Tod Nielsen CEO FinancialForce on stage at Community Live 2019
Tod Nielsen CEO FinancialForce on stage at Community Live 2019

At Community Live, Tod Nielsen, President and CEO opened the conference with a review of the year to an audience of around 600 customers, prospects and partners. Things appear to be looking up for the ERP and PSA vendor. Nielsen revealed that the company had its most successful fourth quarter in its history. No numbers were revealed but Nielsen added that the company had achieved it with no major deals. That is significant as it demonstrates that FinancialForce is apparently returning to growth with a renewed focus.

Nielsen commented: “We are doing well. We are growing well. We feel really good about where we are as a company and driving things forward at scale“. Nielsen went on to list several achievements over the last year for the firm:

  • 307 new customer wins in the last 12 months.
  • 200 customers went live in the last 12 months. These include the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Dell and AWS.
  • 9.01 customer satisfaction score.

There has also been a metronome like cadence of releases with the product team releasing 102 updates including four major releases. The latest of which Spring 19 is the culmination of several months of work.

Nielsen also called out the recent success in various analyst surveys and research, with Gartner and Constellation Research shortlisting FinancialForce in specific categories for ERP. In PSA SPI listed FinancialForce as the most adopted financials solution and PSA in their latest survey. TSIA recently published a survey that put FinancialForce well ahead of its rivals as the most frequently installed solution, 69% of respondents were using FinancialForce and their nearest rival only 12%.

Both of the last two findings should be taken with a degree of caution. FinancialForce has been better at engaging with its customers to respond to these surveys. A lesson that other vendors should take note of. However, that customers actually did respond positively in such large numbers is a just cause for celebration.

Delivering on social impact

In a keynote that was rich in content but at times light on details, the focus is on how FinancialForce is helping its customers and how they are helping themselves. He acknowledged the inspiration of Salesforce 1-1-1 behind the FinancialForce for good social program and added that more than 10,000 hours of voluntary work in local communities has been completed over the last year. Nielsen himself adding that he wants to instil the value of “Always leave the world better than you found it.” In the first announcement of the keynote he added that as part of the go live celebration, FinancialForce now makes a donation to the charity of its customers choice.

Change management is a state of mind

Nielsen then revealed that one of the most common challenges he hears from customers is around change management. Gone are the days where the weakest link in process, people and technology is the technology element. Organisations need to be cognisant of the fact that people and process need an equal amount of effort in order to reach success.

Nielsen highlighted two of the challenges commonly faced. The first is around selling technology to senior executives in the first place. The second was overcoming objections of the users. For the first he highlighted three ways to help overcome resistance:

  • Clearly define the impact and your commitment to the project.
  • Set clear milestones and business outcomes, this includes quick wins.
  • Communicate a plan for continued operationalization.

There are three common objections from the user, passive resistance to change, a lack of involvement and time. To address these Nielsen suggested the following:

  • Make change iterative not overwhelming. He gave the example of the National Audit Office which implemented FinancialForce in nine phases each of six weeks with a set of deliverables for each one.
  • Set clear milestones and business outcomes. It is important to have early success in the project and deliver visible benefits.
  • Reward adoption and success. Successful teams celebrate success and having done so it is easier to repeat that success.

Why is it important now?

With 40% of respondent organisations to the TSIA survey indicating that they would invest further or change their PSA, change management has never been more important. John Ragsdale, TSIA Distinguished Vice President, Technology Research commented: “Technology is incredibly important to the success of professional services teams. That’s why they are turning to PSA platforms like FinancialForce to take their business to the next level. Today’s PSA platforms, such as top-installed solution FinancialForce, now come complete with the rich feature set and sophistication that large global organizations need to boost productivity and increase profitability.”

Technology is important but Nielsen is right to point out that it solves nothing without the people and process fully aligned with the project. To help companies, FinancialForce also launched Accelerate. This is a mix of product, services, training, customer success engagement and community. Similar in nature to Oracle NetSuites’s SuiteSucces, it aims to assist companies through five stages in their lifecycle:

  • Evaluation
  • Implementing
  • New customer
  • Adopting
  • Seasoned customer

In the product keynote Dan Brown, CTO FinancialForce explained this as “Our way of working with you to adopt our solutions.” It consists of several different services, some of them are chargeable, others are included. It includes services such as:

  • Evaluation: Services Value Propositions and Value realisation.
  • Implementing: SmartStart, seventy of these were completed in the last year at a fixed price. Expert services that are able to look at specific challenges.
  • New Customer: Premier Success and Admin Workspace, a new product feature that lets administrators control their FinancialForce environment, it is still being developed.
  • Adopting: Customer Telemetry (still in development) and FinancialForce Community.
  • Seasoned Customer: Health Checks and Continuous Updates.

Accelerate is a work in progress but it should help FinancialForce further increase its customer satisfaction. It now has a team dedicated to delivering customer success and it will be interesting to see what its customer satisfaction score is in 2020.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

Tod Nielsen delivered an authoritative keynote which demonstrated that FinancialForce is emerging after a period where it lacked focus. Nielsen and Brown are now confident in targeting the enterprise PSA market and the mid-market ERP space. Further focus may follow. Nielsen would not be drawn on focusing on specific industry verticals. However, Brown did not rule out adding specific functionality in future releases.

FinancialForce has rediscovered itself with a few tweaks. The R&D engine is purring once more. Mike Jerich was appointed Chief Revenue Officer in March and is likely to take a short time in re-establishing momentum in the sales functions. Competition beware, FinancialForce, now fully independent of Unit4 is a force to be reckoned with.

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