I've been wondering for some time when we would start to see evidence of larger businesses taking advantage of enterprise technology to help them find new business models, modernize or become more effective rather than more efficient. Some will bucket this as 'digital transformation,' an awful expression that is as meaningless as so many others we've come to hear in the last 10 years. Put in the words of Vishal Sikka, CEO Infosys:
We provide software and software solutions - what's that if it is not digital?
But I think Sikka will agree that the smorgasbord of available technology today is providing significant opportunities for companies to take bolder steps than might have been the case just five years ago. As Brian Sommer has said in recent times, the 'once in a generation' changes we see occurring in the back office alone are yielding remarkable results.
There is a twist to this shift that has been brewing for some time. The change in emphasis to cloud based solutions of all kinds as opposed to on-premise systems has benefitted the small and micro businesses far more than the larger enterprise. You only have to look at Xero's latest results to appreciate that 10 years into their journey, the company counts 700,000 customers.
How about the emergence of Zapier as the connective tissue between hundreds of applications? We use Zapier for notifications from a variety of applications that are delivered via Slack to both desktop and mobile devices. Those micro integrations save me a ton of time and is the principal means by which I know what's going on in our business. In short, it is SMBs who are getting a lot of the good stuff that has evolved as a natural outgrowth of open systems development run in the cloud.
Most recently, I saw a voting request for a Zapier connection between NetSuite and Hubspot. That's an interesting idea. Imagine data from one or other app sent on to Slack. What might you want to expose as a notification?
But as we've tipped up at event after event along with asking for case material, it has become clear that the momentum I've observed in the SMB segment is starting to materialize in the larger business. This is exciting stuff.
Vendors are keen to showcase their best back office outcomes and, in some cases, show us more than one or two. For myself, I was pleased to get four at the FinancialForce Community Live event. That may not sound like many but then I was in and out inside a day with only a couple of hours available for video conversations. Workday has brought us some truly interesting cases covering finance transformation. The factory visit to Plex customer MFC was remarkable, while the broad range of SAP customers talking HANA and S/4HANA was impressive.
But there is much more than back office work going on. Everything from infrastructure through to omni-channel to business model change to mobile to reporting, budgeting and planning is getting the change treatment. It seems to me there isn't a single part of business that isn't being reviewed for opportunities to improve. In the cases we have seen, the changes are beyond incremental, they are often radical in nature.
To give you an indication of momentum, we published 19 stories that have a use case theme and 23 videos this month alone - and we're not done yet. I heard of other which, for a variety of reasons we have not been able to push into the public domain. Given we publish about 130-140 stories a month, that's a significant and rapidly growing percentage of the whole. And they are turning up across every segment of industry and service organization. There are plenty of lessons to learn along the way. The difference I am seeing today compared to the past is that customers can point to clear and demonstrable benefits that extend well beyond traditional ROI measures. For example, in one case, I heard that finance people have been freed up from routine tasks to provide line of business guidance on sales strategies. That's something new.
In every case, the business has identified a real need for change and implemented aggressively to both foreshorten implementation timeframes and accelerate time to value.
As we move into the slower, summer months, I am hoping we will continue to see a steady flow of customer stories because apart from their novelty value, we know that use cases are the second most popular content we produce.