From XU Magazine, 
Issue 38

What’s new with Castaway Cloud?

Interview with Michael Ford, Founder & CEO, Castaway Forecasting

This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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XU: What inspired the development of Castaway Cloud?

MF: Castaway Desktop has been a popular product in the market since 2010. We knew we had to develop a cloud version of our software and our company has transformed into a SaaS business now. Technology is heading that way and customers around the world were keen for a cloud version of Castaway.

XU: What did it take to build Castaway Cloud?

MF: Castaway, as a powerful forecasting and business modeling tool, is not an easy or quick application to build. This is the same for Desktop as well as Cloud. The calculation engine, enormous and complicated, had to be written from scratch. We spent a lot of time honing the user experience and interface, working on speed and response times, as well as perfecting the outputs (reports, dashboards and storyboards). We took four years to build this first-release version and on three occasions, we took valuable feedback from a select group of Desktop customers and brought that back into the product. We’d learned so much from building and re-building Castaway Desktop which was also useful for our cloud project. It took a lot to design and engineer and, one day, I might talk about the cost and impact, but right now, I’m extremely proud of the Product, Engineering and Customer Success teams for their commitment and professionalism to get this done.

Cosette & Michael Ford, CEO

XU: What target market or industries do you believe will benefit most from Castaway Cloud, and why?

MF: Approximately half of our customers are accountants and advisors in practice, and the other half are commercial accountants and SMEs. Most of the modeling in Castaway will be prepared by an accountant or advisor, and our products reduce errors, are safely collaborative and save accountants many, many hours compared to using Excel, for instance. SMEs are the ultimate beneficiaries of Castaway modeling and output. We truly believe SMEs have the power to move the world forward and this is the reason we do what we do.

With Castaway, our customers can ask better questions to get better answers and understand, in great detail, what their future possibilities might look like. This gives them the clarity to make bold business decisions. Executives and Boards are more aligned to design business roadmaps that drive high performance, delivering more profit, cashflow and business value.

XU: I’ve heard you speak about his before, but can you talk about your vision for those involved in the planning process in businesses? Where do you see this headed in 5 years’ time?

MF: Planning and FP&A more broadly is entering a golden age. The world is only becoming more uncertain. We can’t predict the future, but the businesses who prepare better for uncertainty will achieve the greatest success. It sounds counterintuitive, but planning as a process is much more valuable in uncertain times

The shift to digital means we have more information than ever at our fingertips. The challenge is turning that data into insight. The last 5 years have seen some fantastic planning tools come onto the market. My hope is these tools encourage many more businesses to engage deeply in planning, forecasting and business modelling.

Jo Buchanan, COO & Michael Ford, CEO

XU: Where will we see you out and about this year, Michael?

MF: As far as the first half of the year goes, we’re preparing to exhibit at Accountex in London in May. We’ll have representatives at ABE in Sydney in March and Xerocon London in June.

I’ll also be leading roadshows in Australia, New Zealand and the UK this year, including special private Roadmap meetings for our larger customers. We will also soon be announcing a series of webinars for northern and southern hemispheres.

We sponsor the Australian Small Business Champion Awards, the Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards and the Australian Trades Awards. So you’ll hear from us during awards season.

I also continue to ride in order to raise money and awareness for our chosen charity, Tour de Cure. In 2023, I rode more than 14,000 km, most of those in service of training other riders. This year, I expect to do a similar amount or more and have 3 upcoming Australian Tour de Cure tours to prepare for in March, April and May.

There will be one or two surprise collaboration announcements soon, but the ink’s not dry yet, so I can’t talk too much about those.

XU: How can readers evaluate Castaway Cloud?

MF: We released Castaway Cloud evaluations to our existing Desktop customers in 2023 and we’re thrilled with all of the excitement around the new product. We welcome anyone who is interested to evaluate Castaway Cloud. You can do so by going to our website or following this link [Castaway Cloud (]. We don’t take credit card details. In fact, we don’t take many details at all. My Customer Success team will help you evaluate and can answer any questions you have.

Why leave it there?

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