The future of accounting at Mozilla – automation all the way
Exploring the intersection of innovation and finance, Mozilla's head of global accounting, sheds light on the challenges, strategies, and technological partnerships shaping the future of accounting in the tech world
Mozilla, known for its Firefox web browser and a name derived from ‘Mosaic Killer’, signifies its intent to outpace early web browsers.
This ethos of innovation is not limited to their software and continues to permeate their operations. The accounting team, under the guidance of Xenia Tovchykh – head of global accounting operations – exemplifies this by ensuring meticulous accuracy while adapting to the dynamic financial landscape of the tech world.
Mozilla’s commitment to the open-source community is unwavering, a stance that brings with it distinct challenges and opportunities in the accounting domain. The intersection of open-source principles and financial operations is a nuanced one, as Tovchykh elaborates during her conversation with The CFO on the sidelines of SuiteWorld 2023.
“Open Source and accounting present an intriguing dynamic,” Tovchykh notes. Central to this dynamic is the revenue generation model. Mozilla drives its revenue from search engine partnerships as well as through platforms like Stripe, PayPal, Google Pay, and Apple Pay, where subscription services are prevalent.
“Unlike many companies, we collect significantly less data,” Tovchykh points out. This minimal data collection, while aligning with Mozilla’s open-source ethos, introduces complexities, especially on the tax front.
“We need tax-related data to account for taxes correctly and remain compliant. This means we often have to navigate a different route compared to the conventional path,” she says.
This divergence from the norm also impacts their Accounts Receivable (AR) automation. “Integrating data from Stripe, PayPal, Google Pay, and Apple Pay becomes a tad more challenging for us than for other companies,” Tovchykh explains.
A forward looking approach
As industries evolve in the digital age, so do their operational methodologies. Accounting, once a domain firmly rooted in manual processes, is undergoing a transformation. Leading tech entities, including Mozilla, are harnessing automation to redefine their financial operations.
“We’ve experimented with BPO services with mixed results. Yet, as we automated more processes, manual task time diminished,” Tovchykh notes.
Like its tech contemporaries, Mozilla faces the intricate challenge of juggling multiple systems. Xenia’s solution mirrors an industry trend. “Our aim is to consolidate these systems, potentially integrating them into Oracle NetSuite or unifying them into a single platform,” she says.
This drive for consolidation and efficiency is not exclusive to Mozilla. It is a reflection of a broader industry movement, where tech giants are simplifying their accounting infrastructures for both efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Discussing her aspirations for the upcoming year, Tovchykh underscores the significance of AP automation and financial close management, sentiments echoing across boardrooms in the tech sector.
Yet, what does the future hold for Mozilla’s accounting automation journey? In Tovchykh view, it’s a path of perpetual evolution, a sentiment that resonates deeply within the ever-changing realms of technology and accounting. “Growth and adaptation will never cease,” she poignantly says.
A proactive approach to regulation
For Mozilla, global operations are the norm which means Tovchykh’s team have to navigate the intricate web of international accounting standards and regulations.
“We have a dedicated tax team, currently comprising two members, with a third addition on the horizon. Their focus is to ensure we’re always in step with global VAT regulations,” Tovchykh says.
As Mozilla introduces new products to the market, compliance remains at the forefront. “Before launching in any region, we conduct a thorough market analysis, ensuring we’re aligned with local regulations, such as the OSS compliance for output VAT in the EU,” Tovchykh explains.
Ensuring the accuracy of financial data across regions is equally crucial. “While Mozilla’s revenue aligns with our US-based Mozilla Corporation, we maintain subsidiaries globally,” Tovchykh explains.
“These entities primarily facilitate hiring and bolster our global presence. However, all revenue-related data flows into our US entity, streamlined through payment systems like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and Stripe.”
The rising emphasis on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors, especially with the impending CSRD in Europe, is also reshaping financial landscapes. Mozilla is ahead of the curve.
“ESG is a priority for our team. Even our investment strategies are tailored to align with ESG standards,” Tovchykh highlights.
Building strong tech foundations
Navigating the maze of global regulations is a challenge in itself but Tovchykh knows that leveraging the right technology can significantly streamline the process.
NetSuite stands out as a pivotal tool for Mozilla. The shift from Sage Intacct to NetSuite last year was motivated by a desire for enhanced “visibility, transparency, and insight into the business,” Tovchykh says.
With NetSuite’s robust analytics function, Mozilla’s finance team has been able to delve deeper into product profitability. “This depth of analysis helps us determine where to channel our investments,” Tovchykh emphasises.
Beyond analytics, NetSuite has simplified the once-complex process of consolidation for Mozilla. “All intercompany entries are booked simultaneously, eliminating the need for intercompany reconciliation,” she adds.
In terms of software adoption, Tovchykh highlighted three key considerations: usability, cost-effectiveness, and seamless integration with NetSuite. “The software must be intuitive and offer value for money. But above all, it must integrate flawlessly with NetSuite to avoid inefficiencies,” she cautions.
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, companies like Mozilla are not just adapting but leading the way. With strategic technological partnerships and a forward-thinking approach, they are setting the stage for the future of accounting in the tech world.