A step-by-step guide to deploying financial planning software

Simplify and lighten the workload of your finance team with our guide to deploying financial planning software.

When we can see what success looks like, know how to achieve it, and what problems need avoiding along the way, life becomes much easier. 

In this article, we’re going to help you fashion an effective rollout strategy–from understanding the importance of having a software rollout plan to critical steps for a successful deployment.

We’ll also be offering quick tips for a successful rollout, addressing frequently asked questions about the deployment of accounting software.

If you’re ready to streamline your processes, increase efficiency, and confidently achieve your financial goals, then read on.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • Why bother with accounting automation software?
  • What is a financial planning software rollout?
  • Understanding the importance of a software rollout plan
  • 6 key steps for a successful software rollout process
  • Financial process automation FAQs
  • Make a seamless leap to ML and AI in your department

Why bother with accounting automation software?

In a nutshell, financial planning software simplifies your financial tasks, improves your team’s productivity, and gives a complete picture of your organisation’s finances. It also provides invaluable organisation and real-time analysis of financial data.

With features such as budgeting, forecasting, capitalisation tracking and management, financial planning software covers all critical financial tasks for organisations. 

A manual approach to financial planning cannot provide access to real-time insights and forecasting, which negatively impacts your ability to make informed decisions.

What’s more, planning software with artificial intelligence (AI) streamlines several crucial workflows for SaaS companies.

Below are some of the most important:

  • Revenue recognition that’s almost on autopilot: As SaaS companies use deferred revenue accounting, it’s hugely beneficial to centralise financial data and sync all updates in the cloud. Siloed data creates an unnecessary mess of revenue recognition for SaaS companies.
  • Optimised SaaS budgeting: Automated planning software offers a finance department immediate access to all the metrics required for accurate, effective budgeting. Churn, monthly recurring revenue (MRR), MRR subsets such as downgrades and expansions, burn rate, and dozens of other SaaS budgeting metrics are available through automated planning solutions.
  • Simple yet robust SaaS forecasts: Forecast variance can seriously damage a company’s financial performance. Automated planning software uses machine learning (ML) to build forecast models, and AI to execute advanced forecast types with a single click.

Although the benefits of automated financial planning software well known, the software rollout process can still be daunting, which is why having a rollout plan is critical.

What is a financial planning software rollout?

A finance planning and analysis (FP&A) software rollout in a SaaS company is the methodical process of introducing and implementing new financial planning software in your organisation.

The key word here is ‘methodical’.

Financial planning software and financial process automation impact all aspects of an organisation, so following a well-defined rollout plan is especially important in these areas.

An effective rollout involves careful planning, early testing (through a demo version if possible), and incremental adoption to minimise business disruptions.

Let’s delve deeper into why you need a rollout plan, and discuss what constitutes an effective one.

Understanding the importance of a software rollout plan

Let’s briefly touch on two major risks of failing to construct a well-considered deployment plan.

  • Software incompatibility can cause delays: If you rush a software deployment, there’s a good chance you’ll have compatibility issues with existing technology. You must prioritise cloud-native financial planning software and ensure that you’re not relying on a lift-and-shift approach.
  • Lack of pre-deployment clarity blocks results: Not planning your rollout carefully can stagnate the process, often meaning you’ll spend the first phase of the rollout asking the questions you should have been asking earlier.

Next, we’ll analyse the core components of a successful software rollout plan, and then we’ll go into more detail about setting objectives, crafting your strategy, and more.

6 key steps for a successful software rollout process

There are two sides to the equation when dealing with a planning software rollout – human and the tech oriented.

Below are the key elements you must include to cover all bases in both areas:

1. Objectives and goals for the software rollout must be clearly defined, with specific SaaS metrics and outcomes to track and measure identified.

2. The organisation’s readiness for software implementation must be comprehensively evaluated.

3. A detailed project plan with timelines and milestones must be developed, creating a roadmap for the rollout process.

4. The software must be thoroughly tested in a controlled environment, addressing any issues or bugs before deployment. (Demos offer a useful way to do this.)

5. Train your employees to effectively use the new software and make automation a part of day-to-day workflows.

6. Have open communication with stakeholders throughout the process, keeping them updated on progress and results.

Following these important steps will increase your department’s chances of a successful software rollout, improving efficiency, productivity, and overall business performance.

Let’s delve deeper into some of the most critical steps.

Setting and tracking objectives and key results (OKRs) as a SaaS CFO

Clear OKRs are crucial for a successful software rollout plan. They provide a roadmap for your team, enabling you to measure progress and define success objectively.

Specific goals must be defined when establishing objectives, with targets that align with the reasons for implementing the new software.

Each objective must be broken down into measurable vital results that can be tracked and evaluated.

For example, a broad goal could be the reduction of time spent on forecast assembly while raising forecast accuracy. The best way to make sure that is achieved is by tracking time spent on forecast creation and measuring it against forecast accuracy as you progress through the deployment.

If one of your broad goals is to cut revenue leakage, you must set specific benchmarks before going live.

This approach allows you to monitor the impact of the software rollout on your business processes, workflows, and overall financial performance, giving you greater transparency.

Role-based dashboards and automated financial reporting are important tools for maximising financial transparency and enabling the tracking of metrics in real time during and after the deployment.

To ensure optimal communication and organisational alignment, share your OKRs with all stakeholders involved in the software rollout process, including employees, managers, and IT staff.

Understanding the upfront costs involved in your software rollout

For cloud-based planning solutions, you should invariably budget for the deployment process to cost about 1.5 times as much as the annual subscription rate.

The majority of those costs will arise from routine setup assistance from the organisation’s customer success team. They’ll walk you through each deployment stage, sharing best practices and ensuring your day-to-day rollout process is seamless and efficient.

Another reason these upfront costs are extremely worthwhile is that they’re a one-time investment; maintenance costs on cloud planning solutions should stay close to zero once you’re up and running.

Identifying potential roadblocks and communicating clearly in your software rollout plan

For a successful software rollout, identifying potential roadblocks is crucial.

As discussed earlier, you have to anticipate and address any challenges that might arise sooner rather than later in the process. 

Assessing your SaaS organisation’s infrastructure, attitudes, and capabilities thoroughly allows you to make informed decisions and involve key stakeholders in the implementation process.

Also, clear communication with employees about the benefits and goals of your software rollout will help ensure everyone’s aligned for long-term profitability and productivity.

Planning in-house FP&A software training sessions

Planning in-house software training sessions is critical to a successful financial planning software rollout.

This will usually involve one or more individuals from your software provider’s customer success team acting as a liaison.

To increase the effectiveness and speed of these sessions, it’s important to first discern the unique needs of your team members and create a list of questions and concerns.

Some other best practices to be mindful of when it comes to training include:

  • Developing or utilising additional training materials, such as video tutorials.
  • Scheduling multiple training sessions that align with your staff’s availability.
  • Notifying relevant employees of all training sessions through multiple communication channels.

Take advantage of your provider’s additional customer success resources once the training period ends. These include a digital knowledge centre with blogs and articles, chatbot assistants, phone numbers, and emails for customer success agents.

Companies will happily help you even after the rollout as they want you to succeed with their products.

Gathering feedback for continuous improvement

As you go through the implementation process for financial planning software, gathering employee feedback is crucial.

There must be a robust system for collecting team feedback, using methods such as surveys, user testing sessions, and regular check-ins.

By nurturing open and honest communication with your department, valuable feedback can be easily acquired and utilised,

This feedback analysis becomes instrumental in making necessary updates and improvements to how your team interfaces with the software and adapts to new workflows.

Employee mishaps with financial planning software can result in mistakes that trickle back to your end buyers, creating a poor user experience.

Automated planning software is a true workhorse, but it isn’t a foolproof magic bullet. You must continuously gather feedback from your team to ensure they really know how to use this new technology.

Financial process automation FAQs

Below are two questions SaaS CFOs commonly ask while rolling out a cloud-native FP&A software solution.

1. Can I migrate my existing datasets, and they’ll automatically be sanitised via AI and ML?

Unfortunately, no.

When moving to automated accounting software, you must clean up your data before the migration process.

This ensures that everything slots in seamlessly, leaving your team ready to hit the ground running.

Not cleaning up your data beforehand can result in post-deployment problems that could have otherwise been easily avoided.

2. What benefits do other stakeholders expect, and how should I communicate results to them?

Set clear goals and objectives beforehand to evaluate the success and effectiveness of your department’s financial planning software deployment.

Some of the best indicators of return on investment to track and feed back to stakeholders include:

  • Time saved in financial planning processes and tasks
  • Improvements in forecast accuracy and model flexibility
  • Inter-departmental support: is finance creating additional value for sales and marketing or customer success?
  • Team morale and performance. Do your employees appear calmer and less frazzled? Are fewer mistakes being made?

If you’re strategic and mindful about your planning software rollout, it shouldn’t be long before you start seeing benefits like these.

Make a seamless leap to ML and AI in your department

Financial planning software equipped with AI and ML is a true a game-changer for SaaS organisations.

From eliminating manual processes such as the monthly close and manual forecast assembly to streamlining revenue recognition and more, these tools pack a mighty punch for SaaS CFOs and finance departments.

You must, however, carefully and consciously create the path to success when integrating this technology.

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