018, Xref was shopping for the right reporting tool for its needs. The solution needed to:

  • Connect five Xero instances across the world.
  • Enable multi-currency consolidation.
  • Enable employee level planning
  • Make responding to ad-hoc reporting requests quick and easy.
  • Deliver rapid return on investment (ROI).
  • Be easy to use, with limited Microsoft Excel knowledge.
  • Be capable of including non-financial information for use in reporting and analysis

Solomons and his team chose Calumo’s low-risk proof of concept program to test the capabilities of the system. Working closely with Calumo consultants, Tim Bryden and Sue Hourigan, they quickly saw the value it could provide to Xref.

“It showed us exactly what we needed to see, which made the decision easy. A huge attraction was the pricing, which is very competitive compared to many other reporting tools in the market,” said Solomons.

“It’s a collaboration between Calumo and you and your team that makes it work, and that’s pretty perfect from our perspective. They came in wanting to understand our business needs and provide solutions they knew would provide a long-term fix.”

Data Oversight Had Far-reaching Benefits for Xref

The Xref Finance Team Immediately Saved Time and Boosted Analysis

Data that had previously been difficult to access is now at their fingertips. The team can slice and dice real-time data by any metric they choose through an intuitive platform. Better yet, as Calumo connects directly to Xero, the team feels confident the numbers are correct. They can spend time on providing valuable business insights, not manual data entry and fact-checking.

“One of my favourite things about the Calumo platform is the ease of use. You always worry about custom builds, but in this instance, it was just building in our own processes and reports so that flexibility was amazing. Calumo was able to take what we are already doing, speed it up and automate it,” said Solomons.

The Team Feels Empowered to Conduct Their Own Analysis

Xref did not use Microsoft heavily before integrating Calumo and used Excel in a limited capacity. Despite this, Calumo was so easy to use that Solomons’ team was able to pick it up right away and spend time on analysis, not data entry.

“Right now, I have two very capable finance managers running an audit and running a set of books for a public company and it’s all due to the set of tools that we’ve put in place. Without Calumo, my staff would feel less empowered to go on a journey themselves, to become better accountants and better finance people, because they would spend so much time just collecting the information,” said Solomons.

Integration With New and Existing Xref Systems Was Quick and Easy

Calumo was able to connect seamlessly with Xref’s five Xero instances across the world. Real-time data access provided Solomons and his team with immediate updates and crucial extra time to choose a path of action for the business.

In July 2019, Xref acquired RapidID, a disruptive ID verification and fraud prevention platform. Normally syncing data from the two entities would be a laborious process, but with Calumo it took minutes.

“It was literally a 10-minute process. Suddenly we could see data from RapidID. It just flowed in and away we went,” said Solomons.

Reports for the Board and Investors Takes a Fraction of the Time and Effort to Generate

As CFO of a listed company, reporting to various stakeholders used to occupy large amounts of Solomons’ time. With Calumo, his team can simply refresh last month’s reports with new numbers by selecting the next month, dive deeper into any inconsistencies to embed commentary then easily publish the report in a format that works for his executive team and board of directors. Without manual data entry and the accuracy concerns that accompany it, his team can focus on providing business insights to help guide Xref in the right direction.

“Once the information is in it takes us about an hour and a half to build our monthly board pack. This is a complex 24-page document, including commentary around all numbers. It’s not scary because I just know it’s correct,” said Solomons.

“We were the fastest listed company in Australia to submit the June and September 2021 quarterly cash flow reports [Appendix 4C] to the Australian Securities Exchange. We can generate a quarterly Appendix 4C and lodge it to the market within five days of the end of the quarter with complete confidence.”

COVID-19 Hit Hard, but Xref Was Able to Stay Lean, Efficient and Cash Flow Neutral

Given that its solution is for the job market, Xref was impacted heavily when the pandemic hit early 2020. With data oversight through Calumo, Xref was able to project forwards and see where efficiencies needed to be made. Despite the challenges of the pandemic the company managed to grow by 56% during the 2021 financial year and post a maiden profit.

Solomons took full advantage of Calumo’s advanced and intuitive forecasting capabilities to provide focused financial insight to keep the board and senior leadership informed on market conditions; this helped him guide his ship through the storm.

“In our monthly board meetings, I ensured that the Directors were aware of our current and forecasted position. I would provide the Calumo reports to support the commentary I was making around our cash flow position. Since the reports are interactive and linked to real-time data, they would allow board members to do their own research using up to date information and be able to ask questions as needed,” said Solomons.

Xref Continue to Expand Its Use of Calumo

Now Xref considers itself at the end of the beginning of its journey with Calumo and is moving into an innovation phase. It has recently connected Calumo to its internal AWS data warehouse to pull in key operational metrics for inclusion in reporting and also to model different pricing approaches. It plans to build on the existing base of knowledge and processes to refine its use of the platform and better control the data at its disposal.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for reliable technology and Calumo certainly comes out as a clear winner, and further confirmed that we made the right choice in 2018. It allowed the finance team to stay lean and still provide useful business insights. Our leadership team felt confident their decisions were backed with data and allowed us to keep our investors informed every step of the way out of the pandemic.”

James Solomons CFO/COO

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