It's not often that customers go on the record with detailed return-on-investment (RoI) metrics when telling their story. A session at last week's FinancialForceX virtual event proved the exception to the rule thanks to Blake Nelson, Senior Director of Operations in the Professional Services organization at cloud contact center vendor Five9. "Anyone who knows me knows I'm big on analytics and having the data behind it," he confided when speaking to the slide shown in this screengrab image.
Five9 is one of the leading pureplays in the cloud contact center business, handling over 3 billion customer interactions annually across more than 2,000 customers. The publicly listed company's annual revenues were $328 million in the year to December 2019, growing at an annual growth rate of 28%. The 130-strong professional services organization — around 10% of Five9's total staff count — is an important factor in sustaining that growth. It's been especially busy in recent months, when several customers accelerated their transition to cloud operations as staff shifted from call centers to working from home.
Fortunately the organization had streamlined its operations a year ago as a result of implementing FinancialForce PSA to replace a previous project management system that was no longer fit for purpose. Processes in the previous system were highly fragmented, information was siloed, and staff were spending hours at a time just moving data between systems or figuring out what had been booked and what resources were available.
20,00 hours of annual time savings
The native integration to the company's Salesforce CRM system that FinancialForce enabled was a huge factor in the 20,000 hours of time savings quoted by Nelson. He breaks it down into three main chunks, the largest of which came from being able to bracket different projects together, for example when a customer orders several different products, each of which has their own implementation project:
This one's a little hard to put the exact number on it, but the quick math is well over 10,000 hours, and the reason why is we had no parent-child relationship in the old system ...
[With FinancialForce] we were able now to create what we call an engagement, or a wrapper level, that rolls up the metrics, it rolls up the margins, it rolls up the revenue, but it's also the central easy place to find all the information, with the sub-projects off. So we've just saved an hour or two per person at a minimum, running around, trying to find systems at their fingertips.
Another 8,000 hours have been saved by having a centralized view of resources, so that managers are spending far less time tracking their resource needs and who's available. Now the system creates resource requests automatically, based what's been ordered.
Now that we have all that done, the delivery manager or director of that organization can go in, whenever they want throughout the day, see what's closed recently, see how many resource requests are out there for their geographic area, and see if they can fill it through looking through the resource planner or talk to their peers really quickly.
Simply having the systems integrated has saved another chunk of time that used to be spent manually moving data around.
We were wasting about 3,000 hours a year just pulling data out of one system, pushing it in the other system, and then seeing more things that get misaligned because somebody changed something in one system and it didn't get pulled to the other system.
More than $3 million boost to revenue
While these savings had formed a big part of the original business case for the new system, Five9 found an even bigger impact came on the revenue side. That's because most of the work of the professional services organization is focused on implementing Five9 software for its customers. Nelson estimates a $2.5 million boost to annual revenue simply from cutting the time it took to implement a seat and hand it over to the customer.
We're here to implement and turn up the seats that turn into monthly recurring revenue. Being able to turn up a seat is money in our pocket. If we miss a month of turning up a seat, that's money we're never going to get back ...
What we were able to do because of the process improvement and the data compliancy growing by more than 79%, in the second half alone in 2019, we were able to accelerate 1,000 seats in our work, which is about $2.5 million annualized.
I'm not going to say what we paid for the platform, but here, the platform certainly paid for itself.
Another $0.6 million in savings came from putting in place an automated change order process. In the new system, whenever a project manager creates a billable change order, there's an automated approval process, at the end of which it becomes an opportunity in the Salesforce system. Nelson explains the importance of this:
Sales, an awful lot of times, is running getting other deals. They're not sitting with us and knowing exactly when a change order needs to happen. But this now puts the ball in their court in an automated way.
Just from this little improvement here of automating the process, creating the opportunity for sales, getting everything ready, we've been able to put about $200k a quarter in each of the last three quarters, so 600k of extra dollars into the PS revenue bucket that was just being lost — revenue leakages that we were missing.
Ensuring that bills go out to customers more promptly also reduces the number of disputes. Now that it's a single integrated system, it's easy to spot those projects that have been left open because someone forgot to close it out. Finally, freeing up people's time from data wrangling and chasing down information has also produced more billable time within the organization. Professional services has been growing revenue at 50% annually — faster than the company as a whole — while improving margins by 30 basis points, says Nelson. It's also a relief to be able to go into conversations with the CFO and be able to quote numbers and know they're accurate, he adds.
When I get in a meeting with our CFO, I talk absolute numbers now. He's even made comments quite frequently that it's night-and-day difference from a year ago to now, because I can speak in real numbers, I can show things real-time as we are sitting on the call. I feel confident about what I'm pulling up and showing to the CFO of the company on why we're going to make this number or maybe opportunities we can do to accelerate.
Implemented in a four-month window
The PSA implementation was completed in an aggressive four-month window due to a contractual deadline after which the previous system could no longer be used. Forward planning was essential to the success of the project, says Nelson, and the team sat down with FinancialForce implementation partner VFP at the start to thrash out a detailed requirements statement.
We knew we had to do a flash cutover and we already had about 2,000 projects in flight so we knew this wasn't going to be an easy journey.
Change management was also important. An extended team from across the organization helped firm up the requirements. Their involvement would prove crucial when the time came to roll out, says Nelson.
Once we're getting closer to go-live [they] can be that point of contact for their organization and help take our messages in. Who better do your trust than your colleague that knows what you do day in and day out, versus an operation guy like me coming in?
When the time came to prepare training materials, VFP were able to shortcut the process by providing a framework to work from. That "saved our bacon" says Nelson because there was a lot of material needed:
We were now far enough in now to know that we changed a lot of processes across the organization — I would almost say we changed every process across the organization, in some level of detail.
How much money is your organization missing out on because processes aren't automated and systems aren't integrated? What you don't see, you can't measure. So it's not until after a new system goes in that you really understand how much of a difference it has made. At least Nelson and Five9 have now done the math so that the rest of us can see the enormous impact it can have when a business streamlines fragmented systems and processes.