New corporate finance technologies are emerging at a faster rate than ever before. That means huge potential for finance teams to optimize their workflows and modernize the way they operate. That said, the sheer number of possible solutions and functionalities can make it difficult to identify the right platforms for your business.
How do you differentiate between a “must-have” application that will supercharge your team’s productivity and a product that will make you regret the day you heard its name? Here are five essential questions we believe businesses should ask when evaluating new finance software.
Does it integrate with your existing stack?
In a business environment increasingly defined by agile operations, it’s more important than ever for teams to be able to move as quickly and as smartly as possible. Data has a key role to play in making that kind of flexible, responsive, iterative work environment possible. Finance and leadership depend on accurate financial data to make mission-critical business decisions. Without it, they’re essentially flying blind.
That makes having the right integrations one of the most important factors to consider when evaluating a new finance solution. Organizations need data to flow seamlessly between systems in order to be efficient. When it comes to spend management software, in particular, here are two questions you want to ask to ensure as smooth a transition as possible:
- Does it sync with your accounting software? Whether your team uses NetSuite, Intacct, QuickBooks, Xero, or another accounting system, you’ll want software that plugs into your current suite.
- Does it integrate with the technology employees use to do their work? Employees use a lot of different software to do their jobs and may be reluctant to add yet another platform to the mix. Implementing technology that integrates with your existing systems and processes encourages compliance and makes it easy for employees to do the right thing.
Is it fast and easy to implement?
In addition to considering how the software will integrate with the rest of your tech stack, it’s also important to consider the time frame for implementation.
While legacy enterprise software packages often have longer implementation times, newer systems can be up and running quickly. They can deliver value right away, without slowing the team down in the process.
On a similar note, enterprise systems may require greater implementation resources, including company employees and consultants. Pulling your employees away from strategic initiatives to focus on implementation, or hiring outside personnel to do it, can cost your company money and slow down progress.
In a tech era defined by customer-centricity and turnkey convenience, there’s no reason to settle for software platforms that take months to implement, or are burdened by overwrought onboarding processes. Look for solutions that can be implemented in days, not months, so you can deliver value faster.
Is it configurable for your organization’s specific needs?
Every business is different, and any finance software you implement should support your unique needs, not dictate them. Finance teams should set the controls that work for their organizations, leveraging automation to carry out their specific rules.
Take approval thresholds, for example. For one company, it might be important for a senior team member to review and approve all expenses over $20. A different company might feel comfortable with team members using their best judgment up to a threshold of $50 or $100. That choice should be made by the finance executives and leadership team who know their organization and its needs—not by the company that just happens to make the software they’re using.
Look for platforms that are not only configurable, but also flexible and scalable. You want to adopt systems that can evolve with your business as it grows. The purchasing rules that you set when your business is starting out are different than those when you’re several years in, and your spend management software should be able to accommodate that shift without a complete overhaul of the process.
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Is it secure?
Data privacy is on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days, and for good reason: it seems like hardly a day goes by without a new story about a high-profile data breach.
Stories like that are enough to strike fear into the heart of any business leader, which is why it’s more important than ever for companies to know that their sensitive financial data is safe, even when they’re relying on third-party vendors to help them manage it. A few strong indicators that a finance platform is secure:
- 256-bit TLS encryption, which keeps data safe in transit
- Full data privacy, meaning card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive information are never retained by the software provider
- Compliance with PCI-DSS, the official security standard of Visa and MasterCard
- Certification by organizations, SOC1 and SOC2, so you have the security of knowing the software has been vetted and approved by experts
When it comes to your company’s financial data, there’s no such thing as “too secure.” Look for a software partner who takes your company’s data privacy as seriously as you do.
Is it priced for employee adoption and ROI?
In the world of B2B SaaS, it’s common for products to be priced per user or per every couple of users. The more that people use the software, the more the company pays for it. That model can seem like a good deal at first glance, but pricing by user can lead to convoluted workarounds and inefficient processes because the goal becomes minimizing seats, not maximizing efficiencies.
For example, when spend management software is priced by user, companies restrict the number of users, so only select individuals have the ability to request funds. The result is that those few people end up having to make purchases for everyone else on the team. At that point, you undo any efficiency gains you might have wanted over the old-fashioned process you bought the software to replace.
You’ll also want to evaluate the return on investment for your team. When the entire workforce leverages the same system and process, efficiency, connectivity, and accountability are improved. Look for software pricing that encourages adoption by all employees, not a select few.
Does it capture the full range of information you want?
The best finance software doesn’t just save you time by automating routine tasks; it also enhances your performance by giving you visibility that you would not otherwise have.
A major stumbling block that finance teams have historically run into has been the lack of data on the purchases employees are making. They have to wait until credit card statements come in at the end of the month to become aware of every transaction, and then there’s often missing receipts and other information that makes it difficult to identify who bought what and why. But the right software can provide insight to drive critical business decisions like:
- Where is the team overspending that you can afford to cut back?
- Are there any lurking zombie subscriptions that you can cut out all together?
- Could you save money by switching to a different vendor?
- Are there any major shifts happening in the team’s spending patterns that you should know about?
Good finance software doesn’t replace humans; it empowers them by giving them access to information that helps them steer the company’s spending more accurately — and strategically.
Knowledge is power—and software is the fuel
The finance team is a company’s navigation system, helping to chart the organization’s path toward growth. But like any navigator, they are only as good as the tools they have at their disposal. By putting systems in place that prioritize transparency, security, efficiency, and control, finance can empower their team to move at the speed of business.