Software executives know they need to operate their businesses with more agility because of the pace and volume of change due to innovation and new competitive offerings. C-suite executives grappling with how to turn plans into action faster than ever before need to focus on four crucial enablers of agility and growth.
1. Rapid decision making
Driving business agility requires that leaders have accurate information to make fast, informed decisions. In a recent Sand Hill Group study underwritten by Intacct, CEOs and CFOs ranked “delivering real-time relevant financial information and KPI performance to all stakeholders to drive the business” as most important to their organization. With real-time financial data and KPIs, senior management and board members are in an advantageous position for sound decision making.
Knowing what’s working in the business and what’s not allows leaders to take immediate action, rather than waiting weeks for any real business insight. Having real time KPIs allows an organization to make decisions at the point of need for improved results. The difference between a three-day financial close and a three-week financial close may be the speed advantage a company needs to capitalize on a new opportunity and beat the competition. CFOs and finance teams can make their company more agile by speeding up the delivery of accurate, insightful financial data to key stakeholders.
2. Forecasting and investing
Another process that is nearly as important to software CEOs and CFOs is quick and accurate revenue and expense planning/forecasting. Accurate forecasts rely on a variety of data sources, and CFOs that can unite disparate financial, business and market data in a single ERP application, automatically and in real time, can rapidly deliver holistic forecasts that enable business leaders to stay agile and ahead of the competition.
Let’s say, for example, a CEO wants to forecast the revenue impact of potential product features in order to prioritize engineering and marketing resources. A modern cloud ERP system lets the CFO analyze, in one place:
- The revenue impact of recent product releases by line of business, by customer, by channel and more, creating a solid foundation for building a forecast
- The revenue and profitability of new customers by size and vertical to assess the effectiveness of marketing spend.
With this depth of visibility into different aspects of the business in a single location, the CFO and CEO are able to make an informed decision on critical investment priorities.
3. Cloud ERP systems
When it comes to adding and improving financial systems, software business leaders in the Sand Hill Group study indicated their most likely action in the next 12 months would be to implement business process changes, and their second most likely action would be to implement a business intelligence/data analysis solution. Both of these choices make sense for fast-growing companies.
Growth requires change, and business and finance systems that are inflexible or cannot scale at the same pace as the company will not do. By changing business processes, software companies attempt to add speed and reduce wasted efforts, particularly in the finance function, in order to be more agile and responsive.
Likewise, growing companies require business intelligence solutions because they struggle to find the information they need to make informed decisions in a timely manner.
However, there is a way to solve both challenges. Modern cloud ERP systems allow the finance team to efficiently complete the processes they have to do, yet move beyond those processes to the visibility-creating activities that finance teams need to do such as data analysis, forecasting, and operational reporting. This creates a better outcome for the finance team as well as the company than either process change or adding business intelligence alone.
There are real-world examples of finance teams that take advantage of a modern cloud ERP system to streamline processes and perform deeper financial and operational analysis for more accurate forecasting and greater visibility into the entire organization’s performance. A fast-growing U.S. software company implemented a cloud ERP system that delivers segmented reporting and profit and loss statements by multiple dimensions like department, item, customer, vendor, location, project and employee. The system enables the finance team to be more productive by automatically and proactively providing each department with standard reporting for revenue by customer, spending by vendor and costs at a project level.
This allows business leaders to increase agility and optimize their performance by managing against plan and refining the forecast in real time. As a result of this insight, departments can get instant answers without having to ask finance for key financial information, and executives benefit from deep, real-time insights into the sales pipeline and collections for better forecasts. The added efficiencies from a modern cloud ERP system help a company’s finance team spend less time on transactional bookkeeping and compliance tasks and more time empowering the entire company to focus on strategic, proactive planning, and enhanced execution.
4. Raising new capital
Software businesses at one point or another need to raise new capital. Surveyed executives in the Sand Hill Group study reported their biggest challenge in this area is modeling future revenue and net income growth. As noted above, accurate forecasts rely on a variety of data sources, and CFOs that can unite disparate financial, business and market data in a single ERP application, automatically and in real time, can rapidly deliver holistic forecasts that demonstrate the full value and potential of the company.
In addition, the study participants rated establishing and enforcing financial processes and controls as their second top challenge in raising new capital. Establishing a robust set of internal controls is something a company has to do in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the company’s accounting and reporting for a financial statement audit and to earn investor and lender trust.
Proper financial controls ensure no single individual has control over all parts of a financial transaction — and generate the audit trail to prove it. A modern cloud ERP system enables CFOs to deliver error-free financial statements and forecasts built on well-documented, carefully organized and approved transactions that support a realistic forecast and high valuation. Well-documented and enforced financial processes and controls make it easier for software companies to raise capital because of the accurate, trusted financial data provided to investors.
With these four enablers of agility and growth in place, C-suite executives and their boards and investors can be confident that the business will perform to expectations – or even outperform.
Intacct was the underwriter of Sand Hill Group’s Software CEO / CFO Outlook 2015 study. Click here to read an excerpt of the report’s contents and buy the report, “On the Customer Success Road in a Perfect Storm.”
Robert Reid is CEO of Intacct Corporation, a leading provider of best-in-class cloud ERP software. With more than 30 years of experience in the software industry, Rob has a proven track record of driving explosive growth at innovative companies, and has demonstrated a deep expertise in bringing cloud computing to the world of business applications.