Earlier this week, I attended Community Live 2018, the annual user conference put on by FinancialForce, an ERP and Professional Service Automation (PSA) cloud solution native to the Salesforce Platform. One of the main takeaways for me came during FinancialForce’s CEO Tod Nielsen keynote, when he expanded upon Marc Andreessen’s famous saying, “software is eating the world” by saying in today’s business climate services will devour the galaxy.
In a conversation with the company’s chief marketing officer Fred Studer, the importance of services came up again. Struder explained why the company feels a services-based business model is needed to be successful today, and why FinancialForce calls itself a customer-centric ERP company.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the whole interview, check out the video below, or click on the embedded SoundCloud player.
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Small Business Trends: Give us a little bit of your personal background.
Fred Studer: I’ve been at FinancialForce for almost a year and a half now Brent, and obviously I come with a lot of experience around ERP. In fact, I started off in financial systems, both as a trained accountant, studied Accounting and Finance. Started building financial systems, billing systems back in the early 90’s. And then I got sucked into the awesome software house that is now known as Oracle. I spent about 12 years there, and really learned how these products are really meant to drive value for customers.
I went to the Microsoft Office business for about five years, and then for the last four years, before I left Microsoft, I ran the Dynamics business. Have spent time now working with Tod, and our executive team at FinancialForce, but really my whole being and persona is about spending time with the customers, and how they get value out of these products.
Small Business Trends: One of the things that kind of stuck out to me is you guys are calling yourselves a customer-centric ERP company. Talk about what that actually means.
Fred Studer: You know, there’s two words that we use that you very rarely hear in the same sentence with ERP. One is flexible. Nobody ever says flexible in ERP. It’s kind of an antithetical conversation which we’ll get into. But the other one is customer, because ERP has classically as we know been really focused on cost management, back office, kind of the farthest away types of processes from a customer. But just from our very foundation, as you know, we really started as an ISV for Salesforce, really trying to help their customers see a better way to build processes and to help them have visibility across the entire customer transaction, and to reverse those complex processes.
And in just building forward we just had a really different slant, and it started off with being built natively in Salesforce. But it’s a movement that I think we’ve created, and I hate to compare, but if you look at some of the greatest companies — I think Workday has done fantastic on the follow on from PeopleSoft. But they build from an employee perspective, and that’s great. And you can compensate and pay people to do a lot of great things, and I think they’ve done a great job as have companies in places that I’ve worked, like Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics.
They focused on products, manufacturing companies, retail companies that our product is really the core. And I think those are great things to really focus on. But FinancialForce is different. We really come from a perspective of focusing on the customer, and really blurring the lines between front office and back office.
One of the things that Tod Nielsen will talk about this week is about freeing the back office and trying to take a different pivot. Even as a CFO, rather than focusing on cost, and those types of things. Focus on top line and growth. And we think we have a very good message there, and a lot of customers that actually are getting value from that position.
Small Business Trends: Back in New York a couple of months ago, at the big opening of your office, totally cool office …
Fred Studer: That was a fun event. Yeah, thank you for coming.
Small Business Trends: During Tod’s presentation he said something. I remember tweeting about it. I think it was Mark Andreessen that said software is gonna eat the world, or is eating the world. But then Tod upped the ante and said services are going to devour the galaxy. Maybe you could talk about what he meant with that.
Fred Studer: Well one, congratulations, because you totally nailed it. That’s exactly what Tod is talking about. And as you’ve got to know Tod, he is a bit of a technology prophet, and what he was really trying to encapsulate, was the fact that these trends just continue to hit us. And clearly software was that thing. And now everybody’s positioned to driving revenue, and what they’re doing in order to capture that is they have to think about the consumption model of their companies. And in fact what we’re talking about, and this is something that Tod and Dan [Brown – Chief Product Officer] and I really think a lot about is that in order to really drive growth in this current economy, and really everything going forward, you have to become consumption agnostic.
So when we talk about services devouring the galaxy, it’s really portraying this new setup that companies have to think about their buyer in every case. It’s no longer selling. You can’t just package your product and just sell it for a price. You have to be agnostic about both, how you help them buy, and consume, and then specifically how you bill and then collect for that.
And now with things like revenue recognition everything from the offer to going to market, to selling a service or product in whatever utility or value based model. And then billing successfully for that is critical than to just be regulatory compliant around recognize revenue.
So we love this notion of a new services economy. And although there’s a lot of work to be done there, we think it’s just a really good pivot for companies to think about how they might consider growing in this new world.
Small Business Trends: Where are companies in terms of let’s say it’s a baseball game. What inning are we in with that transition right now?
Fred Studer: It’s a really good question, and obviously you and some of our very close colleagues love the baseball world. I’d say, if I was to call it, I think we’re in the bottom of the third right now. The reason I say that is that we still have some time to get to the stretch. But we know who’s pitching, we know what the game dynamics are. But now the whole game is about thinking strategically about the innings that we have left.
So, I think a lot of customers should be thinking specifically about not so much how they started this game. But really, how did they really think strategically about the audience that they have to compel, and really doing the best that they can, with the resources they have to go to that growth.
Small Business Trends: Okay, so what do you want folks to walk away from this event with? Taking back home and putting into play.
Fred Studer: Sure, one is that this isn’t your grandfather’s FinancialForce. And even though we’re nine years old, in the soccer world that’s a lot of time. But having Tod join we’ve got some new vigor. We’ve got some new tenacity, we’ve got a new step, and I think that what we hope that people see is that we are in this new services economy. Everything that they can do to drive growth and be agile. To drive agility in the revenue models. To deliver their services more dynamically, whether it’s a product repackaged, or people as services.
And the more visibility, through even just business signals they can get, the more success they’re gonna have at driving growth. And really we call that the notion of business unlimited. But I hope that they see FinancialForce is a big player in this market. And that they give us a shot to talk about how we can provide value to them.
Small Business Trends: All right, so I know you gotta get back to work. You got a show to put on, but where can people go to learn more about some of the things that’s gonna take place here, but just in general by FinancialForce.
Fred Studer: Sure, I’d start with FinancialForce.com. We’ve got a lot of great content out there. But also, you can actually search a lot of the things that we have on FinancialForce.com/businessunlimited about this new approach.
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.