VisitDallas is an independent, not-for-profit organization that promotes Dallas as the ideal visitor and convention destination in Texas. Dallas is the leading business and financial center in the Southwest, offering travelers an unparalleled array of amenities and a central location with two major airports with more domestic nonstop flights than any other U.S. city. As the ninth-largest U.S. city, and part of the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the nation, Dallas is the top visitor destination in Texas.
Jill Larsen joined VisitDallas as CFO in August of 2019 with more than 30 years of experience in finance and accounting. Prior to joining the organization, she had a 15-year career with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), where in 2008, she was named Treasurer and CFO. During her tenure there, she oversaw a collection of more than 250 endowment accounts of more than $130 million and facilitated the BGCT headquarter relocation efforts.
I had a vision for what I wanted and plenty of experience to know how things should work. What Baker Tilly was able to do was to take that and know exactly how to map it into the system. I’ve done five or six GL conversions in my career, this was by far the easiest and the one where I felt like I had the best understanding of the overall plan and where we were along the way.Jill Larsen, CFO, VisitDallas
When Larsen took over the finance function at VisitDallas, the organization was running an older implementation of Microsoft Great Plains. “It was hard to navigate; hard to get information; hard to do research,” said Larsen. In addition to outdated technology, she also saw opportunities to improve the organization’s processes and internal controls.
“I was anxious to make the finance function more efficient,” adds Larsen. Her team was spending a great deal of time reworking reports and exporting data to Excel to massage it. Not only was this process time consuming, it also presented version control and data integrity challenges.
Great Plains also struggled to reflect the true structure of the organization. Multiple entities weren’t reflected properly, and it was difficult to manage the organization’s chart of accounts. As a result, the team didn’t use the project dimension as they wanted to, were reusing projects or using summary projects because of how difficult it was to administer them. This contributed to the system’s reporting issues.
They knew they needed to make a change. Larsen and others on her team had a lot of experience with Blackbaud at previous positions but decided against that solution because of limitations with the tool’s reporting function. An evaluation of NetSuite showed that solution to be too expensive for the organization. They chose Baker Tilly Digital to implement integrated not-for-profit financial software that includes Sage Intacct and Nexonia.
Baker Tilly Digital has helped VisitDallas add efficiency to the finance function by implementing a best-in-class accounting system that allows invoices to be connected to vendor payments, allowing for simple, efficient research into transactions. Larsen and her team can drill from reports and dashboards all the way down into the supporting documentation and invoice images.
Along with the implementation of Sage Intacct, Baker Tilly Digital helped VisitDallas migrate from Concur to Nexonia to improve the end user experience for the finance team. As the staff received training on the new systems, they were excited about the change – something that in Larsen’s experience is unusual with this kind of system migration.
“The transition was seamless,” said Larsen. “The end users loved it from day one. They had to learn new coding for transactions, but it was easy to access, visually easy to see and understand, and easy to track. I was surprised at how seamless it was to get department staff and end users trained. We have people doing their own invoices now that never would have before.”
The dimensionality of Sage Intacct, which Baker Tilly Digital implemented and configured for the organization, enables Larsen and her team to slice and dice data across departments, projects and funding sources. The latter was a dimension missing from their Great Plains implementation.
When asked if there are specific metrics she can point to that show improvements since finishing the project, Larsen highlights an improved AP process. Baker Tilly Digital customized their system so that the team at VisitDallas can easily see what funding source is associated with a bill so that the appropriate bank account can be selected for payment. “We were spending a big chunk of two difficult days per week sorting this out,” said Larsen. “Now we can do it in less than half a day.”
Asked whether she feels the team and the systems are now ready to scale with the future growth of the organization, Larsen responded confidently, “Without a doubt. The design, structure and capabilities of the system have us set for years.”
“I had a vision for what I wanted and plenty of experience to know how things should work,” said Larsen. “What Baker Tilly Digital was able to do was to take that and know exactly how to map it into the system.” According to Larsen, Baker Tilly Digital's experience, the infrastructure they’ve built for their implementation team, and their project management process was crucial to the success of the project.
“I’ve done five or six GL conversions in my career,” said Larsen. “This was by far the easiest and the one where I felt like I had the best understanding of the overall plan and where we were along the way.”