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Sage Intacct’s virtual SaaS Success Series addressed the challenges and questions we’re all facing right now. One of the questions finance leaders are asking: “How do I prepare for the recovery to gain a competitive edge over my competitors?”
The panel on spend management talked about the importance of greater controls, visibility, and team engagement for SaaS companies. Access the videos and slides for all four sessions here.
David Appel, Head of Software and SaaS at Sage Intacct, moderated the customer panel with:
Matt Wolf, CFO at Roadster, a SaaS-based digital retailing platform for auto dealers and OEMs in-store and online. Matt was the first finance hire and implemented the tools that changed the finance DNA of the company from siloed to collaborative.
Thejo Kote, Founder & CEO at Airbase, a spend management software platform for approvals, corporate cards, bill pay, accounting automation, and real-time reporting. Thejo founded Airbase because he saw that difficulty managing spending inside his previous company, Automatic, impacted his ability to scale as rapidly as he wanted. He sold Automatic to SiriusXM for more than $100 million in 2017.
Here are three key pieces of advice the panel shared:
- Give every employee a view into the impacts their expenditures have on company performance
“Give employees the tools to allow them to feel like they have some control over what their teams spend. . .and give them more visibility into the overall finances of the business. When people are educated on how the business is performing financially, it’s very useful and powerful.”
-Matt Wolf on the power of inclusion
As your SaaS company starts to scale, tracking spend across the organization gets more complicated, and that happens fast. If you have to wait for the end of the month to review your credit card statement, it can be too late to course correct. Matt Wolf decided to get ahead of those issues at Roadster and put in systems and processes to do two things: 1) empower managers to make their own decisions on spend for their team and, 2) get visibility around the spend much faster so people can see how they’re trending and tracking to budgets.
Thejo described it well; “If you’re in marketing or sales or engineering or product, you’re not waking up in the morning thinking about how do I get more disciplined around the money that I spend? Or, how do I save every dollar that I can for strategic purchases?” Spend management tools enable teams to collaborate on their spending decisions and see a bigger picture of how their spend is affecting the company. “Now, you’ve helped shift the company’s culture, so employees understand that spending money is an investment in the business,” as Matt pointed out about the value of team engagement.
- Improve the business processes that link specific customers or cohorts to the cost of closing them
“Finance teams need to find the balance between enabling employees to create value for the business, and maintaining some accountability, control and visibility over the spend.”
-Thejo Cote on scaling companies
There’s a pattern that finance leaders have seen over time: as a company scales, spend tracking becomes decentralized as well; payroll lives in one system and then there are multiple places to track non-payroll expenditures. Maybe data is categorized by vendor or type of spend with payments in one system, corporate cards in another system, and investments tracked in its own silo somewhere else.
It might seem easier to say than to do, but when you introduce a tool that has a good UX and UI, non-finance teams will begin to use it and see that they can get through the budget request process efficiently. Leveraging automation takes away a lot of time-consuming accounting and it allows for better decision-making because finance leaders can now have conversations with people that are positive, not prescriptive.
- Provide faster feedback on the results generated by your company’s business decisions
“Our teams understand that spending money is an investment in the business. . .By giving each team a process to evaluate their spends against the overall budget and also giving them instant visibility, they can make much more high-quality decisions.”
-Matt Wolf on proactively managing spend
As Thejo shared: “The world is changing and better tools are available now, which brings together these disparate silos into a single consolidated platform. . . one that also allows you to include your whole team into one platform. The most powerful thing is to allow a finance and accounting team to collaborate with the rest of the business in real time.”
So, how do you enable your company to adjust to the fast-changing, volatile business landscape we face today? Instead of relying on imperfect data to make decisions when a competitor launches a new product, gets acquired, or secures funding, you need to be able to calculate your critical SaaS metrics. Bessemer Venture Partners, a former Intacct investor, developed “good, better, best” metrics, so you have clear targets to hit to get to best-in-class SaaS.
Once your sales, product, and marketing budget owners understand the impact of their spend- in real time or close to real time, they can make better decisions and invest more effectively to get higher returns. Ultimately, with the right infrastructure in place, you can create dashboards to show the revenues, as well as the expenses that determine whether you’re running a highly efficient SaaS business or not.
With the right SaaS dashboards, the executive team can make impactful product, strategy, and investment decisions based on real-time data. Combined with the right SaaS metrics to guide the company, you’ll give investors confidence that the company is on a path to success.
This is just an excerpt of this great conversation. The full session includes Q&A with your SaaS finance peers who attended the session. Go here for the video, slides, and other sessions.