It can take a while for a new CEO to make his mark, but if there’s one thing we can take away from the arrival of Tod Nielsen at FinancialForce, it’s that the company is starting to act like a big-time Silicon Valley player.
The FinancialForce Community Live event has become an international roadshow, with celebrity appearances, mass ranks of press and analysts in tow and lots of back-scratching with other major players - just like SuiteWorld, QuickBooks Connect and Sage Summit.
In the 40-degree C heat of Las Vegas this week, the Anglo-American software house reprised the material and messages it delivered in London last month.
On joining FinancialForce from Salesforce, one of the first things Nielsen did was to recruit seasoned marketer Fred Studer (ex NetSuite, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce). Studer’s fingerprints were apparent in the way that FinancialForce articulated a simple, three-point message to encapsulate what it was all about.
Nielsen, Studer and their executive colleagues repeatedly reached back to reference the three themes that cut across the FinancialForce product portfolio:
- Business model agility
- Time/talent optimisation
- Predictive insights
Customer native finance
These headings shaped the structure of Nielsen’s “speed is the new currency” keynote.
While Nielsen talked about agility, the other two elements were covered by partnership announcements with other vendors where FinancialForce doesn’t have the in-house capability:
- Time and talent optimisation: ADP integration announcement - setting up links to link financial metrics to payroll to present a truer picture of costs, performance and compensation. “We are absolutely committed to HCM,” Studer replied to a sceptical analyst question.
- Predictive insights: Vena alliance announcement - with new integrations between the two applications to support budgeting, planning and forecasting, financial and management reporting, and financial close management.
“Customers want a new relationship with business,” Nielsen said. The transaction model is moving from a linear quote-to-cash process to a more organic, “customer native” resource planning model that can respond more flexibly to customer pain points.
“The back office can’t be the anchor, where people say, ‘We want to do this, but the back office team won’t let us.’ We want the back office team to be the “say yes” group and extend the value to biz so they can do things they haven’t done before. “
The real-time financials made possible by the FinancialForce accounting engine and the way it integrates with Salesforce and other apps is all about making the organisation faster, better and smarter by delivering better insights.
“These are the kinds of back office systems we want to deliver to you so we can exceed expectations,” Nielsen told the Las Vegas audience.
“Having ERP built on top of CRM adds tremendous value. What is the cost of this customer? Those linkages and synergies will be there - it’s one of the things Salesforce and FinancialForce can deliver to you.”
Drawing on the growing success of the FinancialForce professional services automation (PSA) modules showed that these customers were realising they can’t run their organisations on spreadsheets anymore - particularly with the arduous revenue recognition standard ASC 606 being rolled out in the USA over the next 18 months.
At one point Nielsen showed a word cloud on the screens behind him featuring words such as “speed, smart connection, communications platform, predictive insights, strategic billing, machine learning, trusted/secure, real-time intelligence, revenue recognition”. These represented what he thought should be the core criteria for a modern finance system - and coincidentally probably reflected the buzz words that peppered the executive scripts for Community Live.
If there was a dissonant note to proceedings, it was that Nielsen and Studer put so much time and effort into selling the cloud concept to people who have already bought into it. It’s clear from this year’s Community Live events that the FinancialForce is working hard to define a clearer brand message, but they do need to work out a few new tunes for when they take the show back on the road next year.
About John Stokdyk
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.