Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

Lyft reimagines transportation with insights from Oracle Cloud

Guest Author

By Chris Murphy, Senior Director of Cloud Content, Oracle

Lyft’s mission is to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation. It doesn’t get much more ambitious than that.

Behind the scenes, though, the company best known for its ride-sharing network had gone from a high-growth startup to a publicly-traded enterprise processing billions of transactions a year. To lay the foundation for future growth, Lyft has been moving off its financial systems, standardizing on Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP.

To reach a goal as ambitious as Lyft’s, finance must serve as the epicenter of data-informed decision-making. So while Oracle Cloud ERP is expected to help Lyft cut in half the time it takes to close its financial books, and then in half again as it hones its processes, that speed isn’t really about saving time for the accounting team, says Lisa Blackwood-Kapral, Lyft’s chief accounting officer.

“When I get timely and accurate data into the hands of my stakeholders, they can really run with business decisions to grow the company,” Blackwood-Kapral says.

A higher calling

Lyft is helping to shape the world’s biggest transportation issues—and the related social issues. The company already has provided more than 100,000 rides via self-driving vehicles, and it plans to have autonomous vehicles in its ride-sharing network in multiple U.S. cities beginning in 2023. It’s committed to having 100% electric vehicles on the Lyft platform by 2030.

In healthcare, Lyft is working with partners with a goal to provide access to millions of rides to and from COVID-19 vaccination sites for low-income, uninsured, and at-risk people. That vaccine program is part of Lyft’s larger effort to address “transportation insecurity,” in communities where a lack of affordable, reliable transportation is keeping seniors and others from getting to healthcare, healthy food options, and/or jobs.

Fast insights analyze COVID impact

In January 2020, Lyft went live with the accounting hub in Oracle Cloud Financials, initially bringing tens of millions of records into the hub every week. Having that data in one place means people in various parts of the company can more easily run analytics on up-to-date information.

2020 quickly showed just how important those data analytics can be.

“As soon as we started seeing COVID cases hit state by state, we were able to overlay on Oracle Analytics Cloud exactly what the state closures were, what COVID cases were being reported,” says Jay Weiland, Lyft director of financial solutions. “And we could track that against our actual number of rides that were being executed and how that affected revenue.”

The COVID-19 pandemic only amplified the pressure to provide timely insights. Lyft is in a highly competitive industry changing at a furious pace, making access to current and accurate information ever-more important. Lyft would also benefit from financial systems that work across multiple currencies and languages, as well as support quick integration of acquisitions.

“The world's going a thousand miles an hour, so for me to say, ‘Wait, I need another week’ just doesn't work anymore,” Blackwood-Kapral says. Following the initial accounting hub implementation, Lyft has gone live on a suite of Oracle Cloud ERP and EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) applications for financial operations, budgeting, and procurement.

There’s another big benefit beyond accelerating the speed of insight: Call it the talent effect. The more Lyft uses Oracle Cloud ERP to automate the close process, using capabilities such as artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, the more its finance pros can focus on thinking and analyzing instead of grinding out account reconciliations and other repetitive tasks.

“Ultimately I'd love to have everything touchless and to close the books in one day, so that we can use our people to do what they were hired to do,” Blackwood-Kapral says.

No customizations, only configurations

Lyft implemented the Oracle Cloud Financials accounting hub and global chart of accounts in about four months, going fully live on the Oracle Cloud ERP and EPM suites in January 2021 working with Deloitte and Oracle. The team has mapped out its plan for building on that financial platform during each of the coming three years.

Weiland offers three tips for moving fast and effectively with a SaaS implementation:

  • First, do no software customizations, only configuration changes. Rely on the built-in cloud application capabilities. “I'm going to spend my engineering hours doing things that can lift sales, not on rebuilding a process that's already been solved,” Weiland says.
  • Second, make sure to clearly communicate with everyone on your team—“and remember, your stakeholders include your vendor and your system integrators. Lyft, Oracle, and Deloitte are part of the same team.”
  • Third, be ready to make quick and thoughtful decisions as a team. Because Lyft is implementing all its Oracle Fusion Cloud applications without customizations, its IT team won’t have to maintain and update any code, avoiding the burden that came with supporting and trying to upgrade its prior financial management systems. Says Blackwood-Kapral: “Companies shortchange themselves on not putting in a state-of-the-art tool like the Oracle suite of products. They just create cost creep and hurdles in the future.”

With the foundation in place comes a new wave of opportunity for Lyft: Exploring what the company can learn, with all of its financial data in one place, in one format, accessible via Oracle Analytics Cloud and Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse. “The power of being able to do analytics across your own billions of records is amazing,” Weiland says, “and people saw that immediately.”

Learn how Lyft executives worked with Oracle and Deloitte to drive a finance transformation to stay ahead of the curve.

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