Nightmare on Excel Street - Multi-currency Accounting with Deferred Revenue Recognition

by Clayton Whitfield

Managing subscriptions in a global economy doesn’t have to be scary. But it sure feels that way sometimes. To compound matters, the finance team is frequently the most under-resourced department in a growing SaaS business. When you’re struggling to do more with less—and to maintain accurate revenue recognition—adding to the growing maze of spreadsheets and manual processes that now accompany your general ledger sounds like a nightmare.

Let’s say you’re company is based in the U.S., but just started selling to customers in Germany and Brazil. You will bill your new customers in Euros and Reals, but you keep your books in U.S. dollars. You set up a financial accounting system (involving lots of manual operations) that calculates the foreign exchange (FX) rates and reflects that in the invoices sent to German and Brazilian customers. On the other side, when you eventually recognize the revenue, you have to calculate the FX rate again so that revenue recognition will be accurate. Deferred revenues add another layer of complexity as there are GAAP and other considerations that affect how the FX rates should apply to deferred revenue...i.e., more spreadsheets.

Revenue is recognized when it is realized or realizable, and when it has been earned. Whether an equal amount of revenue must be recognized at fixed intervals or whether different amounts must be recognized at different intervals (and in different currencies), managing subscriptions doesn't have to be difficult. You can put an end to the spreadsheet monster and its accompanying errors and risks. Look for an automated solution that will work with existing systems like QuickBooks and Salesforce—without adding more spreadsheets and manual data entry to the mix.

As you expand your service footprint around the globe, your SaaS business needs to simplify multi-currency accounting and deferred revenue recognition. It also needs vital business insights that come from multi-currency analytics. These analytics can educate you about trends and fluctuations in exchange rates and other market dynamics that affect how you will decide to do business with various international economies.

Look for a solution that can automatically manage and maintain multi-currency contracts, revenues, invoices and payments. Then as you expand globally, you can quickly, easily and accurately invoice customers in their local currencies. Multi-currency accounting and reporting can be automated, giving you the ability to process online payments in local currencies and consolidate multi-currency reporting in home or local currencies as needed. With this level of detail and control, you can make decisions based on a multi-currency environment and real-time visibility into how exchange rate fluctuations are impacting the business.

By automating the challenges associated with multi-currency and deferred revenue recognition, you’re effectively eliminating the spreadsheet and moving to cohesive subscription management in which:

  • Transactions, revenues, and deferred revenues reflect home currency and selected local currency.
  • Invoices are sent and payments are collected in local currency.
  • Real-time foreign exchange rate tables and calculations keep your books in home and local currencies.
  • Standardized foreign exchange rate calculations, updated daily, give you confidence in your multi-currency bookings.

No more manual processes and no more spreadsheet nightmares. You can be confident with automated multi-currency financial reporting that consolidates all your multi-currency transactions, invoices, revenues, and deferred revenues in home currency and in the selected local currency. 

This is a giant leap in efficiency and control. Now the finance team can rest easy that revenue recognition with real-time foreign-exchange rates is accurate. And you can reap the benefits from insightful analytics across a global customer base, including MRR/ARR, cohorts, CLV, projections and more.