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The Airbase Annual Survey of Finance Professionals

A benchmark report on findings, insights, and 2021 projections.

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04

Financial tech stack.

Finance professionals recommend many of the tools in their fintech stacks.

We asked respondents to identify applications in their teams’ tech stacks from a list that we provided. While a majority rely on accounting software for their GL, a minority of respondents report using expense management, bill payment, or spend management software.  

In general, low headcount companies reported much higher use of newer software solutions, while high headcount companies were more likely to use legacy tech, suggesting that these smaller companies are more agile in adopting tools to meet their needs.
Robin Washington, Board Member, Alphabet, Honeywell, and Salesforce
Robin Washington
Board Member, Alphabet, Honeywell, and Salesforce
Modern CFOs take on broader operational roles than their predecessors: project management, systems implementation, M&A, data analytics, IT.
Those surveyed reported generally high levels of satisfaction with the technology that they rely on, with 71% recommending their ERP or accounting software, 74% recommending their spend management software, and 79% recommending their expense reimbursement software.
Software recommendations.
We also asked respondents to identify their corporate card programs and were not surprised to see AMEX as the top pick at 27%. There was a marked difference in responses from low headcount companies, which were about twice as likely to indicate dissatisfaction with their corporate card programs compared to those from mid and high headcount companies.

Dominance of the main accounting software companies (Oracle NetSuite, QuickBooks, Sage Intacct, Xero) was reflected in our pool, with roughly four in five respondents using one of these as their General Ledger. You can see the reporting in the table below.
ERP and GL software by finance/accounting team size.
A large number of respondents still rely on spreadsheets to do their jobs, even when employing more advanced software: about a third of respondents use Google Sheets and about half use Microsoft Excel. While there is undoubtedly some overlap between users, this indicates a continued heavy reliance on ad hoc spreadsheet solutions.
Spreadsheet software by finance/accounting team size.
Software budgets for finance teams did not track exactly with the size of their companies, with mid and high headcount and companies having comparable budgets across different annual revenue ranges.

With respect to how much time respondents were willing to spend on implementing new software, except for extensive migrations to new ERPs, the estimates ranged from under a week to more than a year, with the majority in the 1–12 week range.
Maximum time allowed for implementing new software.

Visibility and control.

Professionals report high levels of wasted spend, even when they have robust pre-approval spend processes in place.

At Airbase, we know that the insufficient approval workflows associated with employee spending of company dollars can make it difficult to control budgets. We were interested in understanding how much visibility and control finance leaders feel they have over spending and if, with better controls, they could save on wasted spend.
Kelly Battles, Former CFO, Quora
Kelly Battles
Former CFO, Quora
The world is getting more and more complex, and CFOs are going to have to stay on top of it: making sure that you automate, that you have a single source of truth for your data, that you have good infrastructure around data and analytics, and that you can handle this complexity while continuing to bring the real information, not just the data, to the table. — Kelly Battles, former CFO, Quora
Of the respondents from companies with annual revenue over $500 million, more than a third (39%) estimated a 10+% savings could be achieved with better visibility and control.
Estimated savings.
At the same time, 41% of respondents reported that they feel they do have visibility into and control of spend before it happens through strong pre-approval processes.
Estimated savings by strength of pre-approval process.
Because subscription spend can be prone to waste, we asked respondents to judge their ability to efficiently manage it. More than one in five respondents (22%) said they have little visibility into company subscriptions and have little control over wasted spend that might derive from them.

It is perhaps not surprising that respondents from companies with less than $1 million in annual revenue were about half as likely to report concern with visibility into spending, as small companies have an easier time informally knowing who is spending on what.

Looking forward.

The future is automated, sure, but it’s also integrated.

We believe our data reveal that the sustained period of replacing manual tasks with technology will continue as better designed, more integrated solutions, are made available to meet the real needs of accounting and finance teams in small and midsize businesses. Our respondents rank “improving or changing operations by adding new systems or processes” as their highest priority for 2021, followed by “automating accounting tasks” and “getting control over budgets.”
Mark Hawkins, Former President and CFO, Salesforce
Mark Hawkins
Former President and CFO, Salesforce
Those that are always forward-leaning tend to prosper, at least in my assessment of patterns.
The large enterprise software solutions that provide comprehensive finance operational and accounting support have generally been too expensive and over-engineered for the smaller companies in our sample. Now, however, there is increasing availability of tools that integrate with GL systems and specifically address laborious back-office tasks: expense reimbursements, vendor payments, corporate card solutions for small and midsize businesses. Given our data, we expect professionals to trend away from siloed tools and toward more integrated solutions, such as Airbase’s spend management platform, to make themselves more available for higher-value analytical work.
As you carry out your own plans to add new systems and processes in 2021, we invite you to schedule a demo with one of Airbase’s spend management specialists. They can show you how Airbase provides fully integrated automation, from the very first action on spend all the way through to the GL. We’ll also show you how all actions for non-payroll spend are captured to create a full audit trail of all internal and external documentation.

Guides and ebooks

The Airbase Annual Survey of Finance Professionals

A benchmark report on findings, insights, and 2021 projections.

Trusted by finance teams at all stages

04

Financial tech stack.

Finance professionals recommend many of the tools in their fintech stacks.

We asked respondents to identify applications in their teams’ tech stacks from a list that we provided. While a majority rely on accounting software for their GL, a minority of respondents report using expense management, bill payment, or spend management software.  

In general, low headcount companies reported much higher use of newer software solutions, while high headcount companies were more likely to use legacy tech, suggesting that these smaller companies are more agile in adopting tools to meet their needs.
Robin Washington, Board Member, Alphabet, Honeywell, and Salesforce
Robin Washington
Board Member, Alphabet, Honeywell, and Salesforce
Modern CFOs take on broader operational roles than their predecessors: project management, systems implementation, M&A, data analytics, IT.
Those surveyed reported generally high levels of satisfaction with the technology that they rely on, with 71% recommending their ERP or accounting software, 74% recommending their spend management software, and 79% recommending their expense reimbursement software.
Software recommendations.
We also asked respondents to identify their corporate card programs and were not surprised to see AMEX as the top pick at 27%. There was a marked difference in responses from low headcount companies, which were about twice as likely to indicate dissatisfaction with their corporate card programs compared to those from mid and high headcount companies.

Dominance of the main accounting software companies (Oracle NetSuite, QuickBooks, Sage Intacct, Xero) was reflected in our pool, with roughly four in five respondents using one of these as their General Ledger. You can see the reporting in the table below.
ERP and GL software by finance/accounting team size.
A large number of respondents still rely on spreadsheets to do their jobs, even when employing more advanced software: about a third of respondents use Google Sheets and about half use Microsoft Excel. While there is undoubtedly some overlap between users, this indicates a continued heavy reliance on ad hoc spreadsheet solutions.
Spreadsheet software by finance/accounting team size.
Software budgets for finance teams did not track exactly with the size of their companies, with mid and high headcount and companies having comparable budgets across different annual revenue ranges.

With respect to how much time respondents were willing to spend on implementing new software, except for extensive migrations to new ERPs, the estimates ranged from under a week to more than a year, with the majority in the 1–12 week range.
Maximum time allowed for implementing new software.

Visibility and control.

Professionals report high levels of wasted spend, even when they have robust pre-approval spend processes in place.

At Airbase, we know that the insufficient approval workflows associated with employee spending of company dollars can make it difficult to control budgets. We were interested in understanding how much visibility and control finance leaders feel they have over spending and if, with better controls, they could save on wasted spend.
Kelly Battles, Former CFO, Quora
Kelly Battles
Former CFO, Quora
The world is getting more and more complex, and CFOs are going to have to stay on top of it: making sure that you automate, that you have a single source of truth for your data, that you have good infrastructure around data and analytics, and that you can handle this complexity while continuing to bring the real information, not just the data, to the table. — Kelly Battles, former CFO, Quora
Of the respondents from companies with annual revenue over $500 million, more than a third (39%) estimated a 10+% savings could be achieved with better visibility and control.
Estimated savings.
At the same time, 41% of respondents reported that they feel they do have visibility into and control of spend before it happens through strong pre-approval processes.
Estimated savings by strength of pre-approval process.
Because subscription spend can be prone to waste, we asked respondents to judge their ability to efficiently manage it. More than one in five respondents (22%) said they have little visibility into company subscriptions and have little control over wasted spend that might derive from them.

It is perhaps not surprising that respondents from companies with less than $1 million in annual revenue were about half as likely to report concern with visibility into spending, as small companies have an easier time informally knowing who is spending on what.

Looking forward.

The future is automated, sure, but it’s also integrated.

We believe our data reveal that the sustained period of replacing manual tasks with technology will continue as better designed, more integrated solutions, are made available to meet the real needs of accounting and finance teams in small and midsize businesses. Our respondents rank “improving or changing operations by adding new systems or processes” as their highest priority for 2021, followed by “automating accounting tasks” and “getting control over budgets.”
Mark Hawkins, Former President and CFO, Salesforce
Mark Hawkins
Former President and CFO, Salesforce
Those that are always forward-leaning tend to prosper, at least in my assessment of patterns.
The large enterprise software solutions that provide comprehensive finance operational and accounting support have generally been too expensive and over-engineered for the smaller companies in our sample. Now, however, there is increasing availability of tools that integrate with GL systems and specifically address laborious back-office tasks: expense reimbursements, vendor payments, corporate card solutions for small and midsize businesses. Given our data, we expect professionals to trend away from siloed tools and toward more integrated solutions, such as Airbase’s spend management platform, to make themselves more available for higher-value analytical work.
As you carry out your own plans to add new systems and processes in 2021, we invite you to schedule a demo with one of Airbase’s spend management specialists. They can show you how Airbase provides fully integrated automation, from the very first action on spend all the way through to the GL. We’ll also show you how all actions for non-payroll spend are captured to create a full audit trail of all internal and external documentation.

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What you’ll learn.

All Guides and ebooks

Trusted by finance teams at all stages
Jason Lopez, Controller at Lattice
,
Jason Lopez, Controller at Lattice
,

What you’ll find in this guide:

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Want to learn more about spend management?

Read our Definitive Guide to Spend Management.

Download the Guide

Read the Article
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Learn about the features of a spend management system.

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Learn how to cut your time-to-close in half with Airbase.

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