In my piece on nine ways to botch a customer case study, one of my critiques is lack of quantifiable benefits. I go so far as to say:
If the case study doesn’t have at least one quantifiable benefit, it’s not worth doing.
When it comes to cloud ERP, that applies two-fold. Too many cloud ERP use cases miss the deeper business benefits customers should be pushing for. That's important for Sage Intacct as well. Though Intacct has about six verticals they are focused on, the heart of their cloud ERP systems are the financials. Their core constituents? CFOs.
If Intacct's customers can't speak to how cloud financials transformed their finance operations, then Intacct hasn't made its case. But at Sage Intacct Advantage 2018, I've spoken to a number of customers who told me how Intacct helped them to change.
At the Sage Intacct "Software Industry Keynote: What are the Macro-trends and How Can Finance Steer Through Them?" I was expecting a heavy dose of stats from market analysts. I got that - but Intacct surprised me by showcasing several financial customers.
Sage Intacct's David Appel kicked off with a slide on the evolution of finance:
Appel's message jives well with the Finance 3.0 slide that shocked Sage Intacct attendees during CTO Aaron Harris' keynote:
— AccountingTechnology (@ATechcom) October 24, 2018
I spoke with Harris and Sage Intacct CEO Rob Reid about the implications of Finance 3.0 - more on that next week. Appel upped the ante by sharing expected results from each phase:
That's not a great picture by me, so in case it's not clear:
Step 1 - reduce quote to cash processing by -30%
Step 2 - increase cash flow by +20%
Step 3 - reduce the financial close by -30%
Step 4 - reduce gross revenue churn by -2%
Step 5 - increase transaction revenue by +15%
I like the attempt to quantify potential benefits in each step. But: if customers can't achieve those benefits, it's all just science fiction with numbers attached. However, Intacct made the smart move of getting a few customers on stage in rapid succession. But what really stood out was the effort made to compile a slide for each customer, with quantifiable benefits. That matters. You can't ask a customer on stage about quantifiable benefits if those numbers haven't been vetted and approved beforehand.
Appel brought customer Welltok on stage first, with this slide in the background:
Welltok is in the midst of its own transformation - into a "consumer-centric healthcare experience." It's a SaaS business model - a platform of services for customers who want to connect better with consumers, via personalized healthcare apps and solutions.
Transformation is a multi-year process. You need benefits to show for it along the way, or you'll stall out. We get that from this chart, in the form of:
- reduce the monthly close by 25 percent
- grown 1,576% with the same core finance staff
Compliance matters also - to be compliant with regulations like ASC 606 while you make these shifts is imperative.
Serving customers better is a mix of compliance, automation, and sharpening strategy with analytics. John Fowle, VP/Corporate Controller at Welltok, told the audience about their own move through these five steps:
In the controller function, we know a lot of our stuff is compliance and process and timing and so forth. So I need to be able to automate that and drive a shorter reporting process, and really transition my team to more value-add work.
The team has their hands full, but the busywork factor is reduced:
We're still doing a ton of work, but, now, instead of spreadsheets and data and so forth, we can really run through our full cycle much better and, then use that time to do more meaningful support of the data.
Better contract management with Intacct isn't just an internal benefit:
We actually have customers who ask us, "Hey, I know we just signed this five year agreement, but it's really confusing, can you send me a report that shows me when you're gonna bill?" And, so, to be able to click a button and say, "Here is your billing cycle; here is when we're going to get it, to automate it, click a button" - that's been great.
Welltok also spoke to Intacct's impact on the revenue side, and in contract management. In particular, the advanced MEA allocations have paid off (allocation enhancements were a big product announcement at the show):
We had one contract that has 114 lines in it, and a massive, massive MEA schedule - that used to take hours for us to do... But now with the automation of it, it makes it a ton better.
Next up? Lisa Schulz, Controller at Jobvite:
I won't go into this one, as I talked with Schulz in detail - stay tuned for that full writeup. But her quote stands out:
We are shifting effort from 80 percent bookkeeping/transactional focus to 80 percent analytics and business-focused.
During our chat, I asked Schulz if this was a three to five year goal. She believes they can achieve that 80 percent shift much sooner than that. And in the meantime, Jobvite now has a five day close which brings accurate numbers to management (before Intacct, they had no formalized monthly close). And, like Welltok, Schulz has been able to support Jobvite's growth without increasing her finance staff.
Finally, we have Gainsight:
Another transformation that has logged quantifiable benefits along the way, such as shortening the closing cycle and accelerating cash flow by one month. Igor Beckerman, CFO Gainsight, told the audience how Sage Intacct is integral to their business model growth:
So, in the context for us at Gainsight, where Intacct has a ton of value for us is, on the GL side, how do you run a worldwide company from the get-go?
A lot of our folks are in a whole bunch of different geographies, how do you consolidate very simply? How do you make sure that revenue, which is actually a very complicated process for us, works very scaleably over time? We have a lot of land and expand strategies - how do you make sure the billing module [can keep up]? Intacct can handle the complexity of changing contracts. So, all of those kinds of underlying issues are a big deal for us.
The wrap - quantifiable benefits and stories mix well
Transformation is hard. That's why we devote so much editorial space at diginomica to digging into transformation stories, with a hard look at the challenges of tech/process/culture. A list of quantifiable benefits is welcome, but we still need to know how to get there. I look forward to writing up the Jobvite interview and revealing more on how they got there.
In Jobvite's case, for example, they already had Intacct, but under Schulz' leadership, they were able to derive significantly more benefits from the software. Software needs champions.
What Sage Intacct did in this keynote is worth noting. Having customers speak isn't unusual at these types of shows - though it still doesn't happen enough. But when you put up slides showing tangible benefits to back up the onstage stories, then you have a real winner. Apple did one more smart thing: he showed a final slide with sessions that directly applied to each of the five steps. That gave attendees an event roadmap for whatever stage they are focused on.
That set the right tone for day one. Now I'm off to the show floor to press partners on what they're building on the Intacct platform - and find out if Intacct is following through on that. I'll also be taping a show wrap with the heavily-opinionated Brian Sommer. Stay tuned.