FinancialForce Community Live 2017 – Thoughts from our biggest conference yet
Community Live 2017 has come to end and what an amazing 3 days! Everything about it was hot – the insight, the training, the networking, the energy and yes, the temperature. Community Live 2017 played host to the warmest Las Vegas day in 42 years. This is the LARGEST event we have hosted in FinancialForce’s history, with over 700 customers, prospects, analysts, press, livestream attendees (for the first time) and more. It was held at Caesars Palace and sponsored by Titanium sponsor Salesforce, Diamond sponsor Icon and a host of valued partners.
Day One: Training, Partners, and Leslie Odom Jr.
What better way to kick off a user conference than to dive right in with 8 tracks of training sessions. We wanted you nice and fresh! Customers brought their laptops and followed exercises set by an instructor aimed at honing their FinancialForce skills. Sessions included Accounting Academy Lite, PSA Academy Lite, PSA V16 new release training and Ninja Reporting.
In another FinancialForce first, Tod Nielsen, FinancialForce President and CEO, welcomed partners to our Community Live Partner Summit. The Partner Summit featured a Fireside Chat with company leaders, Susie Sedlacek, Johnny Ola, Chris Lee and Kevin McKay.
Later came the moment everyone had been waiting for as Leslie Odom Jr. took to the stage. He talked about his rise to stardom from a young boy stealing the limelight on the school stage in kindergarten to at the age of just 17, landing a role in the Broadway production of RENT. He shared about his life-altering decision to quit his job on NBC’s show State of Affairs to follow his dream of being a Broadway actor, taking a risk on the then little-known stage show Hamilton. He shared how he had considered quitting acting altogether shortly before being cast in Hamilton but was given some advice that would change his life – try before you quit. From that moment on he has never looked back. His self-belief was truly awe inspiring.
Then wow, he hit us with that voice, enthralling conference attendees with his performance of three songs from the hit musical. Four lucky attendees were surprised with tickets to the show in either New York or San Francisco.
Day Two: Powerful Keynotes, Thrive at Speed in New Services Economy, See it in action
Tuesday’s opening keynote was live streamed for the first time in FinancialForce history to over 100 people across the globe making a total audience of close to 1000. Opened by Fred Studer, CMO, who thanked the event sponsors including Salesforce, the Titanium sponsor, he went on to talk about our vision for the next 18 – 24 months and where we are investing and growing to drive differentiation.
Fred then welcomed Tod Nielsen, CEO, to the stage. Tod began by sharing that he had started his career in software some time ago and said ‘I’ve been swimming in the deep end of the pool ever since’. FinancialForce is his first foray into the application world, however. The main focus of his keynote was about the fast pace of change – and how taking advantage of the cloud and new architectures has brought us to an amazing point of innovation. Now services are devouring the galaxy. Does anyone remember an answering machine? Speed is the new currency, best summed up by the fact that Netflix has 30% of the bandwidth on the internet today.
Tod talked about an email server he built in his bathroom in 1996, nantucket.net, and the problems of maintaining the server. He soon realized, there had to be a better way. From boxes to clouds…This new phase is the new services economy. We are busting the myth that owning stuff makes more sense. Now, products and services are blurring and more and more companies are relying on revenue from services.
Tod continued, by integrating ERP systems connections become more important. Could you live for a month on services and a credit card alone? Probably. Key to this is that success in software is a team sport – we need to adapt and work closely with customers.
So what does this mean for the conference? We need to be transparent with customers on our vision and roadmaps to bring about the ERP of the future and that’s exactly what we want to do in the many breakout sessions on offer. Customers will get some of the vision and development going on around our products to help them achieve the three new pillars of ERP.
- Business model agility
- Time and talent optimization
- Predictive insights
Mike Rosenbaum, EVP, CRM Applications at Salesforce, then came up on stage to talk about the value that ISV apps bring to the platform. “It’s amazing to see at events like this, what the ecosystem has become 10 years in. Services businesses have to be more customer centric and run better if everything is connected. The power of the cloud business model is the value add to products that can be accessed by customers in real time. Economies of scale in the ecosystem mean that upgrading is becoming more seamless and all customers should be taking advantage of the latest functionality.”
Fred Studer came back up to talk about some of the insights we are seeing in our customer data – closing the books more often, logging time cards quicker, DSO reducing, customers are saving money on audits. Looking at our product portfolio, how do we help customers adapt to the new business model and drive value? Fred announced a strategic partnership with leading Payroll provider ADP and brought David Imbrogno of ADP on stage to talk about the details of the partnership and what it will mean for FinancialForce customers.
Fred then talked about the capabilities in FinancialForce’s latest releases and transition deadlines to the new revenue recognition standards, and how we’ll help customers get there. He invited Steve Goldt, VP Solution Engineering at FinancialForce, on stage to demo some of this new functionality.
Sessions continued after the keynote with six tracks featuring FinancialForce customers and experts showcasing best practices and new functionality across the suite of applications. Throughout the day, the Expo was buzzing with customers talking with sponsors and visiting the demo and Community booths to get their questions answered.
After all that, what better way to wind down and enjoy the bright lights of Vegas than at a rooftop party at Drai’s nightclub, complete with pool, which in this heat, was very inviting.
Day Three: Thought Leaders, Diversity, Tiffani Bova and Geoffrey Moore
Day three kicked off with a diversity and inclusion breakfast. Tiffani Bova, Salesforce Evangelist, discussed what diversity means to her followed by key members of the FinancialForce leadership team, who discussed how we make it part of everyday life at FinancialForce.
Customers then attended a Thought Leaders General Session featuring Tiffani Bova and Geoffrey Moore, best-selling author, who discussed some of the themes introduced by Tod Nielsen in yesterday’s opening keynote including speed being the new currency and how technology is changing to keep up with that. Tiffani joked “when my Fitbit is able to lock my fridge, I am out”. Geoffrey predicted that AI will be the big topic for some time to come.
Joe Fuca, President Worldwide Field Operations, joined them on stage to talk about changes to our customer-focused organization, and introduced an ‘Insights from the Experts’ customer panel including HPE, Cisco and Sirius, who discussed their experiences with FinancialForce products and how as services organizations, they are leveraging them to facilitate change and growth.
Winners of the fifth annual 360 Customer and Partner Excellence Awards, recognizing outstanding customer achievements across all FinancialForce solution lines, were then recognized on stage. New to the awards program this year were two prestigious partner excellence awards for both System Integrators and ISVs. Congratulations to all of our winners.
Community Live goers then attended more breakout sessions covering topics including How Can the Platform Supercharge Productivity, PSA Reporting and Getting the Most Out of Community.
In the closing keynote, Fred Studer was joined on stage by a panel of analysts to talk about digital transformation and the impact on today’s organizations. The discussion points were lively! We have seen the end of siloed operations and the move to flexible platforms. CEOs main concerns are revenue and growth which is not helped by the move to the services economy. Customer churn is a huge issue for them. In a services-based world, companies have to earn their revenue every day and recurring revenue is key to survival.
The predictability provided by services helps this. CFOs have gone from scorekeeper to coach – they can understand real-time analysis and discuss what needs to happen to achieve their goals. CFOs are therefore more strategic in understanding metrics that provide long-term value. Takeaway advice for people running services organizations – you need a technology platform and provider that understands your business and can help get you to where you want to go.
The last panel of the day covered Revenue Recognition and successfully managing the impact of ASC 606. On stage were customers CenturyLink, Liquidhub, LRW and also Price Waterhouse Coopers to discuss how public and private companies should be preparing for the new Revenue Recognition standard.
As the light fades on Las Vegas, some final thoughts on what has truly been our best Community Live event yet. And of course, those final thoughts should come from our customers. From the many that I have spoken to over the three days, they have learned a lot, been wowed by the great content, and made a lot of great new connections to boot – all benefits that will last way beyond Vegas. See you next year.