Technology & Innovation

Exploring the future of AI in SaaS finance

AI is moving SaaS finance to a “post-close” world. Tired of your close cycle? This blog’s for you.

It’s not exactly a secret that artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing how CFOs run their departments.

But what might surprise you is that AI is rapidly changing the nature of SaaS finance and accounting.

Until recently, accounting has been locked into cycles–the monthly close, tax filing, annual audits, and countless other cycles.

This makes accounting a backward-looking function.

However, AI is changing that.

Accounting AI enables SaaS CFOs to escape these backward-looking cycles and gain comprehensive, up-to-the-second business intelligence whenever needed.

In this post, we’ll explain how that’s possible and dive into the future of AI in SaaS finance.

Here’s what we’ll cover

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The results are in…

Sage recently conducted its annual “Close the Books” survey and discovered that finance teams are spending 25% of their time just getting the books closed. 

Think about that for a moment. SaaS finance teams–and CFOs especially–have a laundry list of different things they’re responsible for, including:

  • Dealing with investors
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance and so much more

And yet, a whopping 25% of finance departments’ collective time goes to closing the books.

Remember, closing your books just catches you up so you can then (and only then) move on to forward-looking strategic matters.

This is a much larger problem than many SaaS finance leaders realize, and it impacts the financial health of your entire company.

What’s wrong with the status quo?

The monthly close is such an ever-present accounting reality that it can be tough to see why a cyclical close is such a liability.

It’s just the way it’s always been. But settling for cyclical accounting instead of real-time accounting–now made possible through AI–puts you at a serious disadvantage.

That’s because a cyclical close only supplies:

  • Point-in-time insights: Effective insight gathering requires real-time financial visibility, but a traditional close only supplies historical data. Creating a financial plan is like crossing the street. You can’t be looking behind you–you need to be aware of the present moment to adjust to what’s around you.
  • Point-in-time confidence: A cyclical close only gives you confidence in your financial data for a single reporting period. SaaS CFOs need to be able to trust their data 24/7.

Most importantly, manually closing the books robs you and your team of strategic bandwidth.

That should be unacceptable to you because SaaS companies live and die on their business strategies.

Let’s look at the downstream benefits of automating the close cycle.

CB Insights: A customer case study

CB Insights, a technology market intelligence company, became a Sage Intacct customer in 2023.

Before that point, their close cycle took a problematic 60 days to complete–and that was just a soft close.

They could close their expenses, but even after two months, they still faced uncertainties around their reporting period revenue.

They switched to Sage Intacct and shortened the process from 60 days to 3 days; a 95% reduction in closing time.

The real magic, however, came after that.

The company’s finance team used its newly acquired time to:

  • Cut DSO by 10 days: CB Insights fine-tuned its receivables workflows to speed up cash collection.
  • Extend their cash forecasting: Thanks to the financial predictability that their lower DSO gave them, CB Insights extended their average cash forecast to 13 weeks.

Switching to Sage Intacct gave the company more confidence and clarity in its financial decision-making.

These improvements even enabled them to launch a new product, Yardstiq.

Our innovation north star

Stories like these are why our north star at Sage has always been innovation.

And more specifically, innovation that helps CFOs, Controllers, RevOps managers, and other finance leaders excel.

One of the biggest factors hindering your department’s success is the cyclical nature of accounting we’ve been discussing.

We believe it’s time to move on from financial cycles to unbroken, real-time visibility into your finances.

Businesses should move away from periodic and limited visibility and embrace continuous strategic value.

What does that look like, exactly?

Continuous accounting

The first objective is eliminating the close cycle and capturing real-time business activity.

This allows companies to break free of the grip of cyclical accounting, leading to:

  • Lag-free financial reporting: Continuous accounting solves the problem of reporting lag, which often stands in the way of companies’ ability to make effective decisions.
  • Decreased departmental stress: Closing the books is one of the most stressful accounting workflows, hands down. It can feel downright overwhelming. By automating your close cycle, you’re giving your entire department–yourself included–a tremendous gift.
  • A chance to straighten out priorities: Letting AI close your books allows you and your team to focus on more important things, like financial planning and analysis.

When you could close your books continuously in real time, why would you settle for anything less?

Continuous assurance

The cyclical nature of legacy accounting also reduces trust to a mere cycle.

Which is strange to think about, no?

Would you drive a car that only gave you periodic steering wheel control or occasional visibility out the windows?

Confidence in your financial data should be unbroken.

Sage Intacct gives SaaS CFOs continuous assurance on the accuracy of their financial data.

This is extremely important because you can’t build workable strategies with data you don’t fully trust.

Continuous assurance opens the door to confident decision-making.

Continuous insights

All of this paves the way to continuous insights. Once you’ve broken free of cyclical finance and accounting, you’ll be more in touch with your business than ever.

One of the biggest problems with the status quo is all the hoops it forces you to jump through before you arrive at actionable insights.

With continuous financial processes operating in your department, you’ll never have to put insight on hold again.

Revenue, expenses, customer subscription data, and everything else you need for dialed-in strategizing is at your fingertips.

That’s not the only way Sage is leading the charge in AI, though.

Sage Copilot: The future of finance in action

Sage Copilot is an AI-powered productivity assistant.

It can help you complete tasks faster, keep your department organized, and even send you and your employees automated reminders if something needs to get done.

Copilot can perform tasks for you while you’re away, give you detailed summaries of everything it’s done, and then you decide whether to sign off for final workflow approval.

You’re always in control, but Sage Copilot is a valuable GenAI assistant that can help you make the most of your time and resources.

You’ll even receive an automatic review notice from Copilot if it detects anything out of the ordinary, such as a vendor invoice for a larger amount than usual.

It’s your AI companion, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.

Sage Copilot

Learn about our new generative AI-powered assistant that tackles your to-do list, automates tasks, and recommends ways to help you make savings and drive improvements.

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The future has arrived

The future of AI is on practically everybody’s mind right now.

So we got some of the best minds in the SaaS industry together to talk about exactly that, and a whole lot else.

On June 5th, 2,000+ SaaS industry leaders, investors, and experts digitally gathered at the Modern SaaS Finance Forum to discuss the future of AI in SaaS finance and other essential topics.

Hosted by Sage Intacct, the full-day conference had three separate learning tracks for CFOs, Controllers, and RevOps managers at SaaS, high-tech, and AI companies.

Each learning track was made up of 20-minute sessions.

If you couldn’t attend this exciting conference on June 5th, don’t fret. We’ve released the sessions digitally; you can listen to as few or as many as your schedule permits.

We covered a lot of ground at this year’s forum. 

You can access the recordings here.