With as many as a hundred implementation projects on the go at any one time, professional services is mission critical at industry cloud CRM vendor Vlocity. The fast-growing ISV provides industry-specific CRM solutions across a half-dozen different vertical markets, all running native on the Salesforce platform.
Its customers are typically large, often multinational, enterprises and Vlocity's software usually replaces an existing legacy CRM system as part of a digital transformation project. Examples we've covered on diginomica include projects at Telus, Sky Italia and Telia. With customer experience at stake, it's essential that these complex projects run smoothly and efficiently.
Vlocity relies on an integrated set of three best-of-breed SaaS applications, all running on the Salesforce platform, to manage its own customer-facing operations. It uses Salesforce for prospecting and account management, it has its own contract lifecycle management tool to set up contracts, and then it creates and manages projects in FinancialForce PSA. Having a common user interface and a unified dataset across the three applications makes it easy to deliver a seamless experience to the customer success team. This allows them to self-serve when setting up and resourcing projects, says Amanda Findlay, Services Operations Manager.
It's just a click of a button, create your project, it automatically creates the budget associated with that project.
A single global view
Automated processes like these mean that the global customer success team of around 350 professionals are all supported by Findlay as the sole full-time operations person. Project leaders can go directly into FinancialForce to identify available resources with the necessary skills and assign them to a project themselves, she explains:
They don't have to wait for one single resourcing team to get a resource assigned, and they don't need to ask and wait to see who's available when, because they have that full resource with their available skills.
They can also see what their future needs will be, as well as tracking expenses and projected billings. As the work goes forward, the billings are generated in FinancialForce and the finance team has a dashboard that shows them invoice status.
We're actually able to track all of our financial metrics, like project margin, the cost of all those resources, and the time we've entered, as well as what our margin is in the project.
With all teams using the same system, a single global view means that management can run a weekly project call to track progress on all of the team's projects, with all relevant data to hand, she explains.
That meeting is run globally, and directly out of FinancialForce. Since we are a global team, that's a big piece for us, to be able to have everybody aligned in the same process, and have management be able to monitor a project that's going on in the UK in the exact same criteria as a project that's going on here in the Bay area.
This kind of automation and oversight would be unthinkable using manual processes, she adds:
The world of scheduling through spreadsheets and tracking financials through spreadsheets is incredibly painful ...
Being able to adjust assignments and see one view — one global single source of truth of where all of our resources are, what they're working on, what they're scheduled on — is really important. If that was a spreadsheet or a system that wasn't directly tied to Salesforce, it would be very painful.
As the team continues growing to keep pace with Vlocity's expansion, the consistency and immediacy of having everything in a single cloud-based global system has been very useful, she adds.
Using FinancialForce has enabled us to have structured processes that support that team through their life cycle.
We're able to support the field and make changes quickly, and enable them to scale as fast as possible and support the customers on their digital transformations.
Many of the projects have a multinational or global dimension. As Vlocity expands into new markets, it's been helpful to easily switch on new currencies. While most of the billing is on a time and materials (T&M) basis, there's also been the opportunity to test new packaged offerings for certain markets, says Findlay.
We're a global company and we sell in multiple currencies. When we have a new currency that we're going to start selling, it's a fairly simple update in Salesforce and FinancialForce to just get that up and running, have those costs and bill rates in those currencies and go from there.
Typically we do T&M projects, but as we have new offerings, in the same structure, we've been able to just customize and tweak the projects as we need to, to bring on new offerings quickly.
Hailed as the fastest growing ISV in the Salesforce ecosystem and with over 900 employees worldwide, Vlocity has ambitious goals for its industry cloud proposition. It recently launched its sixth vertical offering, for the media and entertainment industry, which had previously been served alongside the communications industry, its largest sector. The other four are energy and utilities, government, healthcare, and insurance.
Getting customers up and running fast is imperative for SaaS vendors, whose revenues depend on customers being able to use their software. At the same time, it's important to control costs and deliver implementation support as efficiently as possible. Doing so while growing at triple digit rates adds to the challenge. All this demands a high level of end-to-end automation and visibility, which Vlocity is making full use of its chosen technology platform to deliver.