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Planning and analysis tools for SaaS businesses

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Morten Boldsen

Morten Boldsen


21. January 2023

Emil Tommerup

Emil Tommerup


21. January 2023

Are you CFO of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or subscription business? If so, you probably devote quite a lot of thinking to how you can easily update your forecast models and maintain a high degree of security, and how you can tell your investors exactly where you will be three months from now. A cloud-based planning and analysis tool could help you with all of this. And this article will make you wiser about how.

A new generation of financial planning and analysis tools has been launched in recent years.

Cloud-based, ready-for-integration and – not least – user friendly applications that help businesses digitalise their planning processes.

Tools that make it possible to meet the needs of SaaS and subscription businesses without compromising neither quality nor transparency.

They do just that by helping you …

  • Model ‘annual recurring revenue’ (ARR), ‘total contract value’ (TCV) and ‘churn’
  • Plan your sales in an easy and dynamic way
  • Integrate with CRM and other subscription platforms
  • Calculate the ’cash burn’
  • Get good reporting possibilities

The right cloud-based planning and analysis tool will, in other words, make it possible for you to start preparing your forecast with the organisation’s ARR, TCV and churn for the coming periods without any cause for concern and with a steady pulse at rest.

Below, we will present you with five functions that will, in our view, make the investment in a cloud-based planning and analysis tool a good idea.

1: You’ll get detailed scenario planning

We probably don’t have to tell you that we are living in an era of unforeseen crises. An era where all that is predictable is that the unpredictable will hit your organisation and leave a wheel track of consequences behind.

Fortunately, many new financial planning and analysis tools can curb this pressure ball game by coupling a scenario planning functionality with solid modelling engines.

This combination will make it easy for you to adjust the key parameters, thereby enabling you to map the consequences in money terms.

Maybe you want to have a closer look at the impact of a new initiative intended to identify and initiate negotiations with customers who are about to leave you. Or maybe you would like to reduce your average ‘customer acquisition cost’ (CAC).

And we’re not just talking about key figures. The parameters can be felt even at product and contract level, where you can follow up as soon as the figures realised have become available.

Finally, it becomes easy to compare the financial plan with the most recent figures from various systems. It makes it possible for you to follow up on unexpected deviations – for example if a customer terminates an important contract.

If you use a good financial and analysis solution, the activities mentioned will no longer be time-consuming tasks for the entire department, but rather require work by only one employee. Surveys made in this area reveal that it is possible to reduce the time spent by each employee on the planning process by up to 60 per cent.

And those whose primary responsibility it is to process data will be completely released from these activities.

You can even get all of the above without any risk of compromising existing forecasts or budgets, which is, most frequently, the case with Excel solutions.

Furthermore, the link between various activities in the organisation and the financial results becomes clearer. It becomes easy to see how HR’s employment plan is reflected in the wage costs, how marketing and sales activities are related to future turnover etc.

Often, the link between operational and financial daily activities is rather blurred – but a financial planning and analysis tool can remedy this.

If you can clarify the link between Finance’s forecast and the activities of various departments, the involved persons’ understanding of the process is, generally, much greater. And last but not least, Finance’s understanding of the business will also become greater since the business in its entirety can be involved as providers of input.

”Having the right tool, you can therefore execute on your planning without preparing, sending, collecting and connecting a multitude of complex spreadsheets.”

2: You will get intuitive sales planning (also for non-number nerds)

An ambitious sales plan that it is easy to follow up on forms part of the foundation of any SaaS business. So, if you can build a process that is user friendly, transparent, safe and effective, you have delivered on one of Finance’s key tasks. And most cloud-based planning tools offer a customised functionality in support of this.

Having the right tool, you can therefore execute on your planning without preparing, sending, collecting and connecting a multitude of complex spreadsheets. Instead, you will make an input sheet directly in the tool where you log all user actions and where only Finance can process all the logics.

Subsequently, you can share the input sheet with others in the organisation via a link. As soon as the input sheet has been filled in, all overlying calculations are updated right away, and the figures are given in the right format – ready for Finance and the rest of the business to adjust and negotiate.

It means that the planning process will be much faster since you can cut away the time that you would otherwise spend handling the input manually.

There are also many advantages to be gained from top-down planning. It becomes easy to arrange the distribution of the overall business goals on, i.a., salespersons, products and periods – and you can arrange the distribution accurately and dynamically on the basis of historic data.

It becomes somewhat easier for you to share information when you can give different users limited access to the system, and they can help verify or negotiate their goals.

3: You will get an interaction with other systems

A forecast or a budget is only as good as the data base on which it is built. Therefore, it is a critical competitive parameter for the planning and analysis department in Finance to be able to update a forecast effectively and to report on the figures realised. In other words, it is alpha and omega that the underlying data collection and processing runs effectively.

New financial planning and analysis tools have been designed to be both open and manageable as regards data from other applications. And from a technical perspective, it even becomes easier year by year to set up these integrations.

By means of a fixed, planned frequency or a single click, you can get the most recent information from, for example, Salesforce or Zendesk, and import it directly into your financial planning and analysis tool without any help from a tech savvy colleague.

If, for example, you find out that an important lead has just been inserted in the CRM system, or that the value of a customer’s contracts is being scaled down, you can get a complete update of the company’s financial prospects by means of only a few clicks. And it would even be possible for you to monitor, for example, renegotiations of contracts with a financial weighting of the potential outcome.

Automating and making the transfer of data between systems effective is an important step on Finance’s journey towards the role as a business partner. Because it is the basis for the ability to answer critical questions about strategic decisions and to shed light on the possibilities and risks that would otherwise in many cases ‘fly under the radar’ if reporting and decisions are based on outdated data.

4: You will be able to keep an eye on your ’cash burn’

One of the ways in which SaaS and subscription businesses – especially those financed by investment funds – differ from other businesses is through their great focus on the organisation’s use of cash. What does it take for the organisation to be able to stand on its own legs? And when does the need arise for a new injection of investments?

These two questions are revisited again and again, but not always as part of the regular reporting. And the modelling of the answers is by no means an easy task.

In this connection, a planning and analysis tool may also help save time as well as increase the quality of Finance’s deliveries. If the logic behind the cash-flow has been established, and data have been updated, you can easily turn the relevant parameters up and down – such as DSO, write-downs of invoices issued etc. – and, thus, be able to present an exact forecast or budget.

So, by means of the right planning and analysis tool, it becomes easier for you to quickly produce cash-flow analyses, to answer specific questions from the organisation and to get an overview of the financial means available in the future.

And you can rely on all changes to the financial planning and analysis tool as well as to the supporting systems being shown right away, thereby, saving you time in a busy planning period.

5: You can report as much as you’re worth

When the month has been closed, the budget has been approved or the forecast has been prepared, time has come to continue reporting. And it would be obvious to use the planning system together with the reporting since planning and analysis tools contain a complete data set for both realised and planned figures.

And as is the case with the other deliveries mentioned in this article, the combination of actuality, completeness, transparency and user friendliness helps provide an effective and safe process.

If the figures have been reconciled, you can submit a standard package without manually processing data in various formats – or the users can even become absorbed in the figures themselves. Since you reduce the risk of errors and omissions in connection with the reporting when you reduce the amount of manual work involved.

The information is stored in the cloud and is continuously updated. It reduces the risk of ‘old’ versions of reports circulating on the mail server. And it makes it easier for the rest of the organisation to understand Finance’s planning and analysis work – and to get the intended value from the efforts made.

Order the e-book ‘Rolling forecasts: how to achieve business agility with dynamic planning’

Do you feel as if you have merely been given a little ‘amuse-bouche’ – and are you hungry for more FP&A knowledge? Fortunately, something can be done about it. Firstly, I would recommend that you read the Jeudan interview on our website and that you take a closer look at, where you will find more interviews and articles on financial planning.

In addition, Workday Adaptive Planning has published the e-book ‘Rolling forecasts: how to achieve business agility with dynamic planning’ on how to create an agile business through dynamic planning.

You can order the book by sending an email to – it only costs your email address.

Choose the right planning tool for your SaaS business

Cloud-based financial planning and analysis tools may help solve the ‘classic’ problems that most SaaS and subscription businesses are faced with. But they can also help Finance’s planning and analysis department reach its ambition to deliver quality work that will lift the overall business.

In FITS, we’re working with a number of applications and tools the purpose of which is to optimise the work made in Finance and make it easier. Please, contact Partner Morten Boldsen for an informal talk about what we can do for you and the technological foundation in your Finance function.

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