DocuSign CFO Mike Dinsdale Discusses Closing the Books Faster and the Importance of Automation

With the release of Robert Half’s sixth Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function report on the horizon this spring, we sat down with Mike Dinsdale, the CFO of San Francisco- and Seattle-based DocuSign Inc. to find out how some of the top trends in the annual study apply to his business.

DocuSign offers the ability to securely sign and manage documents online from any device via e-signature, and Mike was a contributor to the most recent Benchmarking report. He’s also an avid techie fascinated by how new devices and technologies act to shape our ever-changing world and has a successful track record of guiding companies in hyper-growth.

He offered insights on how his company is closing the books faster and managing account reconciliation, as well as his thoughts on how outsourcing plays into the increased complexity of doing business today.

The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: The Benchmarking report highlights how companies need to conduct a fast, clean close. It’s vital because it allows finance departments to apply their resources toward other high-value activities, such as analytics. How does that relate to what you’re doing at DocuSign?

A: A big focus for DocuSign today is to close our books faster. That’s super important for us because we’re a company now where we have people all over the world. To get that done quickly is no easy task. We have a very formal process about what we do each day up to the close with a target of a five-day close, which is important as we head toward being a public company. 

The faster we have the results, the faster we can disseminate information to the rest of the company, and make better, more informed and faster decisions, so that we can accelerate the business.

Q: According to the 2014 report, more than 59 percent of U.S. companies surveyed rely on manual reconciliation of accounts. How does your firm manage account reconciliation, and why is this approach effective for your company?

A: For DocuSign, the challenge has been that we have more than 100,000 customers. We have 40 million people who use our product around the world, and we’re adding 75,000 every single day. The volume is enormous. I believe as a CFO you need to automate absolutely everything possible, and that means ensuring the automation systems you have in place can handle the load and are scalable.

We have deployed the business management software NetSuite, and we use a company called Zuora for billing. Everything we use is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based application, and DocuSign is a SaaS company itself. 

Once we effectively reconcile all the different accounts – no small challenge – it means that the business can scale and move faster. It’s critical to get away from anything that’s manual that is prone to errors. When I think of reconciling accounts, I think about automation.

The focus has to be how do you stitch together and automate all of the different systems that you have. We believe in cloud systems, and that’s what we’ve been deploying across our infrastructure. People can make vastly different decisions given the wrong information and there needs to be one source of truth that is absolutely trusted. It just goes back to automation. Automation, automation, automation. 

Q: How are you using outsourcing at DocuSign? What functions, if any, have you outsourced and why?

A: When DocuSign was smaller, around 50 people, we needed expertise to be brought in. As we’ve grown, we’ve looked to bring in some of the needs that we’d formerly outsource. Tax fits into this category – just because of the complexities of tax, and how frequently they change.

Like a lawyer who is seeing the same financings over and over or doing mergers and acquisitions all the time, they become experts and they’re caught up and they’re relevant. To manage something like that in-house can be challenging, so it can be helpful to go out and find that expertise. 

In other areas, we can support a full-time position and bring in someone who is truly an expert. I also look at outsourcing as a way to access expertise that we don’t currently have on board.

Want to learn more about the Benchmarking report? Download a copy

Download the Report