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Dreamforce16 - Documents in Salesforce? Conga knows the moves

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright October 4, 2016
Salesforce may have bought Quip, but linking Salesforce data into documents is something Conga has been doing since the launch of AppExchange 10 years ago

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There are a number of companies that are a familiar name on the Salesforce circuit but who never attract the media attention of brasher ventures. One such is Conga, familiar to many Salesforce customers as the workflow solution that helps them tie Salesforce data into mailmerged emails and documents.

Conga has been around since the birth of the AppExchange ten years ago, one of a handful of companies to share that distinction. It's a popular product, with over 8,000 customers and more than 600 5-star reviews from satisfied users. But having never raised a big round of venture funding — it's been bootstrapped for most of its existence — it's largely stayed out of the headlines.

That's starting to change now after private equity investor Insight Venture Partners took a controlling stake in April last year with a view to fueling more rapid growth. A new CEO and COO took over the helm from the original co-founders in November last year and the company has made several acquisitions, most notably the long-established contract lifecycle management provider Novatus and ActionGrid, an Excel-like tool for making bulk updates to Salesforce data.

Knitting data into documents

With those acquisitions digested, Conga is using this week's Dreamforce to launch an updated corporate image and a new unified Conga branding across this newly broadened family of products. At the heart of that family is Conga Composer, the core product that knits Salesforce data into the documents that salespeople routinely send out to customers. As COO Bob De Santis explains:

Our flagship product Composer is about creating what one of our business folks likes to talk about as pixel-perfect documents. You want the brand to look proper. You want it in the correct location. You have data in Salesforce that you need to put into documents, whether those are contracts or quotes or proposals. We help customers extract that data in usable form.

With a click of a single button in your Salesforce record that's been configured by an administrator — our product is very easy to use as well — you could create a PowerPoint deck, an Excel spreadsheet, and a PDF at one time in one package and deliver that to an end user. They could ship the Excel spreadsheet off to finance, ship the PDF off to legal, and take the PowerPoint deck to present to the customer. Today, we deliver to all of the Microsoft family of standard protocols, PDF, HTML email, and Google Docs.

With a big focus at this Dreamforce on document collaboration after Salesforce's acquisition of Quip, Conga has chosen a propitious moment to start pushing its products more aggressively. I asked De Santis whether the company sees Quip as a potential competitor, but he's sanguine about the new addition to the Salesforce portfolio.

We're actually working on being able to deliver to Quip right now because we anticipate that that will be a future demand.

We don't view ourselves as competitive with Google Docs or Office 365. We believe we need that portion of the workflow to exist. We're not going to create our own standard for documents. We view Quip as, at least currently, another collaboration document.

Contracts in CPQ

The acquisition of Novatus has brought Conga into a new field, with the bulk of its contract lifecycle management business in the procurement arena rather than in Salesforce's normal theater of operations. But there's a big opportunity for the product in the quote-to-cash space, after Salesforce's acquisition last year of Steelbrick. Now rebranded Salesforce Quote-to-Cash, that product doesn't include the contract lifecycle management that Novatus can add. Conga is now working to bring those capabilities into the Salesforce environment, says De Santis.

We have a roadmap for what we're calling Conga Contracts. The first module of that is Conga Redlining which our customers and partners told us was the biggest pain point. We're introducing that [this week] as a beta product, to be introduced commercially we believe at the beginning of the year, and then we'll be migrating other functionality from Novatus into the Salesforce ecosystem over the next few quarters while continuing to invest in the standalone Novatus, which has been very successful in the legal and buy side portion of the world.

Composer is already a popular addition to configure-price-quote (CPQ) products, says De Santis, which is a core part of the cash-to-quote process.

Those products in general don't get into that pixel-perfect delivery of an end asset, that digital asset. So we partner with those companies to allow customers to take the data that they generated and put it into the documents that are generated, the Q-plus part of CPQ, in Composer.

While the CPQ piece, whatever solution you're using, may be generating 80% of the data that goes into this final document, 20% of that data might come from other parts of Salesforce. We go out and aggregate all of that, bring it together, and make it simple and flawless for that end user to create the document that he or she needs at each stage in general in the sales cycle.

Documents everywhere

The application isn't restricted to the sales environment and De Santis says there are customers using Composer in HR, supply chain, and any other process where documents are exchanged between parties. He cited the example of Western Union, which uses composer with Service Cloud.

Western Union has a compliance requirement. When their agent is done working with you, they need to deliver a document to you that's a legally mandated document that needs to be emailed to you or sent to you in the post. That's a wonderful application for Composer in Service Cloud.

Composer also connects into services such as DocuSign and Adobe Sign where digital signatures are needed as part of a document process, or into Box for document sharing and storage.

With many enterprise processes still firmly rooted in the metaphor of passing pieces of paper around an organization and out to third parties, there are any number of use cases for Conga's products. I asked De Santis whether he was worried that digital transformation would start to erode those opportunities, but he doesn't see that on the horizon any time soon.

We're not worried about paper going away. Even if it's a Word file that's being delivered, an Excel file that's being delivered, data lives in documents. You still need to take information from a person and put it somewhere else.

My take

Conga has carved out a unique niche for itself in adding workflow that ties Salesforce's transactional systems into the documents that surround those transactions. It's added valuable incremental capabilities with the acquisitions of Novatus and ActionGrid, which bring logical extensions to its existing functional footprint.

Now that Salesforce has brought documents into its platform with the acquisition of Quip, it will be interesting to see how much of what Conga offers will be duplicated within Quip. But so long as salespeople continue to use other document editing platforms such as Office and Google Docs, there's a continuing gap that Conga has proven it can fill.

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