How FinancialForce customers flex for change - video interviews

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright August 31, 2017
How FinancialForce customers flex for change, including growth, M&A, transition to XaaS, and evolving revenue recognition - 3 video interviews

Wainewright and Caira on set

One thing I always look forward to when attending a cloud vendor conference is the opportunity to discover interesting customer stories. The nature of cloud solutions is such that customers who buy them tend to be more adventurous, and more alert to the business potential of embracing digital transformation — otherwise they wouldn't have gone cloud in the first place.

At June's FinancialForce Community Live event in Las Vegas, Jon Reed and I not only got to meet quite a few customers, we also had the chance to record video interviews with several. As always, I was looking to find stories that would provide insights into how organizations use the technology to adapt to change. I'm glad to say I got my wish in the three interviews I did, and here they are.

Helping Imprivata scale its growth

My first meeting was with Imprivata, which helps hospitals and other health care organizations around the world to implement IT security features for handling patient data (Jon wrote up an early preview of the content from this interview during the event).

Doug Caira, Vice President, Worldwide Professional Services, told me that implementing FinancialForce's cloud-based professional services automation (PSA) platform three-and-a-half years ago had been essential to support the company's growth since then. Previously, projects were mostly managed using paper-based processes and spreadsheets, but that wasn't tenable with the professional services team tripling in size over the three years since:

With the size of the team we had at the time, it was starting to become a problem. We knew that we were scaling quickly. And it was key for us to build the right infrastructure and the right base for us to really get where we needed to go.

For a field-based professional services team of 50 visiting customer sites across the US, Europe and Australia, being able to view up-to-date information across the CRM and PSA systems, even from mobile, is a huge advantage. It gives a 360-degree view of the customer and ensures Caira's team can stay on top of the many projects going on. The next step is to open out information sharing to customers, he told me:

We want it to be used as tool for sharing information back and forth with our customers, so that in real time they can see what we are seeing ... They can always find out what's going on with their project, right here, right now.

Smoothing M&A at SAVO

My interview with Jessica Brandenburg, program manager at SAVO, was my first encounter with the concept of sales enablement, which is its specialty. Its platform helps salespeople to quickly harness the assets, experts and insights of their organization. In a large global sales force or extensive partner channel, sales enablement is what keeps everyone up to date with the right information.

SAVO uses FinancialForce PSA to help its engineers plan their workload to serve a global customer base. It's also expanding, having recently acquired a smaller rival, KnowledgeTree, and plans other acquisitions. With M&A, being able to share up-to-date information and quickly get everyone up to speed is crucial — especially in an organization whose own mission is to help its customers have the right information at the right time.

Brandenburg says that the cloud-based combination of FinancialForce and Salesforce means everyone can collaborate around the same shared information:

It gives better visibility up front from just the sales cycle all the way through customer success. The customer success [team] can see what happened during the implementation.

We use Chatter a lot as a form of communication, just do quick notes — something that wouldn't need a project plan or a status report — just a quick little note so everybody in the organization knows what's going on at any moment at the client. It also helps customer success down the road, six months, a year, because then they can see what happened during the implementation.

Adapting to XaaS at Venture Technologies

XaaS (pronounced X-aaS) is our shorthand at diginomica for the transformation companies are making to the everything-as-a-service business model — which is a big theme at FinancialForce, too.

Venture Technologies is a company that's at the sharp end of that trend. It's an IT solutions provider and Cisco partner specializing in networking, storage and unified communications, and has seen a big shift in its business in recent years, says its Chief Financial Officer, RJ Smith:

We've been experiencing, particularly over the last five years, a transition from selling traditional hardware and software that would be installed in the customer's location to now having customers demanding and requiring far more complicated cloud solutions, hybrid solutions, that may have components in our data centers, as well as components at the customer sites. So we've been in a shift of traditional revenue sources to now much more complicated revenue types.

This adds up to many different flavors of revenue recognition that Smith has to contend with:

We've got hardware and software that's developed by someone else. We have our own managed solutions to monitor hardware in the field. We have cloud solutions that are fixed price every month that customers are consuming no matter how much they use and then we have other services that are variable. Not only that, but now the manufacturer partners that we have are also trying to transform their businesses and so they're selling through us variable subscriptions as well.

Adopting FinancialForce almost five years ago proved to be good timing, he says:

We've been able to accelerate the amount of change that occurs within our own organization to meet the needs of customers and do it on a platform that gives us the flexibility to handle those new requirements as they come out.

Put that together with customer demands for various ways to present invoices, and Smith's finance team has needed to be innovative in how it serves the business:

Every day there is a new opportunity, a new chance to take a look and go okay, this is what our customers need, this is what our team from a technical perspective can deliver, here's what we in the finance and operations department have to do to provide the structure and the systems and processes to be able to support that in an effective and transparent way.

Luckily, the platform provides "almost infinite customization" says Smith. The company runs Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, which feed into FinancialForce. This provides financial management, PSA, supply chain and revenue management. With the new ASC606 revenue recognition rules looming, Smith wants to be ready well in advance of the December 2018 deadline for private companies to be in compliance:

What we're doing today is setting up all of the rules and procedures, and then we'll have at least a year of time that we'll run those calculations in parallel so we can see what the impact is going to be. We can adjust and adapt our business, if we need to, for consistency's sake. Then we'll be prepared well in advance of actually adopting the new standard.

The fact that its main partner, Cisco, is also a FinancialForce customer produces an unexpected benefit in adapting to change, he adds:

Not only can we utilize the API to bring data back and forth between our two orgs, but we have also found opportunities where Cisco with all of their investment and capability may try something new. We'll see that demonstrated in their org and it gives us inspiration for things that we could do and implement in ours.

My take

A very satisfying crop of customer stories that touch several hot buttons for diginomica and our readers — the growing role of collaboration, the transition to XaaS and the need to digitally transform to keep pace with change.