CFO tools: building the ideal SaaS finance tool stack with PayFit’s Anabelle Lorbois
“Once the finance team stops spending time on closing and manual tasks, they’re more productive and they can focus on analysis and making key recommendations. Once you’ve implemented these tools, you get reliable metrics. And that has no price.”
- Anabelle Lorbois, PayFit
CFOs and finance leaders are charged with maintaining their organization’s financial health. Evaluating, monitoring, and optimizing the finance team’s tool stack is part and parcel of the job. But it’s hard to know exactly how to build and maintain an optimal tool stack for the best results.
The CFO Connect community had the opportunity to hear from an expert on the thought process behind building an excellent tool stack for SaaS companies, and how each organization’s stack may differ depending on the company’s goals and finance team.
Meet the expert
Anabelle Lorbois is VP Finance and interim CFO at PayFit, a cloud-based payroll solution with entities in France, Spain, and the UK. She joined PayFit in 2021 after extensive experience in audit at PwC, and 11 years in various finance positions at the Accor group and its subsidiaries around the world. It was there that Anabelle learned she enjoyed structuring the finance department with people, processes, and tools.
If you’d like to watch the entire discussion, you can find it here. For a recap of Anabelle’s talk, continue reading below.
Finance team structure
A finance team’s tool stack is never one-size-fits-all. Anabelle provides important context around how her finance team is structured, which informed how she built their stack.
PayFit has 900 employees across their European entities, and the finance team is made up of 26 people. On the finance team, they have three verticals:
1. Accounting team:
The accounting team is split into two divisions: general accounting and billing/cash collection. They also take care of the fiscal impacts, treasury, bank relationships, etc.
2. Business partnering:
Stakeholders who are very operational. They work on the productivity of these teams at the macro level and then do forecasts on the top line.
3. Business partner for global functions:
These roles are less business-related. They do the reporting on the geographical view. It’s pure reporting and business partnering for non-business-related teams. We’ve also created a procurement position within that team.
How PayFit built their tool stack step-by-step
When Anabelle joined PayFit, it was already a fast-growing company with five entities within Europe. At that time, they were only using a few finance tools. Anabelle says:
She continues: “Back then, accounting was fully externalized in each country we were operating in. The team spent a lot of time manually enriching the general ledgers. This wasted time and decreased reliability. The audit trail was super complex and no longer acceptable.”
She knew the team needed to implement reliable and robust tools to handle the company’s rapid growth.
Her first observation? “We needed to make our closing process more robust and reliable and faster, so that teams could spend more time on valuable analysis.”
At the heart of PayFit’s finance tool stack is the accounting and ERP tool Netsuite. Before, all the accounting was external and based in each country of operation. Anabelle and the team decided to internalize their accounting, and chose to go with Netsuite.
“It’s at the center of the stack today. We chose it over SAP because it suited the scaleup model, and because it integrated with Zuora, a tool we were already using.”
But they weren’t up and running with Netsuite right away. Anabelle explains: “It took us 12 months to fully implement it in all our countries, and we worked with a contractor to help the process along.”
Reporting & forecasting tool
While the team was working on getting Netsuite going, they were already building out their tool stack and moving on to the next goal: choosing and implementing a reporting/forecasting tool.
“We didn’t wait for Netsuite to get implemented to see what we could do next. Even before implementing, we launched a tender process for a reporting and forecasting tool that could integrate with Netsuite. We were lucky to start both at the same time.”
The team decided to go with Pigment, and laid the groundwork in order to be as prepared as possible:
“We built our budget in Pigment, and as we had already in mind the granularity we needed, we knew exactly what the data would look like in Pigment and what we would need to have in Netsuite. It took us three months to replicate the budget from Google Sheets to Pigment, and 12 months to implement everything.”
Spend management tool
Anabelle’s team needed a reliable spend management tool that provided 100% visibility over budgets and company spend. They decided to go with Spendesk.
“We were missing control and expenditure initiation. We had low control, with no visibility over our budgets. The objective was to be exhaustive in our accrual bookings and empower budget owners and give them the capacity to be fully accountable for their budgets.”
“So we implemented Spendesk. It’s not only a digital card payment but a spend management tool with a validation workflow, plus it had the budget module that we were looking for. Thanks to that, we gained control on anticipating costs.”
“Without Spendesk, we’d spend a lot of time doing reconciliation. We have more than 100 payments every month with Spendesk, so it’s really useful for the accounting team as well.
Not surprisingly, PayFit uses their own tool to manage payroll. Over 9,500 companies use PayFit to seamlessly handle tricky payroll processes, alleviating the pains associated with this important but labor-intensive task. PayFit automates payroll calculations so HR teams can save time and reduce errors.
ROI, pricing, and invisible costs
Setting up the tool stack is just one part of the puzzle. Finance leaders also need to measure the ROI of these tools, and justify their cost and impact to internal stakeholders. So how does Anabelle and the PayFit finance team tackle this?
Anabelle acknowledges that data reliability and a clean audit trail have a cost but you can’t grow without it.
She says: “Once you start having due diligence auditors and reports to investors, you need robust processes. When the finance team stops spending time on closing and manual tasks, they’re more productive and they can focus on analysis and making key recommendations.
“Once you’ve implemented these tools, you get reliable metrics. And that has no price. Then, you can start making a real difference with your peers in Operations. Yes, it has a cost, but you become a real business partner when you have clean and reliable metrics.”
And when asked about the invisible costs associated with building a tool stack, such as hours spent setting up and integrating the tools, she responds:
“You need to be very clear on the output. My advice would be: don’t rush. Take your time to draw your data flows, and all the integrations needed. By doing that, you’ll avoid the back-and-forth with the provider.”
“Then you can also save money by negotiating. Finally, if you have someone on your team who can dedicate time to play the PMO role, then you decrease the risk of delaying your implementation, and consequently you reduce your invisible costs.”
Watch the entire Tools Talk with Anabelle to hear more details about PayFit’s finance tools and questions from the audience, including:
How many banks they use
Other tools in their stack
Tools she’d like to use in the future
Their approach to forecasting
Tools differ by organization
Anabelle and her team decided to build their stack step by step: first, invoicing, then cash collection, spend management, accounting, and finally designing the reporting process.
But this process will look different for every company. Use Anabelle’s experience as a guide, or reach out to other finance leaders in your industry for inspiration by joining the CFO Connect community today.
Thank you Anabelle for taking the time to share your expertise with CFO Connect!
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