A computer screen displaying various charts and graphs representing key performance indicators (kpis) in the software-as-a-service (saas) industry

In the world of Software as a Service (SaaS), understanding key performance indicators (KPIs) is crucial for business success. One such KPI that often comes into focus is ‘Bookings’. This term, while seemingly simple, carries a significant amount of weight in the SaaS industry and is used to measure the value of contracts signed within a specific period. It’s a critical metric for any SaaS business to track as it provides insights into the company’s growth and revenue potential.

Bookings are not to be confused with revenue, as they represent the total contract value, including future revenues. It’s a forward-looking metric, providing a snapshot of what the company can expect in terms of income in the future. In this glossary entry, we will delve into the concept of bookings, its importance in the SaaS industry, how it’s calculated, and how it differs from other related KPIs.

Understanding Bookings

Bookings refer to the contractual commitment made by a customer to purchase a company’s product or service. In the context of SaaS, it’s the value of the contract that a customer agrees to, including recurring revenue and one-time charges. It’s important to note that bookings do not equate to immediate revenue. Instead, they represent the potential revenue that a company can recognize over the contract’s duration.

Bookings are a critical metric for SaaS companies as they provide a glimpse into the company’s future health. A steady or increasing bookings trend indicates a growing customer base and, consequently, a promising revenue stream. Conversely, a decline in bookings could signal potential problems, such as market saturation, increased competition, or customer dissatisfaction.

Calculating Bookings

Calculating bookings can be relatively straightforward. It involves summing up the total contract value of all signed contracts within a specific period. For example, if a SaaS company signs ten annual contracts in a month, each worth $10,000, the total bookings for that month would be $100,000.

However, it’s important to note that the calculation can become more complex with multi-year contracts or contracts that include variable pricing. In such cases, the total contract value should be appropriately prorated or adjusted to reflect the booking’s accurate value.

Types of Bookings

There are different types of bookings that a SaaS company might track. These include new bookings, expansion bookings, and renewal bookings. New bookings refer to the value of contracts signed with new customers. Expansion bookings represent the additional value from existing customers, either through upselling or cross-selling. Renewal bookings are the value of contracts renewed by existing customers.

Tracking these different types of bookings can provide valuable insights into a company’s growth. For instance, a high volume of new bookings indicates effective customer acquisition, while a significant amount of expansion bookings suggests successful customer retention and upselling strategies.

Bookings vs. Other KPIs

While bookings are a crucial KPI for SaaS businesses, they are often confused with other similar metrics, such as revenue and billings. Understanding the differences between these metrics is essential for accurate financial forecasting and strategic decision-making.

Revenue, for instance, is the income that a company recognizes from providing its services. Unlike bookings, revenue is recognized over time as the service is delivered, not when the contract is signed. Therefore, while bookings provide a forward-looking view of the company’s financial health, revenue provides a real-time snapshot.

Bookings vs. Billings

Another metric often confused with bookings is billings. Billings refer to the invoiced amount that a customer is obligated to pay within a specific period. Unlike bookings, which represent the total contract value, billings only account for the portion of the contract value that is due for payment.

Therefore, while bookings can provide insights into a company’s future revenue potential, billings give a more immediate view of the company’s cash flow. A high volume of bookings does not necessarily translate into high billings if the payment terms are spread out over a long period.

Bookings vs. MRR and ARR

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) are other important KPIs in the SaaS industry. MRR is the predictable revenue that a SaaS company can expect to earn every month, while ARR is the annualized version of MRR.

Unlike bookings, MRR and ARR only account for the recurring revenue from subscriptions, excluding one-time charges. Therefore, while bookings provide a comprehensive view of a company’s revenue potential, MRR and ARR provide a more focused view of its recurring revenue stream.

Importance of Tracking Bookings

Tracking bookings is crucial for SaaS companies for several reasons. Firstly, it provides a forward-looking view of the company’s revenue potential, helping stakeholders make informed decisions about future investments and growth strategies.

Secondly, tracking bookings can provide insights into the effectiveness of a company’s sales and marketing efforts. A steady increase in bookings indicates successful customer acquisition and retention strategies, while a decline could signal the need for strategic adjustments.

Forecasting Revenue

By tracking bookings, SaaS companies can forecast their future revenue more accurately. This is because bookings provide a clear picture of the contractual commitments made by customers, which will eventually translate into recognized revenue.

Accurate revenue forecasting is crucial for planning future investments, managing cash flow, and setting realistic growth targets. Without a clear understanding of their bookings, SaaS companies may struggle to make strategic decisions that align with their financial realities.

Assessing Sales Performance

Bookings can also serve as a valuable metric for assessing a company’s sales performance. By tracking the value of contracts signed within a specific period, companies can measure the effectiveness of their sales strategies and identify areas for improvement.

For instance, a decline in bookings might indicate a need for better sales training or a more effective sales process. On the other hand, an increase in bookings could validate the success of recent sales initiatives and provide a benchmark for future efforts.

Challenges in Tracking Bookings

While tracking bookings can provide valuable insights, it also presents certain challenges. These include the complexity of calculating bookings, the risk of double counting, and the potential for misinterpretation.

Understanding these challenges can help SaaS companies implement effective strategies for tracking bookings and leveraging this KPI to drive business growth.

Complexity of Calculation

Calculating bookings can be complex, especially for SaaS companies with diverse pricing models and contract terms. For instance, multi-year contracts, variable pricing, and custom contracts can all complicate the calculation of bookings.

Despite these challenges, it’s crucial for companies to establish clear guidelines for calculating bookings to ensure consistency and accuracy. This might involve prorating multi-year contracts, excluding non-recurring charges, or adjusting for variable pricing.

Risk of Double Counting

Another challenge in tracking bookings is the risk of double counting. This can occur when a company counts the same contract value under different types of bookings. For instance, a company might count the value of a contract renewal both as a renewal booking and as a new booking.

To avoid double counting, companies need to establish clear definitions for different types of bookings and ensure that each contract value is counted only once. This requires careful tracking and data management.

Potential for Misinterpretation

Finally, the potential for misinterpretation is another challenge in tracking bookings. Because bookings represent future revenue potential, not actual revenue, they can sometimes paint an overly optimistic picture of a company’s financial health.

Therefore, while bookings are a valuable KPI, they should be interpreted in conjunction with other metrics, such as revenue, billings, MRR, and ARR. This can provide a more balanced and accurate view of a company’s financial performance.


In conclusion, bookings are a critical KPI for SaaS companies, providing valuable insights into future revenue potential, sales performance, and business growth. However, tracking bookings also presents certain challenges, including the complexity of calculation, the risk of double counting, and the potential for misinterpretation.

By understanding these challenges and implementing effective strategies for tracking and interpreting bookings, SaaS companies can leverage this KPI to drive business success. As with all KPIs, the key is to use bookings as part of a comprehensive suite of metrics, providing a balanced and accurate view of the company’s performance.

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