Why forward-thinking finance teams are giving up spreadsheets

March 2, 2015, 3:11 PM UTC
contract Armin Harris. Kyle Bean for Fortune
Kyle Bean for Fortune

Corporate finance teams have been slower than their counterparts in sales and human resources to embrace cloud software options, but more are finding spreadsheets inadequate for financial planning.

Evidence: several venture-backed startups pioneering this space—notably Anaplan, Host Analytics and Tidemark—just reported record growth during 2014. Their specialty: applications for producing budgets and forecasts an ongoing process.

“The CFO is becoming the chief revenue officer,” said Christian Gheorghe, co-founder and CEO of Tidemark. “They are being asked to help find new sources of revenue, offer model, try different types of experiments, and leverage vast arrays of data. The demand for transparency and visibility are increasing.”

Tidemark (which has raised $80 million in venture capital) tripled total revenue under contract. Its customers include BlackBerry, Chiquita, Hostess, HubSpot and Netflix; and its technology interoperates with applications from Workday, Salesforce, Box, NetSuite, and New Relic.

Anaplan (backed with $150 million) grew bookings by 230% last year; it now counts 35,000 users, notably at tech companies such as Informatic, Splunk, and Symantec. Host Analytics ($86 million so far) was less forthcoming, although its new annual recurring revenue increased by more than 115%.

Another player, Adaptive Insights, isn’t talking up specific growth, but in January it hired a former CFO—Citrix Chairman Tom Bogan—to accelerate matters. Backed with more than $100 million, its account list includes Coca-Cola, Yamaha, and Bridgestone. Over the past 12 months, its renewal rate has been 100%.

A key selling point of cloud financial planning software: better support for collaborative planning, which can shrink annual budgeting cycles. Regional insurer Shelter Insurance, for example, cut the amount of time needed for this process in half with Tidemark’s software.

“Using a cloud service was a perfect solution because I knew when the contract term ended, I wouldn’t be stuck if this wasn’t working,” said Kimberly Gerard, senior director of corporate financial planning for healthcare IT services company Cerner, another Tidemark customer. “We’re relatively early in our transformation, but it becomes more valuable to me as others use this. We’re not there, but that’s where we’re headed.”

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