I’m currently on a plane heading to Las Vegas where I will attend FinancialForce’s CommLive event. I’ve followed the company for many years (actually, the entire time it has existed) but this is the first time I’ll be attending one of their events – apart from some of their sessions held during Salesforce‘s DreamForce conference, it’s been a distant relationship thus far.

FinancialForce is an interesting company. It has a fairly complex past, being the cloud-based creation of a strategic partnership between Dutch ERP vendor Unit4 and Salesforce. Indeed FinancialForce is the descendent of Coda2Go, but little remains from those early days – brand, direction, target customer, and technology platform have all morphed.

Today FinancialForce is firmly ensconced as a mid-market ERP vendor – the acquisitions of Less Software and Vana Workforce, as well as the strategic takeover of Appirio’s Professional Services Automation (PSA) offering have led to FinancialForce finally articulating its view that it is a fully-fledged ERP vendor, in the early days they were a little reluctant to do so and referred to themselves as a financial software vendor.

Anyway – FinancialForce has been in the news of late after some high-profile staff changes: firstly was the news that founding CEO, Jeremy Roche was moving on to parent company Unit4 and that Tod Nielsen, former platform tsar at Salesforce was taking over from him. Shortly thereafter, Fred Studer, a long-time high-caliber marketer in the enterprise space, came on board. The fact that Studer’s previous employment included a similarly high-profile stint (and a short one at that) with rival cloud ERP vendor NetSuite certainly piqued the interest of commentators.

And so we go into CommLive at an interesting time for the company, especially given that one of Studer’s first initiatives was a full-scale guerilla attack on NetSuite’s own user conference only a couple of months ago. Of course, the obvious question is whether NetSuite will launch its own counter attack, on that question we’ll have to wait for an answer, but perhaps more importantly, what does FinancialForce have in store?

Owning the Salesforce ERP story

Salesforce is, of course, an investor in FinancialForce. The product is also built on Salesforce’s platform. But they’re not the only ones. Kenandy is an ERP vendor with a storied past – its founder, Sandy Kurtzig, created one of the first software-based ERP suites around 40 years ago. The Kenandy ERP is younger than FinacnialForce, but as I covered recently, they’re slowly but surely building momentum.

FinancialForce will be well aware of this and while the two aren’t directly competitive (Kenandy is aimed at manufacturers and distributors, FinancialForce plays more in the professional services space), the fact of the matter is that they’re both ERP solutions – as such there is the inevitable battle over who is the preeminent Force.com-based ERP.

Building the global footprint

NetSuite has a strong global presence – both direct and channel-based. Their recent acquisition by Oracle and that company’s stated intention to help NetSuite scale means that the world will soon see a far stronger global story from this vendor. But FinancialForce has an opportunity – it takes a while to bed in an acquisition and FincialForce will, I am sure, use that window of opportunity to build a stronger global presence. They are, of course, somewhat limited in that they don’t have Oracle’s checkbook to do that with, so the notion of some further investment into the company to target global expansion isn’t out of the question.

Broadening the franchise

While FinancialForce is certainly justified in calling itself an ERP these days, the fact of the matter is that their addressable market is much narrower than that of NetSuite. The addition of a point-of-sale, and/or an e-commerce offering would help them compete more closely with NetSuite. it would also be a logical addition to Salesforce’s customer-focused proposition. Their global customer conference would be a wholly appropriate time to announce something like that.

MyPOV

FinancialForce is a different kind of a vendor, and I’ve enjoyed engaging with them over the years. This show sees them step up to the next level and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re going to announce.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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