Supporting Agility in These Troubling Times
Health and well-being is undoubtedly top of mind today. We are all concerned not only about our own personal health and that of friends and family, but also the health of businesses and the economy in general. And as we focus on staying safe and healthy, we find ourselves turning to tools and technology to help us through this global crisis. Amidst the disruption caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, FinancialForce has announced the general availability of its Spring 2020 Release, highlighting features that help customers navigate increasingly remote work environments and rapidly changing market dynamics. Obviously the design and development of this latest release was in the works long before COVID 19 changed the world. And yet one of its primary tenets – supporting customer agility – is perfectly aligned to the preservation and improvement of the health of businesses today.
Built natively on the Salesforce development platform, FinanicalForce’s solutions are cloud native, providing the kind of connectivity that has become an absolute imperative as so many workers have instantly been transformed into remote workers. Furthermore, this new release takes advantage of many of the advanced technologies in which Salesforce has invested, including its Lightning Experience (LEX), Lightning Web Components (LWC) and Einstein Analytics. These advanced technologies, coupled with new features and functions, serve to enhance insights, provide personalization and tailorability without expensive, invasive code changes.
Why Is Agility So Important Today?
Even before the COVID 19 pandemic hit, we were already living in disruptive times. The 2018 Mint Jutras Enterprise Solution Study found 90% of companies believe they face some level of risk in their businesses and/or industries being disrupted by new innovative products, new ways of selling or pricing existing products or services, entirely new business models, or some combination of all of the above (Figure 1). And then of course there are still the more traditional disruptive factors like expansion and growth, organizational restructuring and regulatory changes, just to name a few. And now, a global pandemic.
Figure 1: How much risk do you face in your industry being disrupted?
Source: Mint Jutras 2018 Enterprise Solution Study
While only 7% of our 2018 survey participants felt that risk was high and/or imminent, most do understand the risk is real. While 84% felt the risk was low to medium, we have to ask: How do you think the taxi industry might have answered this question on the eve of the launch of Uber? Do you think the hotel industry anticipated Airbnb? Did Block Buster foresee the ruinous impact Netflix would have on its business? Could anyone have estimated the devastating impact of a global pandemic?
In the past, much of the potential for disruption came from the introduction of new, innovative products. Back in 2018 and even throughout 2019, it was more likely to come from new ways of selling/pricing existing products (think subscription to services), entirely new business models, or some combination of all of the above (Figure 2). These factors, as well as today’s crisis, have less to do with new products and more to do with new ways of conducting business.
Figure 2: What is most likely to cause this disruption?
Source: Mint Jutras 2018 Enterprise Solution Study
This kind of disruption has much more of a cascading impact on business application requirements, making agility – the ability to easily innovate, evolve and change – more important than ever before. Software alone does not guarantee your success but can directly contribute to your failure. You can’t afford to have the software that runs your business be the reason you can’t adapt to change.
Change is inevitable, bringing about new requirements. As your business changes, along with the world around you, the speed with which new features and functions can be developed, delivered and consumed will clearly impact your agility. Software delivered as a service is only one of the ways innovation is delivered and consumed faster and more easily. How you go about adding that functionality can lead you down a path of stagnation, or a path to growth and prosperity.
Platform is Key
This speed is largely dependent on the platform on which your ERP and other applications are built. A development platform can provide “application services” for things like file handling, security, searches and access from mobile devices. These and other requirements may be hidden from view for the business user but add to the time and effort required by developers, which in turn determines how much and how quickly they can deliver.
Developers benefit from using the services delivered with a good platform, speeding the development process. And in fact, it is the “platform” upon which a solution is built that also determines whether or not you can tailor or configure a solution without invasive custom code. So, a good platform is more than just a tool for the developer. It actually adds value to the business as well, by making applications more agile.
FinancialForce develops natively on the Salesforce Platform. Salesforce estimates the platform speeds development by a factor of five and cuts the cost of development in half. As a result, leveraging the Salesforce Platform has been a big win, not only for FinancialForce, but also for its customers. Both benefit from the ease and speed of development, as well as the vast ecosystem that has grown around the platform.
For FinancialForce, it means fewer wheels to (re)invent, by taking advantage of application services already built into Salesforce including:
- Support for a multi-tenant SaaS environment, which is a key enabler in delivering more innovation, faster
- A workflow engine, access and identity management
- Other rapid developer services include the Lightning Experience (LEX), (business) object orientation and built-in mobile support, and Lightning Web Components (LWC)
- Embedded analytics with Einstein, a cloud-based data platform as well as a data-analysis front end designed to analyze not just data in FinancialForce, but also any third-party app data, desktop data, or public data you bring in
The platform contributes to the robustness of the Spring 2020 release.
Spring 2020 Release
FinancialForce’s Spring 2020 Release was developed around five themes (Figure 3).
Figure 3: FinancialForce Spring 2020 Release Themes
Intelligent Project & Resource Management
As the company name implies, FinancialForce started out providing accounting and financial management. But since its founding in 2009, it has continued to broaden its footprint and today promises “a complete, customer-centric view of your business with ERP and PSA,” encouraging customers to “see your customers in full color.” With an eye towards full engagement with its own customers, from opportunity to delivery and revenue, it focuses on industries like:
- Professional Services and Consulting
- Business Services
- Health and Life Sciences
- Media and Digital Communications
- Software, High-tech and IT Services
This is the world of projects and resource management, where “resources” are largely human. The impact of the coronavirus crisis has been anything but uniform across these types of industries. Some are still able to deliver services remotely while others are forced to keep highly skilled and often highly paid people on the bench. Health and life sciences may be overwhelmed with work while non-essential types of service businesses may be shut down. One result that is consistent across all of these businesses is the high level of uncertainty, the need for added visibility and the need to be able to react fluidly.
The specific functional area of investment around “intelligent project management” is more anchored to the software category of professional services automation (PSA), helping customers manage projects more proactively and with greater visibility and control with tools like its new Project Burnup report, which limits project overruns. Here are some highlights:
Proactively keep projects on
An enhanced Gantt chart gives customers both greater discipline around project management as well as overall improvements to user experience. In addition, the Project Burnup view, powered by Einstein and embedded in the Project, limits project overruns and warns when exceeding contracts.
See staffing supply and
demand at a glance
As the world demands easier, more adaptive staffing and resource management capabilities, FinancialForce PSA now enables customers to optimize staffing with a unified view into supply and demand, including advanced visualization of resource schedules against requests.
FinancialForce PSA can now automate opportunity milestones and project risk templates, removing manual steps and ensuring continuity between sales and services.
Forecast faster and
Accurate services forecasting is more important than ever. Using the latest version of FinancialForce PSA, services organizations can now plan for the future faster and more accurately, using enhanced support for fixed-fee forecasting supporting all revenue treatments, opportunity forecasts, and forecast scheduling.
To help companies manage their global operations better, FinancialForce Accounting & Reporting now offers several new features, including multi-book functionality for maintaining separate books by entity, French and Spanish localizations and financial reporting, enhanced currency management revaluation and translation, and the ability to easily tailor language packs. FinancialForce now features global value-added tax (VAT) support through an integration with Avalara.
Two other areas specific to accounting are also worthy of mention:
Accounting & Financial Reporting: Personalizing
analytics to customer needs
It will be particularly important for any company to keep close tabs on cash flow, revenue and expenses. The Spring 2020 Release of FinancialForce Accounting & Financial Reporting offers more powerful personalization of analytics. Additionally, the new Deferred Revenue Reconciliation Report reduces manual reconciliation and data export for faster period close, while the Aged Analysis Report introduces new insights and predictability.
Billing & Revenue Management: Automate contract-to-revenue processes
With the increased level of uncertainty, it is now critical to streamline the invoicing and collection of cash. Every bit of revenue may count, now more than ever. The Spring 2020 Release offers Billing Central in Salesforce Lightning Experience (LEX), improving user productivity and further automating billing processes.
Next Generation User Experience
With Billing Central now fully available in LEX, the Spring 2020 Release brings FinancialForce closer to providing a complete suite of LEX-only solutions. Across the board, the new release offers a modern, fully personalized user experience with embedded Einstein Analytics, actionable data, custom objects, and workspaces.
Accelerate Time to Value
Last May, FinancialForce introduced FinancialForce Accelerate, a set of service and product solutions created to accelerate customer value across the entire customer lifecycle experience. Featuring both paid and non-paid services, in addition to tools, methodology, and product, the goal is to deliver on accelerated outcomes for customer success. Unlike other programs aimed exclusively at speeding implementation, the Accelerate process starts earlier and has no end.
FinancialForce Accelerate kicks in during the pre-sale phase as prospects start their evaluation, identifying specific value to be realized through use of the software. That might be addressing low utilization or revenue leakage, or any number of other potential improvements and cost savings. A business capability model is created, which in turn helps guide the implementation, training and onboarding of employees. But it doesn’t stop there. It continues throughout the entire customer lifecycle, with continuous updates and always an eye towards improving performance.
The Spring 2020 Release includes enhancements to Accelerate, including the launch of the FinancialForce Customer Lifecycle eXperience Hub (CLX Hub). CLX Hub is a collaborative workspace complete with preconfigured application packages, best practices, and a business process model. For Spring 2020, there are nine pre-configured Accelerate Builds that support functional capabilities for specific industries, with Software, High-Tech and Professional Services being the initial industries, with more to come in future releases. In addition to a number of pre-configured capabilities that support added functionality, workflows and meta-data are also pre-configured.
The need for better reporting and analytics has been growing and this need has only accelerated with the onset of the latest crisis. As we’ve seen in previous sections, FinancialForce has responded by embedding analytics directly into transactions, which makes them far more actionable. Einstein Analytics from Salesforce makes this possible, allowing you to explore all of your data quickly and easily with AI-powered advanced analytics, right in FinancialForce. There is no need to create separate databases or data warehouses. The data sets for reporting and analysis are the same as those that power transaction processing.
As we progress through this new phase of our global economy, it is absolutely critical to deploy every tool at our disposal to navigate the disruption and the uncertainty it brings. This kind of disruption has a cascading impact on the business applications we use to run our businesses, and makes agility – the ability to easily innovate, evolve and change – more important than ever. Deploying the right solution alone cannot guarantee your success, but not having a modern, technology-enabled solution can cause you to fail. You simply can’t afford to have the software that runs your business be the reason you can’t adapt and respond to change.
Like any innovation to ERP or PSA solutions being delivered right now, the design and development of FinancialForce’s Spring 2020 Release was in the works before this global pandemic struck. But FinancialForce has been preparing for just such an eventuality for years by adding a level of responsiveness and agility to its solution that can only come from a strong platform and advanced technology.