We combed through websites, interviewed tech experts, and researched a host of product categories to assemble, once again, the roster of 20 companies that make up our annual “Tech Companies to Watch.” We uncovered a wide range of technologies and products that would be valuable to finance chiefs, and we also discovered a wealth of innovation going on in “traditional” finance-related tech categories.
The entirety of the list appears in the April/May 2018 edition of CFO magazine. We are revealing the first 10 companies on CFO.com, one per day. Our first seven tech companies to watch were Pymetrics, Prattle, Tipalti, UiPath, Exabeam, x.ai, and Emagia.
In the eyes of Jim Johnson, CFO of Adaptive Insights, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) company is accomplishing nothing less than putting financial planning and analysis into the hands of the masses, or at least the executive team members of its customers.
Most CFOs and CEOs would agree, Johnson says, that the people in a company who are closest to the business are best at planning.
“Finance typically runs the process, but it’s a collaborative process across the company, and it should be,” he says. “All the executive staff members want to be more involved in the planning process. They don’t want it to be a finance exercise where they get a spreadsheet and they’re asked to input a bunch of numbers and send it back. They want to participate; they want to see the [key performance indicators]; they want to see how the plan develops and evolves.”
The appeal of cloud-based planning software like that from Adaptive Insights is that it allows for collaboration. Without the cloud, it isn’t possible to build planning models that are powerful enough or that can refresh all relevant data, Johnson says.
“You can’t be collaborative in a spreadsheet environment; you have individuals with a model on their laptop doing a piece of the work. It’s just not possible to interconnect all of those pieces effectively, to keep them up-to-date,” he adds.
Adaptive Insights is riding an impressive growth streak with its Adaptive Suite product. Deloitte named the company to its 2017 Technology Fast 500 Ranking — its seventh straight year on the list — as Adaptive tripled revenue between its 2013 and 2016 fiscal years. In its fiscal year ended Jan. 31, the company passed the $100 million mark for annual recurring subscriptions under contract.
Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant report for cloud-based corporate performance management software rates Adaptive Insights among the market leaders — along with Anaplan, Host Analytics, and Oracle — with customer satisfaction in the top quartile and high scores for sales execution and cloud experience.
The biggest challenges for Adaptive’s growth come from potential customers who don’t want to give up their Excel spreadsheets, Johnson says. In fact, on user review website G2 Crowd, some customers complain of a lack of integration between Adaptive and Excel, saying that exporting out of Adaptive to Excel requires manual intervention.
Says Johnson: “There’s a characteristic among finance people who like to control things that says: ‘I’ve always done it this way, I’m in control, and I know how to do it.’ There’s a little bit of inertia around change. It’s almost self-fulfilling: If you’re trying to run a large business-planning process on Excel, you spend so much time on modeling, consolidation, fixing errors, and getting things updated that you really don’t have time to step back and say ‘Let’s do this differently.’”
More frequently on G2 Crowd, users comment on how Adaptive cuts budgeting and forecasting time and makes what-if scenario planning easy.
Adaptive is focusing its growth strategy on four areas: growth through verticals; growth internationally, which accounts for about 20% of its revenue; improvement of scalability features, to win large enterprises; and expansion into sales planning.
That last growth area is a natural progression for Adaptive, because sales operations are such a key part of a company’s overall business and financial planning, Johnson says.
“The sales component is the most complicated and the hardest to keep aligned with the financial plan, because you’re typically modeling at a detail that’s significantly deeper,” he says.
Other 2018 Tech Companies to Watch
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