Webix in Practice: financial reporting and budgeting solution

Today we have a conversation with one of our most loyal customers. Johan Smith is the founder of XLReporting. We talked with Johan back in 2016, so we are excited to know how things have changed for his business and how XLReporting has grown.

Hi, Johan! It’s nice talking to you again! Tell us what has changed in XLReporing since 2016, when we talked last time.

interview with Johan Smith

We deliver a solution for financial reporting and budgeting. In 2014 all our clients were using our Excel add-in solution. We started to redevelop the application as a SAAS solution. It took a couple of years to build a mature, complex, and flexible application. We added more features over the years, and the result has surpassed the tool we used to have. Now we spend more time on marketing, selling our product, and servicing our clients.

How fierce is the competition?

There’s lots of competition in the BI space, but less in the CPM space. We are in a particular niche, offering a fully configurable budgeting and forecasting solution at a fair price. Similar solutions are very expensive, and only affordable for really big companies. So most companies are using Excel for their reporting and budgeting, and it is painful and inflexible. In between those two, there is not much supply on the market, and that is where we are. Our typical client is the upper end of small-medium companies, who have difficulty modelling their budget and forecasting processes in Excel spreadsheets.

interview with Johan Smith

Has your company grown over the years?

Steadily and certainly. We provide a sophisticated budgeting solution for businesses. We have a network of consultants, who implement XLReporting for clients. We prefer to work with partner firms, such as accounting firms or finance professionals and consultants in other countries to help clients configure XLReporting. Having these ‘value-added partners’, as we call them, with particular knowledge of a sector or local regulations in the same time zone as our clients is how we want to grow. Those partners are more helpful for our clients in their own countries than we are. We are not looking for resellers, but for professionals and firms with expertise and a network of clients.

What can you say about your experience of using the Webix library?

I’m a big fan of Webix and XB Software. I found Webix in 2016 and we moved to Webix version 4.0 in early 2017. We liked the Pivot component most of all at that time and we looked forward to the Spreadsheet component, which was still being developed. I’m impressed with how much you guys have improved and matured over the years. We use all the widgets of the library, and rely heavily on Pivot and Spreadsheet. I like JavaScript Report Manager and Query, but we don’t use them at this time. The Webix code is very well written; the release cycle and the responsiveness of your team are great. Bugs are fixed quickly, and the widgets are updated regularly. Some of your competitors have stood still for years. And I like to think that we have also helped Webix to grow, though I’m sure you have great feedback from other clients as well.

interview with Johan Smith

Thank you for your feedback and contribution to the library development! We improve mostly thanks to the feedback of the clients, so maybe you can criticize something for us to face the challenge?

Well, for example, cross sheet references in Spreadsheet are not fully functional. If you create formulas that reference multiple sheets within your spreadsheet, those are not updated when you insert rows and columns. That is the key feature we would like to have and also there are some issues in generating PDF and retaining the full UI of how it is rendered in the component. But those are minor things. By and large, the library is in very good shape. Spreadsheet has evolved rapidly and is very robust now, the Webix core library is being maintained very well. With every release I notice the constant reengineering of the source code, so it is never getting obsolete. Even when you don’t add functionality, the code is improved regularly. That’s a big plus for us, as it makes Webix future-proof.

Have you used the UI Designer?

We have played with it. We are not using it in our development, as we use the API straight off. But I can say it’s a good tool for onboarding new clients. The same with other components like User Manager. As a new developer, you have all the tools available, and you can just combine them into the blueprint of your new application. For us, it is not needed, as we have been using Webix for a long time now. 

Do you have any ideas of other widgets that Webix could develop and offer?

Currently, we do not need anything additional. We started using the Timeline; we haven’t used the Chat yet, but we may build it into our application soon. There are no widgets in the library that we are not using. In terms of the larger components, the JavaScript Datatable, Spreadsheet, and Pivot are the most vital components for us. None of the other libraries have anything like that. Webix really meets all our requirements.

Does your app run on mobile devices? Were there any compatibility issues?

We don’t have a native mobile app. Our single-page web application is already fully responsive. The particular nature of our app isn’t suitable for a very small screen, so we set a minimum screen size for our application at 550px. Our application runs well on tablets and larger smartphones. We are interested in something like the Apache Cordova platform, where you can create hybrid device apps. Maybe there is something in that direction for future Webix development. We don’t want to spend development time on that, but if there was something pre-made, we might be interested in that.

Has the Coronavirus pandemic influenced your business in any way?

Well, 2020 brought more leads to us. I see 2 reasons for that. First of all, more leads came from accounting firms, as they wanted us to help their clients, who faced challenges in the crisis and financial burden. The other reason is that working from home has made everyone more informal and digitally minded. As finance professionals no longer need to commute, they now have time to finally look for the tool they always wanted to have, but never got time for due to the constant deadlines. They go to our website and look at the demos we have there. And they finally decide to switch to XLReporting and stop using Excel.

What are your plans for the future?

We spent years developing our product, now we focus on our marketing. We want to sell more. Webix is good with its forum and blogs. Our support center is functional but a bit formal. So we also started creating more blogs and videos. We would also like to build a client forum with discussions, to make it lively and entertaining. I believe it may help in getting new clients. Thus, for this year our biggest plan is a lot of marketing.

interview with Johan Smith

Thank you Johan for this interesting conversation. We wish you all the best in your business. The Webix team is happy to support your project and grow with it.

If you are interested in sharing your experience of using Webix, please, do not hesitate to contact us. Looking forward to hearing your stories!