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FP&A
October 8, 2021

The controller’s perspective: How spend management supports an FP&A function.

Written by
Kelly Hicks, Controller at Airbase
Kelly Hicks, Controller at Airbase
The controller’s perspective: How spend management supports an FP&A function.The controller’s perspective: How spend management supports an FP&A function.

Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) teams play a crucial role in companies by performing budgeting, forecasting, and analysis that support major corporate decisions of the CFO, CEO, and the Board of Directors. An FP&A team is responsible for looking to the future and putting a good plan in place to help the business meet its goals.

In a nutshell, FP&A helps companies grow quickly — and intelligently. 

The same can be said for spend management

I joined Airbase because I was so blown away by the platform and the value it offers consumers. I was the first accounting hire when I joined Anaplan, and all I could think to myself was:

“I would have loved something like Airbase back then.” 

At the time, Anaplan was proliferating and had just closed a Series C. The company was building momentum and was racing to keep up with its own growth. As a result, we had an outsourced accounting function, and we were trying to figure out which systems could help support the company with its development. 

Unfortunately, this was before Airbase, so we had the usual suspects, such as Bill.com and Expensify, feeding into our general ledger. At the time, Anaplan wasn’t the international company it is today, and we were mainly operating between the US and UK. Therefore, it was quite a complex operation maintaining multiple systems, especially with minimal resources available — we were not a huge company and had quite a small team.

When I first discovered Airbase and, indeed, spend management, I was impressed that a single platform could be used to control all company spend. It made me look back and think of all the time I could have saved, and the advantages it would have given me as a finance team member — and to the employees when it came to spending company money with ease. 

It was fascinating to learn more about Airbase and realize that there was this single dashboard to control all company spending — from employee expense requests to approval, payment, and accounting automation

Now, with Airbase, I realize that spend management and FP&A can genuinely work together hand in hand. 

At Anaplan, we had established ourselves as the market leader in financial planning with a tool that allowed companies to see, plan, and run their business. 

Spend management is also essential to make these planning models work. It takes enterprise-level analytics and brings them down to small and mid-market businesses.

This happens when you’re a small yet promising company, and your product is strong enough to grow fast, but you’re being held back by having lots of different tools and having to pull data from various sources. Let’s look at the three ways spend management supports the FP&A function. 

1. Data.

From a data perspective, having that real-time access to where the money is going is super critical for any FP&A team.

Having a tool like Airbase can not only showcase where that money is being spent, but also provide tools to the marketing team to spend where they need to spend quickly.

Without a spend management platform such as Airbase, AP teams don’t have the sufficient turnaround time needed to help support fast-growing companies’ marketing objectives. 

In this new hybrid, remote-working world we find ourselves in — where things are changing so quickly — the better visibility you have into that data, the better you can evaluate if things are working or not.

Maybe you aren’t spending efficiently. Maybe you need to tweak your approach. Maybe you need to rethink your budget. Perhaps you want to invest in other places that you think might result in a better return.

The faster you can have access to that information, the faster and more reliable the data, and the better you can plan like a business.

2. Cash is critical.

Cash is key to keeping a business afloat. You want to make sure you’re aware of where the money is going and not be hit by any significant unexpected expenses. With Airbase, having that one tool for all of your non-payroll spend can help the business have a better view of where the company’s cash is going. 

From a cash perspective, you want to manage that spending and make sure you’re using it efficiently. I’m a huge fan of the Airbase cash back feature, and it’s something that I think is important to leverage. Users can take advantage of it and earn something back on their spend, which I think is a significant feature that Airbase provides. 

Cash management is crucial when you’re trying to figure out where to invest as a company.

In my previous roles, I didn’t have a tool like Airbase. So if a colleague asked me what my spend was for a month, I would have had to go through a variety of different systems to get the information. Even after I’d gone through our AP platform, or pulled up my corporate card platform to see the balance, I often wouldn’t know what was being spent, on what, or what spend was potentially coming in. 

With Airbase, you have a single place where you can look at all of that, and get a better global view of what’s happening and what’s around the corner with pre-approved virtual cards.

I think that one system for everything provides excellent insight and gives a better view of how you’re operating as a company, and where your cash is going. 

3. A controlled way to support the speed of the business.

Fast-growing companies want to move fast. 

That sounds obvious, but, believe it or not, when you’re a finance professional plagued by the chaos of approvals, reimbursements, and repetitive manual bookkeeping tasks, it can hold a company back from reaching its true potential. 

Engineering needs tools to build out a product, Marketing needs funds to promote a product — spend management gives those teams the freedom to go out there and do their jobs and support the growth of the company they work for. 

At a company like Airbase, everyone is putting a lot of effort in every day — at an incredible pace. As a finance professional, the last thing you want to be saying is 

“No.” 

Or delaying the team in the pursuit of their goals and targets. 

With Airbase you can say:

“Yes. Here’s the tool to help you do that.” 

With that, the Engineers can build out the product, the Marketing team can promote your product, and the Finance team still has oversight and can put the appropriate size controls for their business in the platform. 

Everybody wins! 

Airbase enables businesses to move quickly, and that’s a huge thing.

When I reflect on my time at Anaplan, the most significant similarity I see with Airbase is its customer-centric product. 

It’s incredible to be a part of another company building this best-in-class system to support businesses as they grow and scale. At Airbase, we’re constantly asking the question: 

“What can we do next to support our customers? What’s their top priority?”

And the pursuit of answering questions, and providing the customers with that level of value, is something I’m genuinely passionate about. 

Kelly Hicks, Controller at Airbase
Kelly Hicks, Controller at Airbase
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About Airbase

Airbase offers a one platform solution to manage all non-payroll spend. It provides oversight and control over spending with real-time reporting and automatic syncing directly to your general ledger. Control all paymentsphysical cards, virtual cards, ACH, and checks – from one place. Close faster. Empower employees. Control spend.

To learn more about Airbase, contact us for a product demo.
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