Talent Hub TV Episode 13 with Exceleris Consulting [PODCAST]

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Talent Hub is proud to introduce the podcast version of the thirteenth episode of the Talent Hub TV series. Here, Talent Hub Founder, Ben Duncombe meets respected Salesforce professionals and thought leaders to learn more about their fascinating stories and industry insights.

This month’s guests, Sadia Khan and Peter Kearney from Exceleris Consulting join Ben on the sofa to share their individual and collective stories of what decisions have led them into the Salesforce ecosystem, and more specifically, FinancialForce.

As business partners leading a successful FinancialForce partner, Sadia and Peter are passionate about the potential of the platform and what can be achieved for their clients. You can hear about the roots of the company, and how they approach their implementations to drive the maximum efficiencies for businesses, and support them to continue theses successs post go-live.

Talent Hub Founder, Ben Duncombe asks them for their insight on what makes a good potential client, and what excites them the most about the future of both the business and the platform

This inspiring and educational episode is one not to be missed, listen below or if you’d prefer to read, the full transcript if beneath:

Ben: Welcome to Talent Hub TV Episode 13. We’re here with Sadia and Peter from Exceleris Consulting today, thanks for coming guys, we’ve got some interesting topics, a little bit different from the kind of discussions we’ve had in the past, we’re talking about FinancialForce and the FinancialForce market today, so can you tell us a bit about both of your backgrounds, and I guess who you are, and where you’ve come to, to get to this point?

Sadia: Yes, so we both come from a finance and accounting background, Peter has over 30 years of experience in a mixture of roles, across various industries. I myself am more from audit and finance background, where I’ve had a lot of finance roles, and I think on our first joint project, we realised we had a shared passion and that was, to hope to not be a cost on the books for a company. Very often accountants are just seen as a cost within an organisation, but we really want to add value and be able to do that, so we found this way of doing it through Exceleris and adding value, creating efficiencies, giving organisations the ability to see data that they wouldn’t have been able to, and be able to make better business decisions.

Ben: Okay cool. So coming from accounting or finance backgrounds, how have you found your way into the Salesforce world?

Peter: It’s probably a little bit different for each of us, from my side, I came into it because I spotted FinancialForce being on the Salesforce platform in a former role, when I was a CFO for a private equity firm, and I realised that it was probably a very good business opportunity for me, because we didn’t have any representation, the company didn’t have any representation here in Australia, and so I ended up getting myself onto one of the first implementations, in fact, the very first local versions of FinancialForce in Australia, and actually that’s where I met Sadia.

Sadia: So from my perspective, the company I was working for at the time, four and a half years ago, decided to go on the Force.com platform, implement Sales Cloud, and a few of the FinancialForce products, so I think I guess I lucked out and I also, it was a good thing that I put my hand up and said “I’ll PM this, and I’ll take charge of this project”, and that’s where we worked together a lot, and that’s where I got to understand the benefits of the Force.com platform and having everything in one place, to be able to pull reports in such a way to have more visibility, to be able to make better business decisions and at that point in time, when I was in that job, I really saw the benefit and that of having someone with a business background, and come into this space to lead the implementation and be able to understand the opportunities that businesses have, and challenges and pain points that businesses have, not only in accounting but within the whole organisation and to, I guess, to leverage our backgrounds into this space.

Ben: So had you, coming from a finance background, had you always had, like an IT flair or a technology flair, and an interest in that space?

Sadia: Yes, I think we’re both, we’ve always been both techie.

Peter: She’s more of a nerd than me.

Sadia: Peter was telling me about his father being, when the computers came out, he was always on top of the game and now his father has Google Home in every room, and he’s quite a techie person, and I think that’s where Peter got some of his geekiness. Myself, the influence was from my eldest brother, who did computer engineering, but I think really essentially we don’t see ourselves as technologists we see ourselves..how would you see ourselves Peter?

Peter: I see myself as a business guy, l’d say 30%, 40%, accountant, but you know, I’m interested in finance, I’m interested in business, so it’s not really just about accounting, but you know, the technology part is more just an enabler, very excited about Salesforce though, I mean the platform is an amazing thing. Really, it’s a very special thing. So, you know, it is a big part, but it’s not the thing that drives us.

Ben: Sure, and that leads me on, you’re excited about Salesforce, so what’s the relationship, FinancialForce, Salesforce, for anyone that doesn’t know?

Peter: So I think the important thing, and I’m saying this for the benefit for anybody who might watch this, who doesn’t work in the Salesforce space, is to understand that it’s probably wrong to say that Salesforce is a CRM. A Customer Relationship Management system. It’s as wrong to say that, as it is to say that Amazon sells books, or that Microsoft sells Excel. That’s not what those companies do. And I think the same is increasingly becoming true for Salesforce. Is that Salesforce is a technology platform. CRM is an integral part of that, in the same way as Excel is an important part of what Microsoft does. But as a platform, it basically it gives you the opportunity to build anything, almost anything you want, in that environment, to run your whole enterprise systems in that environment. And that’s really the basis of the FinancialForce relationship with Salesforce, is that, FinancialForce is the largest independent software vendor on the platform, and the functionality that it provides, is similar to we would get from, major ERP systems, you know, like SAP or Oracle, in terms of the depth of functionality that you would get. Sure. And obviously, those systems are huge and have many, many layers. Yes, but that’s essentially what it is.

Ben: Okay cool, and so talking about the platform, so it’s built on Force.com, who is it for? What’s the typical client that would utilise or get value from FinancialForce?

Peter: Well I see the typical client would be one that would be using Salesforce in first place.

Ben: So they have to use Salesforce?

Peter: Yes, I mean, who doesn’t. It’s like you’ve got to buy the Windows machine if you’re going to run a Windows application.

Sadia: They may not be using Sales Cloud, they just need to be on the Salesforce platform.

Peter: I’d say the types of customers that we often end up with, are professional services organisations, where they want to manage their business from lead, through the definition of projects, having staff, booking time, managing the projects through to billing, collections management, the profitability of projects and so on. Another typical type is where we have perhaps, businesses that have recurring type revenue where you’re billing the kind of service, managed service kind of service, where you’re billing the customer, many times every month, for a particular service that you’re providing, or in companies where they have fairly complicated supply chain requirements. Not so much manufacturing, but where for example, there’s a lot involved in actually delivering the product to the customer, yes? So it might be inventory that they’re selling, or it might be a combination of product inventory and service, and that sort of thing. So, that’s the most common that I’ve come across, but you know, any business can really run, this a technology platform and accounting is accounting.

Ben: Yes, and you’ve mentioned a couple of the other ERPs which are obviously, as you’ve said, huge, big, global names. So FinancialForce are having growth, big growth in the region, globally, but in the region, are you now seeing them taking some of that business off of those big ERPs? Like when you are doing an implementation of FinancialForce, where are companies coming from typically?

Peter: Well the ones I’ve seen are not so much going from a larger ERP to, a more known, and more, and I guess with more history, and then going to FinancialForce, I’ve seen probably the opposite, where they work typically on Zero, and MYOB, and moving onto FinancialForce because they need a system that’s more scalable and more automated, and will give them more visibility.

Sadia: Yes, I’d agree and it’s not only MYOB and Zero, it’s quite a lot of other, older mid-tier systems, so it’s usually, most of our clients are companies that are experiencing growth, they are outgrowing the systems that they’re on, their businesses are becoming more complicated, and they want to be able to build, and they’re unique, because that’s the great thing with Salesforce, is if you can make it behave the way that you want it to behave, you don’t have to follow so-called industry best practice.

Ben: So FinancialForce is easily customisable?

Peter: Very much so, it the same way that Salesforce is, you create an object add a field, process automations, it’s all declarative, it’s great.

Ben: Ok so really, you’ve said that any company could in theory use it, but we’re seeing Salesforce becoming more enterprise level now, so you know, you name it, they’ve got it, at the moment we’re seeing the Telstra’s of this world do big projects, is there a ceiling for FinancialForce?

Peter: No, I don’t think there is, I mean, you know, we’ve got big customers like Google and Salesforce itself use our products, and we have companies in Australia, there’s a big accounting firm in Australia that has 1000 users of the system, so capturing the timesheets and doing all the project management through that, so I don’t believe that there really is much of a ceiling in the longer term, it’s really just a growing awareness of the particular market, that this is an acceptable platform upon which you can run your enterprise system.

Ben: Yes, and I think that awareness is definitely coming so that’s a good thing, what are the big challenges that you see regularly on an implementation of FinancialForce?

Peter: I would say that a common challenge but I think it’s a problem that every system, you know, no matter what system you put in, can have this challenge, I think one of the most common ones is just the journey the client needs to take in terms of understanding what’s really involved, you know, it’s not, almost always it’s more complicated than they imagined it would be, and so, and that’s our job, essentially, is to help them through that journey and lead the way, through that thinking process.

Ben: Yes, okay. And Sadia do you see anything aside from that?

Sadia: I think that’s a really good point, and our approach, and the way we deal with that, is really to have that upfront conversation to explain to them, that if they want this system implementation to be a success, that they need to invest their time in it, and  we try to help them and fill the gap that may be present as much as possible, but that’s definitely one of the key ones, and also I think I’d say another challenge for certain organisations is trying to foresee, trying to put away the current processes that they have, putting away the current system that they have, and thinking what’s ideal for the company and the organisation, and where is the company going to build a system that’s not a replication of what was done or what they currently have, we want to improve processes, we want to improve the system for the company, and for them to start thinking, well ideally what is it that we want in our system, how do we want to use our system to be able to create efficiencies, and how do I get information from the sales guy, all the way to the finance team in the best way and automated way as possible. So it’s trying to come out of what they’re currently doing and try to think of what they would like to see in the future.

Peter: And I’d add to say that very often, because we’re dealing with different functions of the organisation, with finance, with the sales guys, we’ve got the production guys, they don’t actually know each other’s problems, so it’s very often that we’re actually leading the process of helping them discover their own problems, and then building the solution around that.

Ben: So to have a successful project, what are the kind of key roles that you need to deliver a successful FinancialForce programme?

Sadia: So we feel pretty strongly that coming from a business background, and for the implementation project team to have as much business background as possible to identify with the client their requirements, their pain points, understand what is causing them issues, understanding what, let’s say the finance team or the project guys, what they’re struggling to get the information on, or even pushing information, so when you understand the business, when you understand what the organisation is looking to achieve, and what potential there is, then you’re very much able to configure the system and guide the client to build processes that will be optimal for the company. Obviously that’s not to say that, there needs to be, you know, Salesforce skills as well involved, so a Salesforce Administrator on the client side is always highly recommended, and in some cases Salesforce Developers are needed, but, a Project Manager is another skill, but I think within all these roles, it’s important to appreciate the fact that the more business knowledge they have, the better it is. At the end of the day, the business stakeholders that are guiding the consultants to build the system, want to be speaking to people who understand the requirements in full, so they’re not constantly clarifying or going back and forth, and saying, “oh well this is what you need”, “no, that’s not quite what I’m looking for” and not every requirement’s explicitly said, so. I think it helps a lot to be able to, as a consultant, know, I suppose, to some degree, more about how you do that thing than even the client would know, because very often a client says they want something, and then we’ll go, “why exactly do you need that?” And then when they explain, you’re like, “but you could actually solve that problem this way”. And they’re like “ah, yes ok” And then that actually makes it so much easier.

Ben: Sure. We find that in the Salesforce space, quite often a company will go through a project, and they don’t really know at the end of it, how they keep this thing ticking over, like, I think they’ve bought the licenses, they think “great, it will look after itself”. Do you kind of get that sense as well, in the FinancialForce world? How does a company keep it ticking over, improving it and so on after go live?

Sadia: We’re very much aware of the reality that that happens, and so we always try, our approach at Exceleris is to try to take the client, make the client take the lead on the project, to try to get them as involved as possible, so that they can then maintain the solution in the long run. We also highly recommend a Salesforce Administrator but for that person to be involved from the get-go of the implementation, so they understand the reasons behind why certain things were structured and architected in that specific way. We also believe that well, through the, through the…so I’m not sure if you want me to get into this or not, but it’s also important post go live, it’s important to do assessments of the company, and the organisation to see where it’s going, and to make sure that the system is maintained and is growing with the company. And that they don’t get to a point  where, “oh well, there’s a new transaction or a new business process that’s happening, and they’re dealing with a new structure, and that they build manual processes around that, we need to make sure that the system grows with the company, and can cater for that new need.

Ben: Okay, so how did Exceleris come together? How are we here today with you guys sat there as business partners?

Sadia: Well, it’s been an exciting journey! Peter’s laughing. Going back to when we first met, was four and a half years ago, I was working on the implementation as a client, Peter was on there on the consulting team, and we’ve been working ever since, it’s just until recently, earlier this year that Peter has joined Exceleris. But a bit of history on Exceleris, is I founded Exceleris two years ago, and it’s been a long journey, a good exciting journey, of working with a lot of clients, we’ve obtained the FinancialForce partnership status, and we’re very excited to have brought Peter onboard earlier this year to scale up and bring, and bring the company to the next level.

Ben: Sure, and what’s exciting from the market, Iike what are you guys seeing and where do you feel that you’re going to add the most value?

Peter: I think that there’s a wonderful future for ERP, for enterprise systems on the Salesforce platform. And FinancialForce is incredibly well positioned to be able to benefit from that, the growing awareness of business, of the value that the Salesforce platform can offer them, and so we’re just looking forward to riding that wave, and helping organisations to really get the most they can out of it.

Ben: Sure, and is there a particular sweet spot for you guys, anything from FinancialForce you’re eager to help clients with and talk about, or is there an area?

Peter: Well I think our sweet spot is really the business knowledge and background that we bring to the process of implementing software, and so I guess to some degree, we would contrast ourselves with others who might have more technical bent, we are very focused on ensuring that our clients realise the business benefits out of that, not to say the others aren’t, but that’s our real focus.

Ben: Sure, yes, and from a platform perspective, is there anything that you see changing, or coming into the FinancialForce market that excites you over the coming months?

Peter: I think what’s really exciting for both of us is just that there’s no limit to, you know, another vendor coming onto the platform and providing another service, so yes. So I think also, the platform itself is growing, you know, the introduction of Einstein Analytics for example, in itself, but you know, every Accountant would know, we live off reports, we need to be able to access information. So that functionality in itself, unlocks enormous opportunities for us to be able to service the ends of the users, and there’s new stuff coming out all the time.

Ben: Well thank you very much for coming today guys, it’s been great to have this chat, we’ll share your company details on the post as well, and we’re excited to see the journey and the growth, so thank you very much.

Thank you for listening, and stay tuned for Episode 14, coming soon. Remember, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel for past and upcoming episodes of Talent Hub TV.

You can follow both Sadia and Peter on LinkedIn for updates and content, and if you’re interested in finding out more about Exceleris Consulting, you can visit their website here.

Talent Hub has been briefed on a number of career-enhancing opportunities recently, and so make sure you visit our Salesforce jobs page for up to date roles, and for your chance to win a trip to Dreamforce in San Francisco, which is in November of this year.

If you’d like to become involved in Talent Hub TV as a guest, we’d love to hear from you!

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