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Meet the Team – Charlie Liu, Director of Solutions for OnPlan

Charlie Liu is the Director of Solutions at OnPlan. His responsibilities include architecting Apps for the OnPlan App Store and educating the market on FP&A best practices. 

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Uri Kogan

May 20, 2022 1 min read

Meet the Team –  Charlie Liu, Director of Solutions for OnPlan

Charlie Liu is the Director of Solutions at OnPlan. His responsibilities include architecting Apps for the OnPlan App Store and educating the market on FP&A best practices. 

Charlie’s career in the Corporate Performance Management industry spans more than a decade and includes professional services, product management, and sales engineering. 

Charlie sat down with us to talk about his time at OnPlan, his passion for problem-solving and backpacking, and staying curious. 

Q: Tell us about your background: where did you grow up, what was your first job, and your favorite food? 

I was born in Japan, but I spent my childhood between Wuhan and Toronto. I grew up in an apartment complex in Toronto, where my dad was the superintendent. I worked there in my teens and connected with people from all walks of life. My favorite food has always been sandwiches (I am a simple man!). 

Q: You told us that before you started your career in professional services, you spent a lot of time backpacking?

I spent a year backpacking across Australia and Bali in my early twenties. It was a very free time, figuring where the road would take me. At one stage, in Bali, there weren’t any hotels or hostels for me to stay and I ended up living with some fishermen who were kind enough to take me in. I tried my hand at fishing, but I didn’t have any talent for it. I spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts, figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I had some of the best times of my life during that year. 

Q: How did you end up working in the finance and software industry? 

I got into consulting by accident. I fell in love with traveling during my backpacking days, so I decided to take the consulting route when I found out that you can travel as a consultant. I didn’t even understand what the job was! Once I started my first job working with accounting software and finance software, something clicked for me, and I realized that I enjoyed the work and working with clients. I studied biology and life science in college, then switched to chemistry and physics, then switched to accounting. I didn’t finish any of my degrees, but once I started my first internship and discovered that I loved Finance and data, I went back and finished a Business Information degree. The rest is history. 

Q: Did any of your past experiences help you in your current role?

Working with the Office of the CFO at different companies, I saw many things I liked and didn’t like. I took a lot away from those experiences. For example, I loved seeing customers shave twenty to thirty percent off their reporting and planning efforts using software automation, but it was tough to see those gains revert whenever consultants left the project.

From running my own business, I developed the grit I needed to succeed. My favorite quote is “finish what you start,” which is hard as an entrepreneur. It forces you to realize that you have to grind through it and figure it out. because no one else will give you the answer you’re looking for. If you are going to start something, you should try to finish it because you will see a reward at the end. Even if you fail, you’ll see something good come out of the experience. 

Q: What are some things that people in finance and sales ops deal with that you aim to fix?

 Many businesses set outrageous targets for themselves but never think about whether or not they have the capacity to achieve them. Do they have the right number of account executives or leads? Are they reviewing and analyzing data every month? Often, the company is several months into their plan by the time they realize that they haven’t set a realistic goal, because they didn’t do enough capacity planning at the onset. I want to empower the finance department to utilize data and create real value for their business.

Charlie Liu

Q: Why do you think these capacity planning issues exist?

There needs to be a top-down, bottom-up exercise where leadership thinks about the target they’d like to hit but also builds a plan to hit the target, and whether or not they have the resources to hit the target. And it’s not enough to just hire the right number of reps and give them reasonable quotas and ramp times. It’s also important to collaborate with marketing to ensure there are enough resources to generate the top of funnel leads to feed the sales team. This is just one example of many that highlight the importance of forecasting and planning in a collaborative way between finance and operational goals in every department.

Q: How did running your own business help you with the work you’re doing for our customers today? 

It helped me break out of the box. Often, we have an absolute notion of what is possible and work within that framework. Unfortunately, if you stick with that way of thinking, you’ll only realize incremental gains. When I worked in my own business, I knew nothing about the field I was in, so I ended up looking at everything with fresh eyes. I asked questions, tried to figure out how to do things differently, and tested new ideas to see what was possible. I didn’t have any pre-existing notions that constrained my thinking. I’ve kept that childlike curiosity with me in the corporate performance management field. I’ve seen many things come to pass that I didn’t even think were possible a few years ago, so it’s stood me in good stead. 

Q: How has the market for planning and forecasting systems space changed since you started? 

I’ve been in the industry for about ten years now, but I left for two and a half years to run my own business before joining OnPlan. When I came back, I realized that the landscape had changed dramatically in that short amount of time. Many vendors from five or ten years ago were entirely professional services driven, and the platforms they built reflected that. Today’s financial departments have more tools and more data at their disposal. Instead of relying heavily on professional services and design solutions, they dig into new insights and data. There’s better analysis, better judgment, and better forecasting than ever before. Instead of going through a lengthy six-month implementation with a consultant, we’re automating and streamlining the entire process so that customers can get to value much faster. 

Q: What was it that attracted you to OnPlan? 

OnPlan allowed me to return to the corporate performance management space and provide value for clients from a B2B perspective. OnPlan didn’t have the same flaws and problems that I didn’t like about the industry, to begin with. We streamline things to help the customer receive value quickly and from the start, instead of just getting consultants to provide value. OnPlan highlights the progression we’ve seen in the space: building on the latest technologies, leveraging more financial and operational data more easily through stronger integrations and interoperability with other key applications, and the sophistication and higher expectations of the clients we serve. We can build a software-driven company that provides value through automation instead of relying so heavily on professional services. 

Q: What makes OnPlan different? 

We live and die by spreadsheets as finance people, and we’ll never give them up. You’re always going to use a spreadsheet to build a quick model or a calculation. It’s useful, it’s flexible, it’s powerful. But it’s also very fragile. Spreadsheets aren’t good for collaboration. There’s no data permission and no audit trail. Visualization is cumbersome. Data is rapidly out of date. That’s where OnPlan comes in. You can still have the flexibility of spreadsheets, but with the collaboration and reporting functionality, you need. OnPlan gives you everything you need from a spreadsheet, with the database layer, scenario management, and collaborative properties that a spreadsheet simply can’t provide. 

Q: Some forecasting platforms have moved away from Excel. Why not OnPlan? 

Because it’s so widely adopted. If you are a finance user, the language of Excel and Google Sheets comes naturally to you. With OnPlan, there’s no learning curve. You don’t need to learn a new language or a new model that you aren’t familiar with. A finance person will always revert to spreadsheets, so this is a perfect way building on the tools and habits they are familiar with, with powerful added capabilities. 

Q: How does OnPlan help someone conduct a BVA analysis faster? 

OnPlan removes the friction between data and analysis, so you can immediately go from intuition to modeling and planning. It’s out of the box, with integrations built out, so you can start building models immediately and analyze the results. You can connect your actuals to your forecast or your budget, and within a few clicks, you can view your budget versus forecast and budget versus actuals.  

Q: How does OnPlan help finance align with other reporting lines in the business? 

OnPlan empowers everyone because it empowers the finance user. Instead of spending hours on mundane processes they have to do every month, they can start analyzing data, create what-if scenarios, model different operational and sales strategies, and enable the leadership team to make better decisions. 

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Uri Kogan

Uri Kogan leads marketing and go to market strategy at OnPlan. Uri brings experience as a B2B SaaS marketing executive at a number of high-growth companies, including Nuxeo, where he created a new category of Product Asset Management, leading to a 12x ARR exit, and AppZen, where he led AppZen’s entry into the AP market and served as interim CMO. Earlier in his career, Uri led software marketing teams, incubated new services products, executed turnarounds, and led award-winning global supply chain initiatives at HP. Uri holds a B.A. in economics and a B. Music in opera performance from Northwestern University, and an MBA from Kellogg.

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