Finance Automation

Inside the Tech Stack of Finance Leaders

Finding the perfect finance technology is tough, and choosing the wrong application leads to wasted time and money.

So, we decided to find out which applications finance teams used to improve their processes. Our report helps you identify the best finance software and makes a case for how a proper tech stack will give you improved compliance, productivity, and agility.

Read on for a summary of the results, and get the 2021 Finance Technology Benchmarking Report to see all the details!

Background on the survey

As an Advisory Member for the Controller Collective professional community, Peter Nesbitt noticed that members often asked questions about software capabilities and implementation. “People were constantly asking about it, so I thought it’d be helpful if we developed a resource that had all the information in one place,” he explained.

That’s exactly what we did. Polling the nearly 500 members of Controller Collective, we asked which software they use to automate different finance functions, including:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Spend management
  • Accounts receivable (AR) and billing
  • Accounts payable (AP)
  • Close management
  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Tax
  • Human resources (HR) and payroll
  • Travel management

The most popular platforms were…

Some key software platforms stood out from the rest.

Salesforce for CRM

Salesforce was the clear winner in the CRM category, in which companies prioritized scalability, real-time visibility, and reporting. Almost 90% of firms are using some type of CRM, which isn’t surprising. Recent Salesforce data suggest consumers now expect connected experiences across B2B and B2C.

Bill.com for AP

Bill.com dominated the accounts payable category, with only 8% of firms processing AP manually. AP automation is a rapidly growing multi-billion dollar market, and software can serve as an entry point into wider scale finance digital transformation. There is a great opportunity to establish controls before the payment to manage costs and eliminate manual work.

Teampay for Spend Management

When it came to spend management software, Teampay emerged as the top choice. In fact, more than 2x as many people use Teampay to manage spend than the next software option. Though most finance professionals understand the importance of proactive spend controls, 27% still perform this task manually and 44% are using tools that are not built to manage spend from end-to-end. This way of working creates spend management challenges, like manually reconciling and coding transactions after the fact.

Stripe for AR

Stripe was the most common choice for accounts receivable (AR). Only 8% of respondents were not using any software for accounts receivable, but we expect this number to decline in 2021. Seventy percent of finance teams intend to automate AR in the year ahead, according to Pymnts B2B payments research.

Most manual time lost on close management, budgeting, and forecasting

There were three categories for which respondents did not turn to automated SaaS: close management, forecasting, and budgeting. For these categories, the majority of respondents still use manual processes.

Though FloQast was the number one choice for close management, 67% of teams continue to deal with the month-end close manually. Similarly, 64% of respondents reported manual budgeting and forecasting. A manual approach can lead to errors, dirty data, and severe business challenges.

The rise of remote work has further complicated these areas because employees at every level are making more purchases from more places. That means more expense reports to process, more employees to chase down for receipts, and more transactions to manually reconcile.

Furthermore, when finance teams have to wait until the end of the month to get the corporate credit card statements, they may only find out about purchases weeks after they happen. This delayed visibility means you’re basing your budgets and forecasts on outdated data.

Without purpose-built software to manage distributed spending, it can spiral out of control. Conversely, research shows that agile finance leaders who embrace finance software are able to better deliver on the company’s bottom line.

Get the 2021 Finance Technology Benchmarking Report!

Software usage has risen in the past 9 months 

With the increase in remote work, there has been a SaaS explosion. Businesses have had to strike a balance between giving remote employees the software they need and preventing zombie subscriptions. In order to do so, finance leaders look for scalable solutions that can grow with them, rather than tools that only work at certain stages of growth.

For example, Salesforce is a highly scalable application that quickly adds more servers to accommodate more users. Teampay is just as configurable and can be updated to meet your evolving needs as your business grows.

Another factor is the user experience. Finance teams are placing increased value on ease-of-use in addition to just capabilities. In the end, all the software functionalities in the world are worthless if no one uses them. 

Lastly, finance leaders choose systems that have robust integrations. Any new software should not only automate a set of tasks, but also improve connectivity so data is seamlessly transmitted across platforms, unifying otherwise disparate processes.

The changing economy brought expenses into focus

It’s not just software usage in general that has risen. Looking one step deeper into the SaaS explosion, it is clear that certain areas have emerged as ripe for finance automation.

Remote work made it more difficult for companies to process accounts payable manually, for example, so they turned to software to automate it. Bill.com’s stock price rose sharply over the past year in what Forbes calls a “covid turbo boost.”

The pandemic thrust the world economy into an ever-changing and unpredictable crisis. As companies looked to control costs, finance leaders became laser-focused on expenses. They realized the immediate need to control spending at every level of the organization, while still empowering employees to move quickly to adapt to changing market conditions.

“Companies suddenly started focusing on expenses more than they had before as a way to manage costs,” said Nesbitt. “It will be important to maintain this focus going forward.” And in a virtual world, maintaining control and visibility into company spending is more important than ever.

Embrace finance technology to stay ahead in 2021

While forward-looking finance teams have begun to embrace automation software, far too many still rely on manual processes. This suggests a great opportunity for companies to modernize their finance operations with technology that doesn’t merely digitize old processes, but optimizes them. 

In the year ahead, high-performing finance leaders will embrace finance technologies to automate important functions and free their team to focus on more strategic work. Building your financial tech stack is a step towards improving your finance team’s precision, productivity, and work satisfaction.

By adopting new systems that were developed to meet the needs of today’s distributed workforce, finance leaders can achieve agile operations and emerge ahead of the competition.