Nicely timed to coincide with next week’s DreamForce conference comes the summer 2012 release from FinancialForce, the cloud accounting company that is both part owned by Salesforce, and built upon the platform. While product announcements tend to be a little ho-hum, this one is interesting since it comes from a company that is do its utmost to build relevance even though its parent company is somewhat moving away from the FinancialForce target customer of mid-sized businesses. At the same time as Salesforce moves up the food pyramid, it builds strong relationships with companies like Workday who, over time, will offer the financial functionality that FinancialForce does, albeit to larger sized organizations.

Key changes in this version focus around more strongly tying the financial aspects of an organizations operation to other areas – case in point customer support where FinancialForce is reacting to what they see as a move from pure customer support to enablement, and a corresponding introduction of monetized services through the customer support function. FinancialForce has built out functionality tied to the Service Cloud product to allow service agent initiated revenue;

  • Case-to-invoice: charge for a logged case based on a fixed fee or based on hours recorded against a case.
  • Case-to-credit: enables a customer service rep to initiate a credit memo directly from Service Cloud to immediately address and resolve customer complaints.
  • Case-to-project: allows a service rep to initiate a new consulting engagement or project in FinancialForce PSA when the scope of a case goes beyond standard support

At a macro level – this is a good example of strongly tying together formerly disconnected business units. It makes Salesforce’s Service Cloud product more sticky, and gives FinancialForce a potential entry into new customer sites – mutual benefit at work. Another example of this strong tying together of disparate systems is giving an organization a stronger view of customer insights from a financial perspective. Within the CRM, FinancialForce is allowing the customer service rep to see credit and payment histories for individual customers – in this way FinancialForce believes it is selling organizations on a more engaged salesforce, and an ability to customize the engagement (and hence achieve more revenue) by delivering insights related to buying and spending histories.

This tying together is particularly interesting given a few other product developments that seem to be trending – we’ve seen ERP players more strongly offer revenue lifecycle products – in particular NetSuite strongly signaled this intention earlier in the year at their SuiteWorld event when they announced their subscription and billing services. Similarly Zuora, the billing and subscription vendor who have been recently messaging the predicted demise of ERP, crushed by more finely grained, and externally integrated offerings such as their own. FinancialForce is obviously sensing this change in tone and starting to build out the notion of a loosely coupled set of solutions that deliver a customer’s needs better than a suite product.

Finally FinancialForce is introducing a community element that is envisaged as a central meeting place for their customers. It is a tool set that is embedded within FinancialForce applications and allows users to log cases, self-service and suggest product enhancements. As FinancialForce grows, it’s an awesome way to reduce the cost of support for customers which in itself is beneficial. It’s also however a great way to build the stickiness of a product that suffers the fate of all financial applications – being seen as boring.

FinancialForce has a history of slowly and steadily working away at its product offering. It’s a somewhat invisible player – in equal measures helped and hampered by its high profile shareholder, salesforce. Regardless of its market visibility, FinancialForce has a loyal and committed group of customers. These deep integrations with aligned functions will only increase that loyalty.

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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