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EFFECT Photonics develops products for optical telecommunication systems based on Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC) technology. The company aims to interconnect humanity by using the power of light to make telecommunication components faster, more affordable, and more sustainable. We got to talk with Sophie De Maesschalck, the Chief Financial Officer at EFFECT Photonics, about how they use Layer to manage different processes.

Sophie started last year as CFO of EFFECT Photonics. She began her journey as a research engineer in optical networks before switching to finance. Over the past 15 years, Sophie has dedicated her career to advising technology startups and scale-ups on structuring their financial departments, defining their strategy, closing funding rounds, and reaching merger and acquisition deals. She has supported over ten startups in these processes, working directly as CFO or in her role as Managing Partner at Incubaid, a Belgian incubator.

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What Challenges Did You Face at EFFECT Photonics?

When I joined, the finance team was working on identifying and fixing the existing bottlenecks. We had multiple processes requiring data collection from different people and departments in our finance department, especially forecasting processes.

Streamlining these processes is challenging because everything is interconnected. We are all working on the same data set, and an unintended change in just one cell can affect that whole sheet and other sheets that depend on that value. So if something breaks in a spreadsheet, how do you even find the error? It's even tougher to control these issues when you are taking information from so many different people. Another issue we had is that our Excel sheets contain a lot of confidential information, so we cannot share the full sheet. We must select which parts we want to share with others.

With Layer, we now have better control of our spreadsheets. We can control who sees what part of the sheet. This capability allows us to put more information into a single sheet, even if such data is confidential. We can also check every single cell that a user is inputting and reject or accept the changes one by one. We are now less afraid of someone working on the same sheet and making an unintended change.

Effect Photonics

Which Teams Were Affected by Those Challenges?

Our forecasting work involves the budget owners of all the different departments in the company. So ultimately, these issues impacted all the people and teams in the company, including engineering, operations, sales, and marketing.

What Solutions Did You Try?

Previously, we used Google Sheets for shared work in our spreadsheets. However, we did not like how difficult it was to identify and review the changes made by different users. Using Excel was almost impossible because users could accidentally break formulas and links without us noticing. You would think that the formulas were updating and the data was correct, but it wasn't.

We also tried a Google Sheets add-on that allowed us to retrieve and review user input. However, we could only accept or reject all the changes at once. This all-or-nothing approach simply did not work for us.

Why Did You Choose Layer?

The main advantages of Layer were already highlighted. To add to that, when we started using Layer, I missed the initial onboarding call with the Layer team, so I had many questions at first. However, even without seeing the demo, I could move Google Sheets models and big Excel sheets to Layer and get started quickly.

The Layer team was also friendly and highly responsive whenever I had any questions or came across any issues. If I ever needed any help or guidance, I typed a message in the chatbox and got a reply within 10 minutes. Or we could even jump on a call on the same day or the day after my request, which I genuinely appreciated.

What Type of Spreadsheets Do You Manage With Layer?

We have two main spreadsheets with around five to seven contributors. We manage the files entirely on Layer and update them constantly. Then, we periodically save backups of the files, an action Layer does automatically using the Version History feature.

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How Often Do You Use Layer?

That can vary since some sheets are on automated Flows and others we send out manually. For example, there are sheets that we just update every time there is input, which can happen biweekly, twice a week, or even six times a week. We also have to do things manually whenever there's an urgent task.

In other cases, we automate the spreadsheet Flows, and Layer sends them out every week. This automation is helpful for more consistent tasks that require several people to give input regularly.

How Has Layer Improved Your Operations?

We have gone through an entire forecasting process using Layer with barely any issues. It has genuinely helped us structure and streamline the process of retrieving information from different sources and putting all that data into a single sheet.

Layer is an excellent alternative to expensive forecasting tools, and that benefits smaller companies such as startups who cannot spend so much on software. It gave us a very convenient, affordable, and effective way of having control over our data.

Layer saved a lot of frustration to many people in my company. There is no more need to request and send data or copy and paste it from different sheets with the risk of breaking them.

Sophie De Maesschalck, Chief Financial Officer at EFFECT Photonics

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Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Nov 9 2021, Updated Dec 5 2022