The Ultimate Guide to Software Procurement: Buying Finance & Accounting Software

Published on
April 3, 2024
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Navigating the complex world of buying software can be as daunting as crunching numbers in the accounting department. However, as the landscape of financial technology evolves, accounting and finance teams must sharpen their software procurement skills. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) emerges as a critical tool for these teams, especially in large companies, offering features like asset and inventory management, workflow planning, and a unified dashboard for all accounting and planning activities.  

Whether you’re just starting to contemplate a new ERP System or have seen some demonstrations of cloud-based accounting CPM solutions, make sure to check out this guide! No matter the stage in your buying journey, we will arm you with strategies to make better purchasing decisions in each section of this blog, ensuring it's tailored not just for large corporations but also for small businesses looking to navigate software procurement:

  1. Debunking Key SaaS Myths
  2. Understanding Your Requirements
  3. Evaluating and Selecting Software
  4. You've Chosen a Vendor...Now What?
  5. Implementation and Training
  6. Continuous Learning and Optimization

Debunking Key SaaS Myths

Before listing out all the steps you should consider in your buying process, let's identify & debunk some key misconceptions to be mindful of when reviewing SaaS products. Software today is obviously not the same as it was 5, 10 or 20 years ago. The same rings true for certain assumptions held against SaaS products:

  1. All-in-One solutions are better

Don't get caught in this trap of traditional thinking. "What may appear to be efficient and practical on the surface, actually keeps CFOs stuck in outdated and siloed systems," says Nisha Bhandare, VP analyst, research, in the Gartner Finance practice. “A composable architecture allows CFOs the flexibility and nuance to build a strategy that incorporates sustainable differentiation and innovative new processes while still providing a secure and cost-effective base to support core finance processes,” said Bhandare.

Deceptive as it may sound, "all-in-one" isn't always the golden standard. In choosing the best accounting and finance software, a "best-of-breed" approach that is modular and flexible can trump consolidated offerings, empowering your team with specialized tools tailored to excellence in each domain.

  1. Out-of-the-Box solutions are weak

Simply put, "out-of-the-box" isn't a synonym for "inadequate." This type of modern software can serve as a robust base upon which you can mold templates and dashboards tailored to your business, so long as they tout configuration capabilities. As an added benefit, these solutions can reduce implementation time and resource requirements. Additionally, they empower the team to take ownership of software maintenance and scalability, rather than relying solely on IT leadership.

Your SaaS product should have pre-built options, in addition to being highly customizable and adaptable to your unique accounting and finance needs. Don't disregard out-of-the-box solutions with the notion that they're weak and unable to scale with your business.

  1. Multi-tenant cloud is risky

The resistance to multi-tenant cloud software is unwarranted. In fact, cloud-based finance tools, if anything, promise speed, agility, and enhanced security. A notable advantage of cloud solutions is the simultaneous distribution of releases to all users, ensuring everyone receives updates promptly. This negates the burden of applying patches and upgrades to your system, freeing up valuable time for your team to focus on higher-value tasks. Moreover, online accounting software offers unparalleled flexibility and specialized solutions to significantly enhance business workflows, collaboration, and financial management.

Understanding these 3 crucial SaaS myths is key to avoiding misconceptions that might influence your software choice.

Understanding Your Requirements

Now that we've debunked some common myths about SaaS products in finance and accounting, let's dive into the process of evaluating and selecting software for your team. The starting point in this quest to becoming a pro software buyer is identifying what your team truly needs. Accounting firms often have unique requirements that should be considered when selecting software. 

Chart out clear requirements and ensure to involve all stakeholders. For finance and accounting, these needs often revolve around automation, compliance, and reporting capabilities. However, don't limit your requirements to just these areas. Think about the specific pain points and bottlenecks your team faces in their day-to-day tasks, integration capabilities and make sure the software you choose addresses them effectively.  

Remember, taking a modular and flexible approach whereby your software is delivered by best-fit vendors that enable specific finance capabilities is key to success. Avoid vendors trying to sway your requirements once you start evaluating. Procurement teams are equally as crucial in aligning software choices with business strategies and operational needs.

Finally, ensure a review of budget and timeline ideals with stakeholders so that everyone is aligned before the software review process begins.

Evaluating and Selecting Software

Once you have a clear understanding of your requirements, it's time to start evaluating and narrowing down potential vendors that best fit your teams' needs. Here are some key steps to follow:

  1. Do Your Research

Invest time in researching potential software options thoroughly. Don't just rely on vendor websites or product demos; seek out unbiased reviews through websites like G2, market surveys & industry insight through Gartner, testimonials, and case studies. Consider reaching out to other companies in your industry to see what they're using and get their feedback.

  1. Request a Discovery Call

This is your chance to explain your internal processes and challenges with the vendor. Help them understand what your current state looks like and why you need to make a change. What are the biggest pain points, your accounting solution requirements, and what are you hoping to achieve with your new software?  

This is also your chance as a buyer to gain a deeper understanding of the vendor. Ask questions, develop a deeper insight into your vendor’s processes, and test their experience and depth of knowledge. Will their solution integrate seamlessly with your business operations? Can you trust them? Do they know what they’re talking about?  

  1. Schedule Demos

Set up demos with potential software vendors who meet your requirements to see the product in action and ask any questions you may have. Demos and trials should be seen as opportunities to thoroughly test software under real working conditions. The vendor should provide a demonstration that showcases how their product integrates and operates within your specific processes, rather than presenting a generic demonstration applicable to any audience. Demos also provide you with additional opportunities to interact with the vendor's team and assess their level of expertise and support.  

Avoid waiting until you've narrowed your choices down to a top 3 before scheduling a demo with vendors. You could find yourself back at square one if you wait until the end of your procurement process, only to discover that the final vendors lack expertise, the software appears outdated or fails to meet your legal requirements. Demos provide a chance to pose challenging questions that might not surface during your online investigations.

  1. Assess Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Remember that the sticker price isn't the only cost to consider when purchasing software. Factor in potential implementation costs, training & support fees, and any add-ons or integrations you may need. Assessing the TCO will give you a more accurate picture of what your team's investment looks like in the long run.

  1. Evaluate Integration Capabilities

Integration with other tools and systems is crucial for finance and accounting software. Make sure the software you choose can seamlessly integrate with your existing technology stack to avoid any roadblocks or data silos in the future.

  1. Configurable Options

Your team has unique needs, and configurable capabilities should be an essential element in selecting the right software. Technology acceptance is a key factor in reducing accounting errors throughout the team, and configurable capabilities of your tech stack are one of the four cornerstones of that objective.  

However, this doesn’t mean that there should be a rigid reliance on total customization and that everything should be built from scratch. For processes like consolidation and closing the books, standardized rules and procedures apply across organizations. In such cases, leveraging out-of-the-box options makes sense, with the flexibility to configure further when necessary.

The key is balance: as mentioned in section 1 on Debunking Key SaaS myths, your vendor of choice should have pre-built, out-of-the-box options in addition to configurable processes. Look for software options that offer out-of-the-box options, but also allow you to tailor templates, dashboards, and reports to fit your specific processes and workflows.

  1. Ensuring Scalability

While it's important to meet your current needs, it's equally crucial to consider the future growth of your company and how the software can accommodate that growth. Ensure the software you evaluate can scale alongside your business - adding more users, adjusting for different ownership structures, managing various currencies should you expand to international markets, or integrating with additional systems down the line are all major factors to consider when determining if a SaaS product will meet your needs. After all, a powerful solution today may not accommodate your growth tomorrow.  

You've Chosen a Vendor...Now What?

You've found your golden goose egg, congrats! While they hopefully satisfy all your primary requirements, what's the next step in your buying journey? To avoid road bumps after you've got your vendor of choice, let's outline the steps you should take to avoid any software hiccups.

  1. Sign-off from Key Stakeholders

Ensure you received sign-off from all key stakeholders, including your finance and IT leads, before contract negotiations begin. This ensures everyone is aligned with the software choice and timeline.

  1. Get it in Writing

Both parties should be aligned with the timeline, expectations, and deliverables in writing. You shouldn't have any surprise costs or feature limitations after signing a contract. Carefully review and negotiate a timeline for execution of the contract and implementation. Ensure your team's requirements are documented and don't hesitate to ask for clarification.

Pro Tip: ask your vendor of choice if they're willing to include future pricing built into your contract!

  1. All Requirements are Satisfied

This involves more than just the requirements you've outlined for yourself at the beginning of the process. Make certain your chosen vendor satisfies IT requirements, legal requirements, and compliance components. Nothing more frustrating than producing an external financial report for SEDAR or SEC, only to discover that your report doesn't meet all the requirements.

Implementation and Training

Successful software procurement is not just about buying software. Implementation is the crucial bridge to unlocking the software's full potential in your operating environment. A well-thought-out plan with phased rollouts, sensitive change management, comprehensive training, and transition support are all essential components. The goal is not just to own a software that eliminates manual data entry, but to use it effectively for maximum advantage. After all is said and done, monitoring the software's integration and promptly addressing any initial challenges is vital.

Continuous Learning and Optimization

Your role in the finance and accounting team isn't just to buy and implement but to continuously optimize. Following implementation, collect user feedback to fine-tune the software settings accordingly. The financial ecosystem evolves, and so should your software toolkit. Encourage a culture of learning within your team, propelling them to explore the software's capabilities and boundaries. The end game of software procurement isn't just purchase and use; it's intelligent, informed, and evolved utilization.  


Want to explore how you can best leverage your newly purchased technology? Explore our blog post detailing how to reduce errors by 75% in finance and accounting.

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Samantha MacLeod
Marketing Specialist
Fluence Technologies

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