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FinancialForce comes of age

15th Dec 2009
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Cloud Computing companies such as and NetSuite frequently argue that is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for traditional on premise developers to move to an on demand business model.  Witness the struggles of SAP and Microsoft to migrate from their existing architectures.

How does that explain, the latest evolution of financial specialist Coda’s two year project to create a Software as a Service (SaaS) version of its popular Coda Financials on premise application? If it's near impossible for the likes of SAP to make such a move, how does Coda pull it off?  The answer to that apparently lies in Coda's use of's development platform. 

The two-year gestation period for may not impress the Cloud purists, but the time to market will have impressed rival accounting software developers and stands in sharp contrast to the tortured birth pains of SAP’s web-based Business ByDesign ERP suite. As well as providing a secure, ready-made development platform for, the Salesforce infrastructure gives the new venture access to a variety of integration opportunities with other applications, and plugs it into new innovations such as’s microbloggling initiative, Chatter.

The Coda2Go project as it was originally called was not taking the market by storm when earlier this year it suddenly transformed itself into, a on demand spin-off from Coda with as a minority backer and stakeholder. As a standalone venture it won’t have to confront the problem of undermining the revenue stream of its direct sibling - the issue that blights so many on premise vendors in their move to the Cloud. Cynics would also suggest that the standalone nature of the beast also allows it to be put to rest quickly and efficiently if the venture were to fail.

But that sort of cynicism isn't going to wash with CEO Jeremy Roche who reckons that this is exactly the right time for to launch itself into themarket, especially in the US.

“The market for Cloud in general is just more advanced in the US. It's also where the market presence of is greatest, although Europe is catching up,” he notes. With a compatible, accounting engine ready and waiting on the platform, will appeal first and foremost to customers.

If you're not a customer, the application will provide “a real time accounting engine that is always in balance and always up to date”, he adds.

“It's not just a set of ledgers that are now running in the Cloud. It's specifically designed to be online and to provide up to date information that's driven through with real time analytics which you can run in as many different dimensions as you like. It provides you with workflow right across the front and back office.”

Roche is particularly enthusiastic about's recent introduction of Chatter, the “Collaboration Cloud” that the firm hopes will enhance collaboration across enterprises. Roche promises that Chatter will be integrated into the environment, but prefers to refer to the concept as “collaborative accounting”. 

“We have been talking about creating collaborative accounting packages for over a year,” he continues. “You can have people monitoring and running activities. You don't need to have a trigger set up to alert you when your bank account is running low for example. One of the things that seems to be compelling is the interconnection between the front and back office which means that the sales guys are not left to be seen as the odd ones out.”

Social networking has been blocked in many firms, slowing its adoption within sensitive professional markets such as financial and professional services. “The approach is going on within the firewall and that's a major differentiator,” suggests Roche. “There are lots of organisations that block messaging and Twitter and so on. There are firms that are happy to run Microsoft Communicator within the firewall or take the idea of emails flying around and run the communicator alongside.

“But the thing you don't capture there is that when those conversations take place the data is transient or if it's via email then it's locked in people's emails. So what you end up with is a lot of silos of information around the organisation. With collaborative applications you are able to capture the conversation as part of the knowledge base behind the firewall. A classic example would be an accountant who's got a random invoice that's turned up and the PO hasn't been raised. How much time do people waste on that at the moment, trying to chase down the information needed? What we're doing is enabling people to select the information that is allowed out of the organisation.”

So who's buying into the FinancialForce vision? Well, one of the first up is Telegraph Media Group, a pioneering user of Cloud applications including SuccessFactors, Google Apps... and FinancialForce. “They already run all their ads and media sales though,” notes Roche. “They are a very happy user of Aggresso's ERP. We as FinancialForce sit in the middle. We collect all the transactions that run through both. That's a key element of the market that is evolving. You don't have to throw out what you rely on day to day on day one. We're not proud when it comes to this. You can run our new stuff in parallel. The big opportunity for us the old legacy accounting stuff or converting old versions of Great Plains. There a lot of systems out there that people just haven't touched for years.”

But what about the concept of the Cloud itself. Isn't it a term that puts many people off or which equally many don't understand? “We are selling this as Cloud,” insists Roche. “But we are modifying the terninology for some in the accounting community. The terminology has evolved. It's gone from on demand to SaaS to Cloud. We do have to explain that to accountants because they haven't got to the question of Cloud definitions as yet, although we have reached the stage where CIOs are explaining the terminology and the concepts to other parts of the organisation.”

But isn't it better to turn to a single source vendor rather than mess around with integration? That's the mantra propounded by the likes of NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson. Roche is phlegmatic about this world view. “If that's what you want then you should talk to Zach Nelson,” he says.

“But has 69,000 customers who demonstrate that are buying best of breed applications. They want good, fast, lean applications that are quick to deploy and customise. They are not buying into legacy applications that are delivered by yet another methodology. What that taught me is that we needed to build an application that is fleet of foot. It's a very different way of working from taking a one size fits all approach."


Replies (2)

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By Bahram
17th Dec 2009 13:52

Improving Coda?


I worked with Coda about two years ago while I was on a short term assignment at Entertainment UK. The system was extremely outdated and labour intensive. In fact in my opinion as a senior Chartered Accountant, sticking with something as inflexible and rigid like Coda, could have contributed to the mess, which existed at the time, about the financial accounting position of Entertainment UK culminating in the subsequent downfall of Entertainment UK and Woolworth.I can't understand while anyone in their right mind would want to stay with a system like JDE or Coda or any AS400 systems and such like, when you can have a clean start with a modern and accountable system such as ORACLE, SAP OR NAVISION. Moving on to a proper modern system straight, costs much less in the long run than trying to patch up and "interface" something that is inherently backward. Such practices may create some income and a foothold for the IT suppliers of that particular "patch" but surely it can't be in the long term interest of profitability, accountability of the company's best interest.  If you wish to comment or want more information and evidence about my views you can google me or contact me through Linkedin.

Bahram Alimoradian BSc FCA

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By david_terrar
18th Dec 2009 14:59

In defence of CODA

Hi Bahram,

As one of their competitors, let me do something unusual and jump to tbe defence of CODA (but also see later disclosre).  You seem to have a problem with the old AS/400 version of CODA, but that's not the same code as current CODA or the product described by Jeremy above.  Actually CODA's gone through many incarnations.  It started life back in 1979 on HP3000 (remember them?), then DEC VAX and then arrived on AS/400 circa 1988.  Each time the code was never converted, but was re-written with the same unified ledger philosophy but natively for the particularly platform, and each time the code structure was extended and improved.  The same was true when it was re-written for client/server (Windows) and so the current product shares a name and an approach, but is a very different product to the AS/400 one you used a couple of years ago.  I was chatting to Jeremy at last week's Cloudforce2 conference and he was explaning how has made full use of the platform - they actually started developing the product before it was rebranded so they have plenty of experience of the technology and agile development. That product is different again to client/server CODA.  

So your comments might be relevant to that old AS/400 version of CODA, but just don't apply to current CODA or

Now although I represent Twinfield, one of their online competitors, I should disclose that I used to work for CODA as did the two original founders of Twinfield.  I also used to be an Oracle Applications reseller, and at heart that's a traditional ledger product, and I definitely know which I would chose to work with when put alongside current CODA.  However, these days I would choose one of the online Cloud based products. 

David Terrar

D2C and Twinfield


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