Modern SaaS finance: 7 expert insights to optimize finance operations

People having homely business discussion

For many knowledge workers in the modern world, it’s imperative to keep up with changes in their field through conferences and industry events. That’s certainly true of SaaS accounting leaders, so we’ve brought you our top 7 lessons from this year’s Modern SaaS Finance Forum.

The event was hosted in Silicon Valley and was attended by a wide variety of SaaS finance and accounting professionals, including CFOs, Controllers, RevOps, FP&A, and Compliance teams, seeking to grow their SaaS companies into Centaurs with $100M+ in revenue using modern financial technology.

Do you know:

  • The benefits of quote-to-cash automation: Manual quote-to-cash processes are no longer the best way to get things done for SaaS companies. We’ll help you understand why you should embrace automating this essential workflow to improve cash-flow.
  • The importance of “frontloading urgency” for tech changes: Successfully managing your financial system upgrades can seem daunting. It all starts with changing your mindset, into building one finance tech stack.
  • How to keep stakeholders happy: For SaaS accounting leaders, managing stakeholder expectations, with executives and investors, can generate large amounts of stress. We’ll fill you in on how to make stakeholder relations a breeze.

Let’s take a more detailed look at what was discussed at this year’s Modern SaaS Finance Forum. Below are seven finance expert insights on how to best optimize your finance operations.

1. Build your tech stack piece by piece

Sometimes it can be tempting for finance leaders to rush into the process of building their fintech stack–especially with board members’ and stakeholders’ expectations in the back of their minds. But rushing this process would be a big mistake.

An automated accounting department has many different moving pieces and layers. It’s important to make sure that each one is working optimally before moving on to the next.

The clarity and impact a well-executed automation overhaul can bring to your SaaS metrics are incredible. It’s well worth taking the time to do things right on your first setup attempt when building your FinTech stack.

If you move too quickly, you can easily see that extra time vanish before your eyes when you have to backtrack to correct implementation errors. It sounds like a contradiction, but sometimes you have to slow things down to speed them up.

2. Community matters deeply

As we mentioned earlier, continuing professional education and the communities that form around that goal are important for modern professionals. You can find special groups and conferences for CEOs, CMOs, VPs of Sale, and countless other business roles.

For SaaS accounting leaders, however, there’s been a marked absence of organized events where they can further their professional development. That was a large part of what motivated us to host this year’s Modern SaaS Finance Forum.

If you weren’t able to attend the Modern SaaS Finance Forum, we hope to see you next year!

3. Accounting automation still requires that you understand workflows

When deciding which internal processes to automate, SaaS CFOs can sometimes fall into a false assumption. They tend to think, “Well, if I’m automating this workflow component, it doesn’t matter if I understand it deeply. The point of automation is to allow me to go do something else.”

Yes and no. Accounting automation is incredibly efficient at taking tasks off our plate completely, or minimizing them so dramatically that they take almost no time compared to completing them manually.

That said, SaaS companies still need a comprehensive and meaningful understanding of the processes they’re automating. Without that baseline knowledge, someone using modern accounting software is a bit like a five-year-old behind the wheel of a car. Just because they’re in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean they’ll get very far.

A firm understanding of SaaS accounting principles and KPIs is still essential, even with accounting automation in your toolkit.

4. Collaborate with “two-step” SaaS CFOs

Collaboration is vital in every industry, and accounting is no exception. You should make it a point to seek out “two-step” executives for guidance and mentoring opportunities.

In other words, look for industry peers roughly two steps ahead of where you want to go in the next 18 months. Learning through shared experiences is a phenomenal way to cut down on the many learning curves that are inherently a part of SaaS accounting.

Why leave yourself vulnerable to many possible mistakes by trying to do everything yourself? What you’d like to do has already been done by someone out there–probably multiple people. Find these people and try to learn from their experiences if they’re willing to share them.

5. Frontload the urgency

When your board has set high expectations for a FinTech software overhaul, the pressure can build up unexpectedly. You have nine months before everything has to be squared away, so what’s the rush?

The problem with that mindset is that it just kicks the can down the road. If you don’t tackle such a complex task early and proactively, the odds are high that you’ll feel some real pressure from your stakeholders as your deadline approaches. If you’re not cautious, all that extra heat can drain your focus and increase the likelihood of mistakes.

So remember, frontload the urgency: start FinTech upgrades as early as possible so you can move carefully and clearly through the process. It will all be worth it when you’re able to tell your story to investors with clarity and impact.

6. Quote-to-cash: It’s never too early

Automating your quote-to-cash (QTC) process is critical for SaaS accounting teams. Many departments make the mistake of waiting too long to get started.

They put it off until they have what they consider a justifiable amount of sales momentum, and then they look into quote-to-cash automation. This can lead to implementation and scaling difficulties.

It’s much more effective to start early and go slowly rather than playing automation catch-up with a more mature sales pipeline. Run a mockup transaction to see how things work in terms of automation and scale gradually. This will also help you get comfortable enough to explore other aspects of automation, like ASC 606 revenue recognition.

Get comfortable with automating quote-to-cash and other processes early on so scaling fully will be an easy and graceful switch.

7. Keep your stakeholders happy

When you’re upgrading to an automated approach, be mindful of the fact that many stakeholders are involved beyond the accounting department.

A good SaaS CFO will go the extra mile to make the rounds and talk to stakeholders in sales, marketing, IT, and other areas. Help them see how this software overhaul will be a net positive for their day-to-day lives.

Switching to cloud-based processes is a giant leap forward. Being a team player and ensuring everyone’s on the same page shows a high caliber of leadership and will help keep stakeholders in other departments informed and aligned.

Modern SaaS Finance Insights

This is just the beginning of what we covered at the event in California this year. We sincerely enjoyed facilitating learning and career growth for SaaS accounting executives, and we hope to see you at next year’s Modern SaaS Finance Forum.