Austin Rohr of FinancialForce: PSA with CRM a Winning Combo in New Services Economy


FinancialForce, a leading provider of cloud-based apps like ERP, financial management, and professional services automation (PSA) built entirely on the Salesforce platform, recently held their annual user conference – Community Live. And a theme resonated throughout the three days I attended the event – speed is the currency in the new Services Economy.

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CRM Plus Professional Services Automation Equals Consistently Good Experiences

One of the ways discussed at the conference for speeding up your company’s ability to deliver consistently good experiences throughout sales/service processes is combine the power of CRM with professional services automation. Austin Rohr, Product Strategy Manager for FinancialForce’s PSA offering, shared with me where PSA fits into the sales and service mix, and why the combination of PSA and CRM can provide faster, more profitable outcomes that improves overall customer engagement.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview watch the embedded video/audio clips below.

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Austin Rohr of FinancialForce: Professional Services Automation with CRM a Winning Combo in New Services EconomySmall Business Trends: I talk a lot about CRM, but maybe there’s some folks out here that don’t know that much about PSA. Maybe you can give us a little bit of a high level view of what PSA is.

Austin Rohr: Traditionally with CRM, you manage the sale. Then something happens, and all of a sudden, your client’s need support. We’re that something in the middle. That’s the easiest way to say it. What our PSA solution does is it not only looks at just general project management, but it shows you how your business is performing from a Professional Services standpoint. We look at utilization, forecasting, skill/talent management. It’s our sweet spot, if you will.

Small Business Trends: Tell me a little bit about how PSA and CRM coexist and help each other out.

Austin Rohr: A lot of people don’t see why you would want Professional Services starting with a sale. But there’s a lot of value in that, because as soon as you start exposing what the deal is being sold to the people that are going to deliver it, you inevitably deliver a better product. Not only are you delivering a better product to your client, making them happier, you’re also more profitable. Because as you’re going through and working that sale, you’re able to see if we’re selling the right scope, or we’re not selling the right scope. Maybe we’re discounting our rate too far. You get all that ironed out, and like I said, you’re going to deliver a much better product and be more profitable.

Then in addition to that, if you can start staffing that project before it’s a project, so staffing it while the deal’s working, it gives you even further optics into what your utilization capacity’s going to be. If you need to make hiring decisions, because maybe you’re going to be out of certain skills six, nine months from now, you have the optics and the power to do that. When you tell the client, “You’re going to close in April, and we’re going to kick you off May 1st,” you can actually deliver on that, because you know you’re going to have the resources available to deliver.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about one of the main themes at the conference around this whole idea of the new services economy. Tell us what that is, and tell us how PSA fits into that.

Austin Rohr: The new services economy, we love it. I kicked off a little conversation, where it used to be just that middle piece in between sales and support. That’s not the case anymore. Every organization is looking at Professional Services as, not only a revenue generating business, but also it needs to be predictable. They’re adapting different business types, so we’re starting to see the emergence of managed services, your traditional time and materials. A lot of SaaS-based services are coming out now, so we just have to make sure we’re agile enough that we adopt with where the market is today and then where it’s going tomorrow.

Small Business Trends: How’s this fit in with the other term that got crossed out at the keynote, speed being the new currency?

Austin Rohr: Speed being the new currency, that’s right. The faster we can deliver a project, the happier clients are and typically the more profitable you’re going to be. The faster we can get you from that sale to kick off to completion, it’s all good stuff.

Small Business Trends: Finally, what kind of new opportunities does this combination of PSA and CRM, create?

Austin Rohr: That’s a great question. In today’s world of services, the economy’s changing. Now you’re able to identify what we call white space. Think of the consultant or project manager being in with your client implementing Product A. As you’re implementing that, you have a meeting with the CFO to talk about something, and you identify a need for Product B. Since they’re on the same platform, you hit it, generate opportunity, your scope change, it goes over to sales, they can start chasing it. You’re not relying on an email to go somewhere to get lost. You’re not saying on a piece of paper, “Follow up in six months,” when they’re going to be ready for it. It’s there, it’s a record, so you know it’s going to get action.

Small Business Trends: Very cool. Then, let’s talk about the future. What are we going to be looking at or talking about a year from now with PSA and the combination with PSA and CRM?

Austin Rohr: With the changing services economy, it’s going to be more and more difficult to be predictable. That is going to be a big focus for us. You’re going to see a lot of really neat things with Einstein Analytics. We were out with Salesforce earlier this year looking at Wave. We piloted a few things with them. It was neat.

We sat back, and we looked at what PSA is and what we want to deliver. We came up with a few different lenses and dashboards, for the executive down to the project manager, looking at PSA.

But then you couple that with the CRM. Take the white space example, if you have the intelligence to go through and look at everything that you deliver to everybody, you start to identify the gaps where there’s opportunity to go sell back into your client base.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary


Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series. He is a Partner at CRM Essentials and organizer of the Social Business Atlanta conference. Brent serves on the advisory board of The University of Toronto CRM Center of Excellence, writes the Social CRM column for Inc.com's technology site, and blogs at Brent's Social CRM Blog.

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