For many SaaS companies, the topic of scaling usually means adopting new tech to remain efficient while scaling. But that process isn't always fast nor easy so most SaaS finance teams maintain their business planning and forecasting on spreadsheets. Now to the real part.
For those that do, we know your FP&A analysts are probably Excel or Gsheets pro and you already have a lot of modeling experience under your belt. Maybe you've even got some fancy macros or automation going on. But this is not your bulge bracket present value, future value or wild terminal value BS. Your fancy, 30-tab model that probably has a crazy assumption hidden somewhere isn't going to cut it.
This is real life. Your company's survival depends on your ability to quickly generate insights and drive decision-making.
But we're not going to leave you in the dust. Here's a SaaS forecasting checklist to keep it real if you're still using spreadsheets.
...because Keep It Simple Stupid
There is a sweet spot between identifying causal links and overcomplicating things. Don't make the rookie mistake of using a wildly wrong market growth figure to drive organizational decisions.
- Show intermediate calculations for easy review. You're not getting a bonus for long formulas.
- Aim for using variables you can control (e.g. marketing spend or sales team to drive revenue), not external variables (e.g. market growth).
- If you must use Lookup functions, use Tables for easy referencing.
- Aim to be (more or less) directionally correct: 80% right today vs. 100% right two days late.
- Keep your assumptions and dashboards in one place for easy scenario testing.
- Don't go crazy with scenario modeling. Stick to the tried and true Base case, Optimistic case and Down case.
- Ask yourself - can I explain this to an investor within 5 minutes? If no, then it's too complicated.
...because no one wants to do it alone
- Create a clear workflow (i.e. roles & responsibilities) with the different departments and stakeholders.
- Have a tool or method to enable cross-department insights. You have the unique privilege of seeing the whole picture- If Sales expects a huge bumper quarter, Customer Success better get ready!
- Use separate workbooks for different departments so you can share without needing to separate tabs.
- Create shared inboxes or groups
Eventually, as your company continues to grow, your spreadsheets are going to get out of hand and in your SaaS forecasting process you'll begin to feel the need for fp&a software tools.
Don't get me wrong, you can definitely stretch the mileage of spreadsheets with queries, macros, Power BI, AppSheets, etc. But having done that myself, it's not a forever solution. You end up with just a few people that can actually operate your models and its not really scalable or user friendly.
So enjoy your Excel or GSheets while it lasts! Once you start scaling even more, it's probably time to throw in the towel and move on.
Feeling ready to move on from spreadsheets and forecast like a pro?
With Abacum, we empower finance teams of high-growth tech companies to become true strategic partners in the organization by driving time-to-insight with powerful automation and seamless collaboration. Request a demo now to see the product live and start your own transformational journey.