Table of contents
- The benefits of a modern finance tech stack
- How to evaluate your current tech stack
- Core components of a modern tech stack
- Other tools to consider
- Choosing the right tech stack
- Key questions to consider and ask
- Ensuring seamless integration and interoperability
- Successful teams adapt to tech trends
The evolution of the finance software landscape, marked by rapid technological advancements and a heightened focus on data integration, is fundamentally reshaping the role and capabilities of finance teams. Previously, finance and accounting tools were often cumbersome, non-intuitive, and largely non-collaborative, fostering siloed operations and hindering efficiency.
Today, the landscape is vastly different. Modern, next-gen finance software, with its intuitive design and user-friendly interfaces, offers efficient and effective solutions for finance professionals. A key feature of these new-age tools is their enhanced collaborative capabilities, enabling real-time, shared workspaces that foster more cohesive financial management. Additionally, the ability to seamlessly integrate multiple data sources has become an indispensable feature of modern finance software. This integration facilitates a comprehensive view of the organization's financial health, enabling more informed and data-driven decision-making.
The implications of this transformation are profound. Modern finance software significantly reduces manual workload, improves accuracy, and promotes cross-functional collaboration for strategic decision-making. As a finance leader, understanding and leveraging this modern tech stack is paramount. This guide will provide insights to help you navigate this evolving landscape, evaluate your options, and make informed decisions that best serve your team and organization.
The benefits of a modern finance tech stack
An optimized and integrated finance tech stack is essential for driving efficiency and helping your organization thrive. By centralizing data and automating manual processes, financial teams can shift their focus from time-consuming tasks to strategic insights that propel the business forward. This streamlined approach empowers decision-making across all levels, with real-time visibility into company performance, fostering cross-functional collaboration and reducing costs.
Embracing a modern finance tech stack can yield many benefits, including:
- Enhanced visibility into company performance and decision-making through unified, real-time data.
- Increased efficiency and reduced errors by automating manual processes, giving finance teams more bandwidth to focus on strategic initiatives.
- Scalability for both finance teams and overall business functions, supporting growth and allowing for faster decision-making.
- Empowerment of department leaders and managers with access to relevant data they need, reducing back-and-forth emails.
- Improved collaboration with context between departments, ensuring informed and cohesive decision-making.
How to evaluate your current tech stack
Begin by examining your current technology capabilities and limitations. This involves an in-depth analysis of the software, hardware, and other technological resources currently in use. Review each component for its functionality, effectiveness, and relevance to your organization's needs. This process will highlight any technical limitations that may be hindering your finance team's efficiency or effectiveness.
Next, identify any gaps in your technology infrastructure and areas for potential improvement. These gaps could be in the form of missing tools, software that lacks necessary features, or systems that are no longer sufficient due to the growth or diversification of your organization. Keep in mind that gaps are not just about missing elements but can also include inefficiencies or redundancies in your current setup.
Finally, align your technology investments with your business goals and objectives. The purpose of your tech stack is to support and facilitate the achievement of your organization's strategic goals. Any investment in technology should directly correlate with these goals. Assess whether your current technology setup is aiding your progress toward these objectives or if there are areas where it is falling short.
Remember that technology is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Your tech stack should support your finance team in its operations, enable better decision-making, and ultimately contribute to the growth and success of your organization. Evaluating your current tech stack is the first step towards ensuring that your technology infrastructure is robust, efficient, and aligned with your strategic objectives.
Core components of a modern tech stack
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System
Core to any finance tech stack is the ERP, which serves as the core accounting system. These systems provide financial management, supply chain management, and project management functionalities, enabling organizations to streamline their financial processes and centralize data. It's important to note that there are many other ERP systems available in the market, catering to different business sizes and industries.
Startups and smaller organizations may use Intuit QuickBooks for invoicing, expense tracking, and basic financial reporting. Quickbooks offers a user-friendly, easy-to-use experience with customizable reporting and inventory management capabilities. However, meeting auditing requirements with ASC 606, R&D Capitalization, lease accounting, and implementing sufficient internal controls can be more challenging with Quickbooks. In addition, if your organization transactions in currencies other than USD or has multiple entities, Quickbooks may not support your organization's needs.
Some companies start off with Quickbooks and migrate to more robust ERP solutions like Sage Intacct and Oracle NetSuite when they experience rapid growth, an increase in transaction volume, or the need for more advanced features and integrations to serve more complex needs. Sage Intacct and Oracle NetSuite are used by small to large businesses and offer advanced financials, multi-entity management, project management, and CRM integration capabilities. However, with these comprehensive features, more training is required to take advantage of the full solution.
As your organization scales, keep in mind the timing and added costs of a delayed switch to a more sophisticated ERP. For example, postponing a needed switch means additional years of financials to restate and accumulation of other issues. This translates into additional auditor, consulting, and implementation costs, as well as a significant commitment of time from the finance team to get things in the right shape.
Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) Solution
An FP&A solution is essential for modern finance leaders for meaningful and timely financial analysis. While Excel and Google Sheets may work well for smaller organizations, as these organizations grow and implement an ERP, these manual and time-consuming tools and processes become prone to breakage and are unsustainable for an agile business. An FP&A software solution can save valuable time, reduce human error, and help a finance team accelerate decision-making — in essence, do more and better with less.
Modern, next-gen FP&A solutions like Vareto integrate with ERPs, CRMs, HRIS, and other financial and business systems to structure data and automatically bring all the data to one source of truth. This enables a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the organization for budgeting, planning, forecasting, reporting. For example, with an FP&A solution in place, the resource-heavy process of manually pulling ERP data, reconciling various spreadsheets, and creating reports for budget versus actuals meetings is eliminated. Instead, these reports are automatically generated and become self-serve for department leaders. If there are any questions about line items, department leaders can click and drill down into transaction data instantly to get further context.
With access to up-to-date data and a collaboration layer, finance and business leaders are able to leverage FP&A solutions to better control costs, optimize resource allocation, and foster business growth.
Request a demo of Vareto's next-gen FP&A solution here.
Payroll, Human Resources, and Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions
As a business grows and evolves, so do its personnel requirements. Popular payroll, HR, and HCM solutions include Workday, BambooHR, and ADP. These tools help manage the company's workforce more effectively and efficiently by automating payroll processing, streamlining HR administration, and providing insights for talent management and workforce planning.
BambooHR is a user-friendly platform built for small to medium-sized businesses. It specializes in core HR functions, including onboarding, time-off tracking, and performance management. BambooHR focuses on the essentials of HR management for simplicity and ease of use and does not offer talent management or learning management functionality.
ADP, a veteran in the industry, provides comprehensive payroll services and HR solutions to medium and large businesses. It offers a wide range of HR features, including payroll, benefits administration, time tracking, recruiting, and performance management. However, while ADP has a more complex interface than BambooHR, it offers a more extensive feature set than Bamboo HR.
Workday offers a comprehensive solution for large enterprises looking for a unified platform to manage the entire employee lifecycle. Workday is highly customizable and feature-rich, designed to manage various aspects of human capital management, including payroll, benefits, talent management, and analytics. It offers a wide range of integrations and robust reporting capabilities.
Spend Management Solutions
A spend management solution is essential for compliance with company spend and operational efficiency. These solutions enable finance teams to monitor cash flow, maintain compliance, and streamline financial processes. They provide a comprehensive view of every dollar spent, improving visibility into what drives spend. Modern spend management platforms provide the ability to authorize specific spending amounts down to individual employees, replacing the need for traditional methods of approving spend after the money has been spent and expense report processing.
Expensify and Ramp both offer user-friendly spend management tools in addition to a corporate card. Both make it easier for employees to submit expenses and receipts and for managers to approve them, provide real-time visibility into company-wide spending, and offer tools to control expenses proactively. Their corporate cards offer cash back and partner perks, card controls, and bill payment services. Ramp is primarily aimed at corporations, while Expensify works with businesses of all sizes, from solo shops to large organizations.
SAP Concur offers integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions. SAP Concur is a more comprehensive solution designed for larger organizations and often requires more time and resources to implement and train up for use.
Other tools to consider
Billing and payments solution: A billing and payments solution is crucial for managing revenue and deferred revenue. It automates SaaS metrics and revenue operations, making it easier to monitor and analyze financial data. This component of the tech stack not only simplifies the billing process but also helps with revenue recognition compliance.
Billing and accounts receivable (AR) software: These software platforms automate and streamline the process of generating invoices, managing customer payments, and tracking unpaid invoices. These solutions help businesses improve cash flow, reduce manual work, and manage customer credit risk effectively.
FinOps and cloud optimization tools: as businesses scale and their cloud infrastructure and usage expands, it becomes more challenging to track and manage costs efficiently. FinOps and cloud optimization platforms help manage and optimize cloud expenditure by providing insights into how cloud resources are being utilized. This enables cost allocation and chargebacks and provides recommendations to optimize cloud usage and reduce waste.
SaaS management solution: Given the proliferation of SaaS sprawl in modern businesses, SaaS management platforms help businesses manage their SaaS subscriptions, optimize usage, and control costs. They offer features such as visibility into SaaS subscriptions and corresponding usage and adoption across the organization and insights into underutilized or redundant SaaS subscriptions. Businesses can centralize and streamline the administration of their SaaS applications, including managing user access and license management. SaaS management platforms also provide features to define access and administration controls, track usage, and enforce security policies, reducing the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data.
Payment operations software: Payment operations software enables businesses to manage, track, and optimize their payments infrastructure and workflows. They integrate with financial institutions, banks, and payment processors to facilitate seamless transactions, ensure security and compliance, and provide analytics to gain insights into business payment activity, trends, and performance metrics.
Choosing the right tech stack for your organization
The process of selecting the right tech solutions for your organization should be approached strategically, with a keen understanding of your specific needs and a comprehensive evaluation of your options.
Evaluate potential solutions based on their features, scalability, and integration capabilities. The features should align with the needs you've identified and offer a measurable improvement in functionality. Scalability is crucial in ensuring the solution can accommodate growth and change in your organization. Integration capabilities are equally important; the selected solutions should be able to seamlessly fit into your existing tech stack and promote data sharing across systems for a holistic view of your financial operations.
The final step involves comparing the cost, implementation time, and expected ROI of potential solutions. The cost should be evaluated not just in terms of the upfront price but also the ongoing costs of maintenance, upgrades, and potential additional hardware. The implementation time should be reasonable and cause minimal disruption to your operations.
Here's a summary of key criteria to consider:
- Align with the organization's identified needs
- Provide a measurable improvement in functionality
- Accommodate growth and changes in the organization
- Adjust or expand as the business and its needs evolve
- Fit seamlessly into the existing tech stack
- Promote data sharing across systems for a holistic view of operations
- Include both the upfront price and ongoing costs
- Factor in costs for maintenance, upgrades, and any necessary additional hardware
- Should be reasonable and not overly lengthy
- Cause minimal disruption to ongoing operations
- Consider the benefits and improvements the solution will bring to the organization
- Make sure the solution offers value for the investment in the medium to long term.
Key questions to consider and ask
Before engaging with vendors
- What is the problem we’re trying to solve?
- What roadblocks are getting in our way?
- What characteristics are we looking for in each type of software?
- Who will be the point of contact on the company’s side to give it enough adequate support? Do we have the time and resources to commit to this?
- Who is on the evaluation team? Utilize a DACI model — who will drive the decision, who needs to approve, who needs to contribute, and who needs to be informed during the evaluation?
- Does the software provide the necessary features and tools to manage our financial processes effectively?
- Is the software customizable to fit our organization's unique requirements?
- How does the software handle data privacy and security?
- Is the software compliant with relevant industry regulations and standards?
- Integration and scalability: Evaluate how the software integrates with your existing systems and supports your organization's growth.
- How easily does the software integrate with our current systems and processes?
- Can the software scale with our organization's growth and adapt to changing needs?
- Cost and ROI: Assess the software's cost-effectiveness and potential return on investment.
- Is the software user-friendly, and does it provide an intuitive interface for our team members?
- What is the total cost of ownership, including implementation, maintenance, and training?
- What is the expected return on investment, and how does it align with our budget and financial goals?
Usability and support
- Determine the software's ease of use and the quality of vendor support.
- What level of customer support does the vendor offer, including training and ongoing assistance?
Ensuring seamless integration and interoperability
Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a technology ecosystem that works in harmony, where data flows freely, and the systems complement each other — allowing your team to focus on strategic tasks and decision-making. Select software and systems that can easily communicate and share data with each other. This interconnectivity allows for more streamlined operations, as data can flow seamlessly from one system to another, reducing the need for manual data entry and the potential for errors.
Finance teams are not traditionally the "owners" of data, a role typically assumed by accounting and business operations teams. However, in today's fast-paced business environment, they become the face of the numbers, providing valuable insights, forecasts, and reports to stakeholders. Consequently, they must ensure data quality and structure, championing data best practices within their organizations.
Standardizing data formats and communication protocols is another key aspect of integration. Different systems often use different formats for data, which can create compatibility issues when trying to share information. By standardizing these formats, you ensure that data can be easily and accurately transferred between systems. Similarly, standardizing communication protocols ensures that all systems can 'speak the same language', making it easier to send and receive information.
Leveraging APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and integration platforms can greatly enhance the seamless flow of data between systems. APIs allow different software applications to interact with each other, enabling them to exchange data and perform functions without requiring the user to switch between applications. Integration platforms, on the other hand, serve as a 'middleman' between different systems, translating data into a format that can be understood by the receiving system.
Successful teams adapt to tech trends
The role of finance teams has fundamentally evolved, progressing from number crunching and spreadsheet management to becoming tech-driven powerhouses. The best finance teams leverage software and data analytics to drive strategic decision-making and business growth. In this tech-driven era, a modern tech stack is not just a luxury; it's a necessity. For finance leaders and their teams, adopting a modern tech stack brings a multitude of benefits, enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and strategic decision-making.
However, the benefits of a modern tech stack extend beyond immediate operational improvements. By staying ahead of technology trends in the rapidly evolving landscape, finance leaders help their organizations maintain a competitive advantage and position their organizations for long-term success. Emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics are reshaping the future of finance, offering even greater levels of automation, accuracy, and insights. By adopting a modern tech stack today, finance leaders can ensure that their teams are well-equipped to leverage these next-gen technologies as they become mainstream.