How automation helps Saas firms manage uncertainty (VB Live)
Presented by Sage Intaact
Automation is key to understanding the financial position of a SaaS company. It speeds up quote-to-cash and close cycles, frees up cash, improves forecasting, and more. Learn more about harnessing the power of automation for forecasting in this VB Live event.
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Once the final product-market fit is done and dusted, how can a new SaaS company chart its next steps? It requires always knowing your cash and financial position in real-time, says David Appel, head of software and SaaS at Sage Intacct. That demands a single view of the entire customer life cycle and contract life cycle.
The problem? The moving parts move quickly. The data streaming between sales and billing processes is dense and complex. When a company is looking for agility amidst change, it may find that Excel spreadsheets or QuickBooks can’t provide the right information when it is needed. That’s when it’s critical to automate.
“Automating the sales process and billing process empowers companies to forecast further into the future, and more rapidly respond to competitive threats,” Apple says. “When your top competitor makes a move, instead of guessing what to do, you can show your CEO and board your cash and financial positions. Then the team can respond strategically — making acquisitions, reallocating resources, or investing in customer success. It’s a matter of proving not just your financial value, but the value of your business model too.”
Automation has a number of concrete benefits right out of the gate, according to Appeal.
“Companies can get new billing models out in days instead of weeks, cut the time it takes to process a new order invoice down by up to 99 percent,” he explains. “We see them cut days-sales-outstanding (DSO) by half a month to a whole month, which creates a month of operating cash flow. By understanding an entire customer contractual obligation, it’s possible to double the customer lifetime value over time.”
All these new efficiencies help make the customer subscription forecast for the contract term — revenue, cash, and billings — much clearer. A clear customer forecast offers greater confidence in the fundamentals, which is the foundation of your business model when you’re navigating one day at a time.
Appel says the threshold for automation differs for every company. It could be at 200 invoices, 2,000 revenue schedules, needing to consolidate two or more entities, going international, making an acquisition, second and third subscription contract modifications, and many others. But the tipping point will always become clear, very quickly. That’s when it’s most important to be agile, leap into automation, and make sure the company can align and control its choices.
What does that look like in real life? Trying to prove-out the revenue model requires efficient quoting and billing tools. Developing a two-to three-year financial model means trying to understand the revenue, cash, and billing expectations over the customer subscription lifetime. Establishing promising initial unit economics requires SaaS and subscription metrics in a dashboard, and automating quote-to-cash, billing, and expense management in the financial reporting.
In the end, Appel says, all this is a combination of people, process, and technology. The tech stack can only automate a well thought-out process. Hierarchies need to be abolished. Because it’s the customer lifecycle that’s monetized, not one individual order, there’s so much more interdependence across departments.
“Sales has to work with sales ops, revenue ops has to work with finance, and everyone has to work with customer success,” he says. “Everybody involved needs to think about all of this from a single perspective – the customer journey.
Ask yourself: “How do I sense and respond to what my customers value?
Then ask yourself: “How do I drive data-based decision-making across the team?
Knowing the answers to these questions will enable you to deliver the best value in uncertain times.
Registration is free here.
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David Appel, Head, Software and SaaS Vertical, Sage Intacct
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