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Survey Reveals: How SaaS Empowers Finance Self-Sufficiency & Eases IT Workloads

One of the questions we frequently receive from our readers is, "Which SaaS solution will have the biggest impact on my company?" Given the multitude of answers and approaches available online, we've decided to provide a definitive answer.

Over the past few weeks, we conducted a survey involving more than 2,450 CIOs, IT directors and enterprise application directors. We asked them straightforward questions to understand their actions within their domains over the past few years, including what worked well and what did not.

The responses were enlightening, and we are excited to share our findings, highlighting the aspects that matter for finance departments and how the IT mindset has shifted around software implementations over the past three years.

Question 1: End-User Self-Sufficiency Enhancement

Which software has been most effective in transforming end-users to be more self-sufficient, resulting in a reduction of tickets opened with the IT helpdesk?

This question was tricky, and we were eager to see the results. Surprisingly, Excel was the number one solution, despite being the nemesis of IT professionals. It seems that IT people still acknowledge Excel's superiority, even though they often complain about its faults and the shadow IT that undermines their operations. Business Intelligence (BI), a superior tool for finance users, is still perceived as difficult to maintain and requires constant support from the BI team, which finance people dislike, leading them back to Excel.

Next, came a new solution, Datarails Connect, which leverages Excel's success to transform it into a kind of self-service BI solution, enabling finance professionals to become truly independent by connecting their entire data stack to Excel in a simple and self-service manner.

Question 2: Overall Business Impact

Which software has had the most significant overall impact on the business in the past 3 years, specifically enhancing the performance of the finance departments?

Numerous solutions were proposed, prompting us to categorize them according to their business verticals. Once categorized, the distribution of results was unsurprising, reflecting the common challenges faced by finance departments over time.

These challenges are influenced by the company's maturity and the specific nature of the department itself.

As anticipated, smaller companies with up to 150 employees tend to prioritize productivity. In contrast, larger companies, those with 150 to 500 employees, are shifting towards best-of-breed solutions in areas such as FP&A, payments, and payroll.

Meanwhile, larger enterprises are updating their older technology stacks with superior and more robust alternatives. This often involves replacing outdated ERP systems or implementing new cash management solutions.

Question 3: Successful Training and Adoption

Which software's training and adoption process was exceptionally well-managed across different teams, facilitating a smooth transition or implementation?

It seems the entire SaaS industry is in a tie on this one, which is not a good sign. Almost all products received low scores in terms of the implementation process and took longer than expected, introducing many technical and training challenges.BI solutions had the worst experience, being complex to implement, maintain, and support, especially for evolving companies with constantly changing business models and needs.

The winners of this category are productivity solutions Monday and ControlUP, which performed well and received the highest scores, noted as the easiest to implement and adapt by end-users.

Question 4: Indispensable Tool for Finance Team

Which product is irreplaceable in the finance department, such that its removal would disrupt their entire operation?

The results were expected; almost all respondents said they couldn't give up on their billing solution. For all other categories, the old saying "Excel is the second-best tool for anything" still holds true. Chargebee, Zuora, & Stripe were mentioned as leading software in billing solutions. Despite being considered complex projects, companies migrate from one billing system to another to save money in the long run due to the volume-based pricing model.

Question 5: What matters most?

When evaluating new software, what are the most important considerations?

We kept this question open-ended intentionally, and the results were surprising. There's been a dramatic shift towards valuing self-service as the key to choosing a new finance solution, possibly a result of COVID-19 and remote work, making IT people appreciate the independence of their end-users, especially in the finance department. This might be why BI solutions ranked low in relevance compared to older surveys. Another interesting finding is that IT managers are not afraid to adopt solutions from startups with good track records on review sites like G2 and Capterra.

The Winners!

As anticipated, some insights are already well-known. However, a few surprises strongly merit the attention of every IT professional.

The list below is organized based on the overall grade received, which combines the specific software's performance with its financial importance and impact on the business. We strongly advise any IT professional to consider initiating an open discussion with the relevant financial leader in their organization. This is to understand whether any of the items listed below have the potential to significantly impact your IT operations and financial capabilities.

Without further ado, here are the winners.

  1. Billing The revolution in billing systems has been significantly advanced by trailblazers such as Stripe, Zuora, and Chargebee, each offering sophisticated solutions tailored to modern business needs. Stripe simplifies online payments with its developer-friendly platform, while Zuora focuses on subscription management services, enabling businesses to retain customers and manage recurring billing efficiently. Chargebee complements these by offering a versatile billing platform that automates invoicing, subscriptions, and revenue recognition. Together, these innovators have transformed billing from a back-office function into a strategic asset, enhancing customer experiences, streamlining revenue streams, and providing businesses with critical insights into their financial health.

  2. Real-Time Reporting We have frequently discussed the advantages of real-time reporting tools like Spreadsheet Server, Solution 7, and other similar products. Although these solutions have traditionally been seen as less desirable due to their outdated and clunky interfaces, they remain highly effective. A standout solution that has been consistently mentioned across various survey questions is Datarails Connect, which appears to be capturing a significant market share. This solution promises to revolutionize connected Excel environments. The overwhelmingly positive reviews on Datarails' G2 and Capterra pages suggest that they are definitely doing something right.

  3. Productivity The last few years have seen significant advancements in productivity solutions, such as Monday and ControlUP, whose stock valuations have soared. It appears these advancements have not overlooked the finance department. Surveys indicate a substantial increase in productivity resulting from finance departments adopting these solutions. Contrary to being perceived as outdated, finance teams are leveraging these productivity tools in innovative ways, from budgeting to managing projects and assignments.

  4. Cash Management The Open Banking initiative has been a game-changer in the financial services sector by allowing third-party developers to access financial data through banking APIs. This regulatory framework has facilitated the rise of new cash management startups, which provide innovative solutions for improving personal and business finance management. This has led to increased competition and fostered a more inclusive and efficient financial ecosystem. Kyriba has been a leading player in this domain for many years, receiving positive reviews for their services. However, a new wave of startups, such as Panax and Tesorio, are gaining recognition and could potentially challenge Kyriba's dominance.It's recommended to keep an eye on these emerging companies.

  5. Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) In the realm of Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A), platforms such as Datarails, Pigment, and Jedox are setting new benchmarks for strategic financial management. These tools empower businesses with advanced analytics, comprehensive planning capabilities, and real-time data integration, transforming FP&A processes from cumbersome, spreadsheet-bound tasks to dynamic, insight-driven activities. They facilitate more accurate forecasting, budgeting, and scenario planning, enabling finance teams to make informed decisions swiftly and with greater precision. By leveraging such cutting-edge technologies, companies are not just streamlining their financial operations but are also gaining a competitive edge through enhanced strategic oversight and agility.

  6. Payments The advent of Brex & Ramp represents a significant leap in the evolution of financial management within the corporate sector. By automating complex processes and providing granular visibility into expenditures, these platforms have revolutionized the way companies approach their financial operations. Their innovation lies in streamlining payment workflows, improving compliance, and facilitating strategic financial planning. Alongside notable competitors like Mesh Payments and PayEm, they are at the forefront of a movement towards more agile, transparent, and efficient financial ecosystems, reshaping the role of finance departments in driving organizational success.

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