As part of the recent DreamForce conference. FinancialForce decided to take a novel approach towards educating the marketplace and used the approach taken by Eliyahu Goldratt in his management book The Goal. FinancialForce commissioned a book called The Deal which, in the form of a novella, articulates the value of a move from disconnected, on-premise systems to connected, integrated and cloud-based approaches.

I was asked to provide a review for the book and summed up my thoughts by saying that the book captures the fundamentals of cloud computing in an engaging and entertaining way. It’s not a heavy tome, but is worth a quick read. It can be downloaded here. Anyway, enough about the book, on to some customer stories.

Recently I spent an hour or so talking to a large software house in New Zealand that is evaluating ERP options, both on-premise and cloud. The execs I spoke with admitted a real fear about moving to the cloud, largely due to some horrendously negative blog posts they’d seen. While this brings up the very real issue of bloggers influence, and an obligation to ensure we’re balanced and reasonable, it also made me inclined to write about some customer case studies – where cloud risks had been identified but a move to the cloud had still been made.

While at DreamForce I attended a FinancialForce executive briefing that, refreshingly, was dominated by discussions with two FinancialForce customers, Nimbus and DenMat. Lucy Mills from Nimbus (a process management service provider) and Jonathan Green from DenMat (a dental products company) talked about their experience with both salesforce as a CRM, as a platform and FinancialForce as a financial application.

Denmat admitted, to some hilarity among those present, that it had been using 20 year old technology via an AS/400 to run its operation – as would be expected from a system built before the internet even existed, it was a completely disconnected system and meant that sales and order processes were batched and sent for processing. Sales staff would use completely manual process to enter sales orders – resulting in inefficiencies and mistakes. The launching of a new product offering led to a requirement for a full service payment gateway, able to handle 35000 transactions per month – this was enabled within 60 days on FinancialForce. Interestingly enough, and in keeping with feedback I’m hearing from customers, the salesforce package wasn’t the cheapest alternative (Denmat looked at several other systems) rather the flexibility that brought was the deciding factor.

The second customer to speak was NimBus, a software house providing services and a BPM system. Lucy Mills, Product Manager for Nimbus recounted how beneficial a cloud solution had been for her, living as she does in a rural area recently hit by a major snow storm. Mills told how busy continuity was not affected by the storm, having software accessible online meant that people could just carry on with their tasks. NimBus formerly used Sage for finances but was an existing salesforce customer. When looking at their ERZP options, they were limited to retaining Sage, building something in house, of going with FinancialForce.

The deciding factors that swayed them towards FinancialForce were, in Mills words, business continuity aspects, the rapid development of new functionality and the ability to customize the roll out of new features. Mills was very complementary of the ability to map processes within FinancialForce to the systems used by NimBus and reported that one process that had previously taken 45 minutes to complete is now down to 2 minutes. Mills is still concerned about the risks of significant outages, one of the flip side of software dependent on the internet but, in a balanced decision, has decided that the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.

While DreamForce was, of course, a salesforce event and as such the customers chose to speak about FinancialForce can be expected to be very positive, it was refreshing to hear from both Denmat and Nimbus and, in particular, hear how they’d assessed and analyzed the risks and still determined that a move to the cloud was the right thing to do. While an unabashed cloud proponent, I’m also a realist, as such I’ll be the first to admit that cloud introduces its own particular risks. It’s only through open discussion and analysis of these risks that the path through this technology shift can be navigated.

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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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