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FinancialForce's Fred Studer: To grow in the economy of services, you can not just pack and sell products

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Earlier this week, I attended Community Live 2018, the annual user conference set up by FinancialForce, an ERP cloud solution and Professional Service Automation (PSA) native to the Salesforce platform. One of the key points to remember is the speech of Tod Nielsen, CEO of FinancialForce, when he developed the famous saying of Marc Andreessen: "The software eats the world" by saying that the services will devour the galaxy.

Along with the company's marketing director, Fred Studer, the importance of services comes back. Struder explained why the company believes that a service-based business model is needed to succeed today, and why FinancialForce is calling a customer-centric ERP company.

Here is a transcript of our conversation. To listen to the entire interview, watch the video below or click on the built-in SoundCloud player.

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Give us some of your personal experience.

Fred Studer : I have been working at FinancialForce for almost a year and a half now Brent and obviously I come with a lot of experience around the ERP. In fact, I started in financial systems, both as a qualified accountant, I studied accounting and finance. Started building financial systems, billing systems in the early 90's. And then I got snapped up by the awesome software house now known as Oracle. I spent about 12 years there, and I really learned how these products really are meant to generate value for customers.

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I went to the Microsoft Office business for about five years, and then for the last four years, before leaving Microsoft, I headed the Dynamics company. I've spent time working with Tod, and with our management team at FinancialForce, but my role and personality is to spend time with customers and make the most of these products.

Small Business Trends: One of the things that has happened to me is that you are presenting yourself as a customer centric ERP company. Talk about what it really means.

Fred Studer : You know, there are two words we use that you very rarely hear in the same sentence with ERP. One is flexible. Nobody ever says flexible in ERP. This is a kind of antithetical conversation in which we will enter. But the other is customer, because ERP has classically as we have been really focused on cost management, the back office, the more distant process types of a customer . But, as you know, we really started as ISV for Salesforce, really trying to help its customers find a better way to build processes and help them to have visibility on the business. 39, all of the customer transaction. process

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And just by building we just had a really different bias, and it started with being built natively in Salesforce. But I think it's a move we've created and I hate to compare, but if you look at some of the larger companies, I think Workday has done a good job with PeopleSoft. But they build from the point of view of employees, 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, just like the companies in the places I've worked, like Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics.

They focused on the products, manufacturing companies, retail businesses that our product is really the core. And I think these are great things to focus on. But FinancialForce is different. We really come from a concentration perspective on the customer, and really scramble the lines between the front office and the back office.

One of the things Tod Nielsen will talk about this week is to free the back office and try to take a different pivot. Even as a CFO, rather than focusing on costs, and that sort of thing. Focus on the business figure and growth. And we think we have a very good message out there, and a lot of customers are really taking advantage of that position.

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Small Business Trends: Back in New York a few months ago, during the grand opening of your office, a totally cool office …

Fred Studer : This was a fun event. Yes, thank you for coming.

Small Business Trends: During Tod's presentation, he said something. I remember tweeting about it. I think it's Mark Andreessen who said that the software will eat the world, or that it is eating the world. But then Tod raised the bar and said that services will devour the galaxy. Maybe you could talk about what he meant with that.

Fred Studer : Well, congratulations, because you totally nailed it. That's exactly what Tod talks about. And as you must know Tod, he is a bit of a technology prophet, and what he was really trying to encapsulate, was the fact that these trends continue to hit us. And clearly the software was this thing. And now everyone is positioned to generate revenue, and what they do to capture that, is that they have to think about the consumption pattern of their businesses. And in fact, what we are talking about, and it's something that Tod and Dan [Brown – Chief Product Officer] and I really think a lot, is that to really stimulate growth in the current economy, and really all that goes from the front, you have to become agnostic to the consumer.

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So, when we talk about services that devour the galaxy, it is really about describing this new configuration that companies must think of their buyer in any case. It does not sell anymore. You can not just pack your product and just sell it for a price. You must be agnostic about both how you help them buy and consume, and then specifically about how you charge and then collect for it.

And now, with things like revenue recognition, from the offer to the market, through the sale of a service or product in a model based on utility or value. And then successfully billing for this is critical only to be compliant with the regulations around revenue recognition.

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We therefore like this notion of a new service economy. And while there is a lot of work to do there, we think it's just a very good pivot for companies to think about how they might consider growing up in this new world.


Small Business Trends: Where are the companies in terms of say it's a baseball game. How are we in this transition right now?

Fred Studer : This is a very good question, and obviously you and some of our very close colleagues love the world of baseball. I would say, if I had to call it, I think we are in the bottom of the third right now. The reason I say this is that we still have time to go to stretching. But we know who is pitching, we know what is the dynamics of the game. But now, the whole game is to think strategically about the sleeves we have left.

So, I think a lot of customers should specifically not think so much about how they started this game. But really, how did they really think strategically about the audience that they have to compel, and really do their best, with the resources they have to cope with this growth.

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Small Business Trends: So, what do you want people to do with this event? Bring home and put it into play.

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Fred Studer : Of course, one is that it is not your grandfather 's FinancialForce. And even if we are nine, in the world of football, it's a long time. But having joined Tod, we have a new vigor. We have a new tenacity, we have taken a new step, and I think what we hope people see is that we are in this new service economy. All they can do to stimulate growth and be agile. To drive agility in revenue models. Provide their services more dynamically, whether it is a refurbished product or people as services.

And the more visibility there is, even with business signals, the more successful they will be in growth. And really we call this the concept of unlimited business. But I hope they see FinancialForce is a big player in this market. And that they give us a chance to talk about how we can bring them value.

Small Business Trends: All right, so I know you have to go back to work. You have a show to put in place, but where will people learn about some of the things that will happen here, but usually by FinancialForce.

Fred Studer : Of course, I would start with We have a lot of interesting content. But also, you can search a lot of the things we have on about this new approach.

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This is part of the series of face-to-face interviews with opinion leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the built-in player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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