There’s no doubt about it: the role of finance department leaders and the shape of finance organizations has evolved rapidly in recent years. More and more CFOs are helping their organizations call smarter plays rather than just keeping score. And all lines of business increasingly look to the finance department for insights and ideas around improving everything from process efficiency to customer service. From our perspective, disruptive technologies (innovative technologies that change the status quo), and the way technology is evaluated and purchased are key factors in helping elevate the role of finance. So which came first?

Neither the chicken nor the egg—SalesForce

IT hasn’t been the same since ignored convention to work directly with the CMO. With its disruptive SaaS model and “No Software” mentality, the upstart revolutionized core marketing efforts such as campaign implementation and measurement. SalesForce built a solution with leading-edge capabilities that was easy to understand, use and purchase and CMOs quickly realized its value. Sure, during early adoption there was concern about security or control, but that quickly subsided when people realized how well the solution worked and how much better their results were.

Today, we are seeing similar trends in finance. Starting with the economic downturn, the CFO role evolved to include more strategic and crisis management responsibilities. As businesses recover, the CFO strategic advisor role remains important to business success. In fact, studies indicate that 81 percent of CFOs view themselves as strategic advisors or business partners in their companies. As part of their more strategic role, 44 percent of CFOs are now involved with IT purchasing decisions. And an additional 40 percent expect to be involved in the next three years. SaaS solutions are a key factor in this trend.

IT’s about the capabilities

With the widespread acceptance of SaaS, it’s easier to evaluate technology based on what your business needs rather than getting bogged down in details about functional alignment with existing technology. And this rings true for many types of business solutions, including finance. Leading CFOs have realized they are uniquely positioned to consider potential TCO, ROI and use-case factors to determine how well solutions fit with the overall business strategy, even if they are non-technical. At the same time, CFOs are increasingly embracing cloud computing. 72 percent of CFOs believe that “disruptive” technologies such as cloud, social and mobile will change the way they structure and run finance. Moreover, the vast majority, 84 percent, believe that SaaS solutions will deliver at least half of their transactions within four years—a 31 percent increase form 2012.

An array of factors can influence technology purchase decisions. Existing technology or processes. Vendor allegiances. Traditional business models or approaches to a challenge. One of the key reasons that things are getting more exciting in finance departments, however, is how disruptive technology is enabling new, more efficient approaches to revenue operations. For example, SaaS finance applications can now give the CFO integration across the entire finance technology ecosystem, including sales, billing and collections, customer management, and finance. When you consider the number of disparate systems in each area and manual processes carried out across them, it’s easy to imagine why integrated and automated cloud services could help to streamline workflows and introduce new possibilities for better managing processes like order-to-cash flow.

Add some SaaS to finance

At the end of the day, any good CFO simply wants to do right by the business. And whatever the current business goals, you need a combination of timely insights and efficiency-driving capabilities to help your colleagues make smart calls and keep returns moving in the right direction. That’s why as you evaluate solutions, you can’t afford to ignore the potential of SaaS offerings. We think you’ll find they make the most business sense of any option out there.