The Difficulties

Alex Marini Lessin, Director of Finance for the Water & Sewer Department for the City of Somerville, was swamped with work as he juggled two roles – Interim Director and Director of Finance. Heading the finance department, what he wanted was a snapshot of top-line numbers and the ability to keep tabs on up-to-date financial conditions. He wanted to be able to quickly pull numbers and give them to decision makers such as the Mayor and his team. But while he dreamed of automation and agility, to his dismay he found himself working with a system that required him to manually create reports. What he needed was a way to truly be able to check his finances at a glance and eliminate unnecessary steps in his work processes.

[DataRails] helped me uncover hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Alex Lessin, Director of Finance,
Water & Somerville City of Somerville

According to Alex, the two main benefits of the solution are automation and its visualization feature. Using the visualization feature, Alex designed a summary dashboard that keeps track of the leading 5-6 top level indicators that he wanted to look at on a frequent basis. He wanted to track overtime spending, and he wanted to do this by fiscal week. With DataRails, he created a table that compared the fiscal week to what was actually coming in.

“I rely on our visualizations a couple of times a week,” Alex says. “Knowing the data helps us plan, helps us know what kind of spare capacity we might have. It helps us make decisions quickly which is important because sometimes there is a water main break, there’s an emergency, and we need to know pretty quickly whether we have the funds to help. And if we don’t, we need to do a thousand different things to get that money in an emergency. DataRails helps us avoid crises. With DataRails, I have the chance to uncover insights that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

The Solution

A daily part of Alex’s job is to approve payment batches before they’re submitted to City Hall. DataRails allows him to track expenses and make sure all payments were submitted in the correct account, and he can now do this much more efficiently than in the past. He shares that on a monthly basis, DataRails has helped him understand the overall picture and report back to his manager more quickly.

Alex notes that on one particular occasion, he was able to use visualizations in DataRails to demonstrate budget capacity to his superior. This allowed them to move forward on an important pilot in changing out their water meters. He didn’t have time to crunch the numbers, and instead let DataRails crunch them for him.

I don’t have time to crunch the numbers, [so] DataRails crunches them for me.

Lessin, Director of Finance,
city of Somerville

The Outcome

It’s been a breath of fresh air to see our finances in a new way and it has allowed me to spend less time crunching data and more time making decisions.

Alex Lessin, Director of Finance Water & Sewer Department
city of Somerville

Alex has saved at least 2 hours per week of work with DataRails. His favorite part is being able to come up with an idea, work through it, and see his idea come to fruition without having to sit there and understand how to make the visualization happen. “In one of our reports, there’s a column in it, the adjustments column, which I assumed was just adjustments, but it turned out that there was more going on behind the scenes,” he shares. He enjoys learning what information is really carried in his reports and how it changes throughout the year. 

To sum up his experience with DataRails, Alex says that “the price is right, and the ease at which I could move from raw materials of our systems to a tool that was helpful to me was very quick. I was very happy with the speed of onboarding and implementation. It’s been a breath of fresh air to see our finances in a new way and it has allowed me to spend less time crunching data and more time making decisions.”