CIOs are under more pressure than ever before. Many IT teams spend the bulk of their time managing and maintaining multiple, disparate applications—such as CRM, PSA, and ERP systems—as well as numerous homegrown solutions.
Each of these applications has its own management, maintenance, and update/upgrade cycles, as well as its own security and data privacy issues and requirements.
IT is responsible for managing data across all these systems and keeping them synchronized. Trying to maintain a single source of truth is time-consuming and, in many cases, impossible. Plus, IT is expected to innovate and add measurable business value—at a time when IT budgets (especially for routine maintenance) are shrinking. In fact, IT costs, not including full-time salaries, represent on average just 2 percent of professional services company expenses.1
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A better way: Unified infrastructure
To address these challenges, CIOs are seeking to connect all their data and applications, creating a unified information infrastructure and one company-wide source of truth. A unified infrastructure provides your people with a single, real-time, 360-degree view of all your customers and business activities. It also lets you automate the project lifecycle from sales and service delivery to invoicing, billing, and revenue recognition.
Most experts believe this is the right path. According to Service Performance Insight (SPI), a global research and consulting firm that helps professional services companies become more profitable, integration between CRM, PSA, and core financials is “an essential ingredient in superlative performance.”2 But connecting applications that run on different databases and older technologies isn’t easy. Systems integration is time-consuming and expensive. Plus, with some legacy systems, you may not be able to use modern APIs, so you end up requiring batch processes to get the data you need. Moreover, older legacy systems may also be difficult to secure, especially as they reach end of life.
1. The Salesforce platform:
A proven path to unified infrastructure
A growing number of professional services CIOs are adopting the Salesforce platform to unify their infrastructure. Using a single database model, it is a cloud-based platform that is designed to deliver a “single source of truth” and actionable insights while complying with modern security and privacy standards.
The Salesforce platform is much more than just CRM. It can support your business from order to delivery to cash or lead to ledger, and it can unify your front and back ends using Salesforce-native applications built by FinancialForce. With accounting, PSA, revenue recognition, and other tools built on the Salesforce platform, you can automate virtually all professional services workflows. This ebook looks at five benefits of running your professional services business on the Salesforce platform.
The Salesforce platform is a unified infrastructure built to support your entire professional services organization.
Get a single view of your customer and projects across your organization
As CIO, one of your most critical responsibilities is your organization’s data. Everyone needs data to do their jobs. Ideally, that data should include a 360-degree view of your customers and projects and be accessible in real time. Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate your current data model:
- Does your team get a lot of requests to “pull data” for reports?
- Does your team spend a lot of time synchronizing data across multiple legacy platforms?
- Does your team work with spreadsheets?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you probably do not have a unified data model.
With a unified data model, everyone wins —
not just IT.
With a unified data model, you can offer self-service reporting, enabling everyone in your organization to find the information they need when they need it without calling IT:
- C-suite executives can see which customer relationships and project types are most profitable at a glance—and get all the reports they need in real time.
- Service delivery leaders can identify the resources they need well before projects begin—and make better long-term staffing, training, and recruiting decisions.
- Sales teams can spot opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell—and get visibility into the current project queue.
- Customer-facing project teams can know everything they need to know about their customers and address any issue, from a questionable invoice to project schedules.
- Finance teams can get a real-time view of project pipeline, know when projects are ready to bill, and properly recognize revenue following the latest requirements of ASC 606 and IFRS 15.
With a single database spanning all your applications, your people get the data they need in real time so they can make the right decisions at the right time. As a bonus, by not having to spend time synchronizing data, IT can instead focus on driving additional projects to support business needs.
Don’t have a unified data model?
You’re not alone.
While most businesses have automated one or more critical functions—e.g. CRM, service delivery, finance—very few have automated and integrated all their systems. For example, the 2019 Professional Services MaturityTM Benchmark report from SPI suggests that just 47 percent of professional services firms have a business intelligence system.3
This means more than half of professional services firms may rely on spreadsheets and custom applications to get a complete view of their business, which doesn’t allow for real-time delivery of information and can lead to poor, misinformed decisions.
2. The Salesforce platform: A single source of truth for your data
The Salesforce platform offers a single source of data for multiple solutions, including Salesforce CRM, FinancialForce ERP, and FinancialForce PSA. The master customer record is shared across all your applications in real-time to provide a single view of your customers. This means all teams can see reliable, real-time customer activity in one place.
If your organization does not have a unified data model or a unified view of customers and projects, you could benefit from the increased visibility and insights you can get from running your professional services organization on the Salesforce platform.
Invest in systems and processes that scale with your business
Every professional services firm wants to grow. But growth can’t happen without the ability to scale your systems and infrastructure to support new services and/or a dramatic increase in customers and projects. You need to quickly increase processing power and add users as your workload and teams and expand.
But scalability is more than just doing the same things with more people and projects. Your infrastructure should evolve to make work and collaboration across teams more efficient as you grow. It should also help consultants and sales reps to be more productive when they’re on the road.
Don’t scale up inefficiencies
Scaling up your existing applications can help you grow—to an extent. However, if your existing systems are disconnected, simply scaling up each application and platform will exacerbate existing inefficiencies. If data must be manually moved between two systems, you’ll have to do even more manual data management as you grow. If you need to run batch processes to run reports for the executive team, how much longer will those batch processes take when you double or triple in size? You need to ensure your platform can scale in a way that makes your business more efficient as it grows.
With multiple solutions leveraging the same master customer record, on the other hand, you can make cross-functional processes much more efficient. Handoffs between sales and service delivery become seamless. Finance knows exactly when projects are ready to bill. And executives can access company-wide performance data in real time.
The cloud is more secure
Many professional services firms invested in on-premises infrastructure because they believed it would be more secure. But the cloud no longer poses the same risks it once did. According to Gartner, through 2022, at least 95% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault.5
If you still run your critical software on-premises, you should consider how quickly you could scale and compare the cost of scaling with a cloud-based model.
Remember to support mobile workers
Most professional services firms let their employees access email on their smartphones and connect to a company network via a VPN from their laptops. But many CIOs report their people, from the C-suite on down, want more. Nearly half of 1,000 full-time employees surveyed by Clutch, a B2B research firm, already access proprietary company apps on their mobile devices.6
With legacy platforms, you may not be able to deliver secure mobile access. A unified platform with a single data repository makes it easier to provide authorized users with access to critical applications from any device.
3. The Salesforce platform:
Multiple dimensions of scalability
With the Salesforce platform, you can scale more easily than if you are relying on multiple standalone, on-premise, and/or partially integrated solutions.
Built in the cloud, it is more scalable, less costly, and more secure than most on-premises options. In fact, in 2018 the Salesforce platform powered nearly two trillion business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions for their over 150,000 customers.
Additionally, all your FinancialForce applications work seamlessly with each other and with Salesforce solutions, such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud. This means that, instead of relying on batch processing or manual data transfers between applications, you can easily automate cross- functional processes across the unified platform. Plus, employees can securely access critical functions from their mobile devices—and get more done.
Customize your systems to match the way your business runs
When deciding how much to customize critical applications, IT must balance the need for out-of-the-box functionality, the unique requirements of your business, and the cost of maintenance and upgrades. Ideally, your critical systems should allow configuration using low-code or no-code tools. And they should be flexible enough that you can add new features and functionality without complicating updates and upgrades.
Make customizations without code
Traditional customization usually requires a specification, which is developed in partnership with business users, and code. But this approach can be expensive and time-consuming. When you customize legacy systems, you may have to build standalone modules and connect them with complex integrations, which can dramatically increase the time and cost required for updates, upgrades, and other maintenance.
Low- and no-code tools allow developers to add customizations in less time and with less training while supporting more simplified updates and upgrades. These tools are a somewhat recent phenomenon, with the vast majority of legacy systems not supporting newer, cloud-based options.
Is your platform developer-friendly?
Of course, sometimes you need to add code to help your systems support the unique needs of your business. In that case, your platform should provide access to code, allowing you to create new objects or adjust existing ones. You should also be able to make changes and continue to receive regular functional and security updates as well as support.
4. The Salesforce platform:
Customization and security made easy
The Salesforce platform supports no-code and low-code development. The Lightning App Builder lets you drag and drop components to build simple applications, and you can also build multi-step processes and even complex workflows. And the solutions you develop can be securely accessed via both desktop and mobile devices.
Moreover, because Salesforce-native apps from FinancialForce are built using Salesforce objects, experienced developers can work with both solutions without additional training.
From the Salesforce administration panel, you can define users’ roles and access to data, turn functions on and off, and further customize the end user experience. The FinancialForce and Salesforce administration panels are very similar. If you already run Salesforce, adding Salesforce- native applications means your existing system administrators will need little to no additional training. Plus, the FinancialForce administration panel gives you granular control over data access. You can specify access by role, table, or field, granting employees access to only the information they need, when they need it.
Empower executives to make data-centric decisions
To make good decisions, C-suite executives need to first understand company-wide performance. To this end, many professional services firms charge IT with making sure business analysts have everything they need to generate critical reports. This is often a time-consuming job that may include batch or manual processing because data must be exported, normalized, consolidated, and aggregated from multiple systems. In some cases, IT builds custom applications that will generate these reports automatically—and all of these applications must be managed and secured. But without a unified data model, it can be difficult and time-consuming to generate and deliver these reports when executives need them.
Do your reports offer the level of analysis your executives need?
Professional services leaders require comprehensive reports based on company-wide, multidisciplinary data. Ideally, these reports should be available out of the box without requiring custom development. Reports should look at multiple measures of business health, including:
- Resource utilization, allocation, and availability
- Profitability of regions, lines of business, project types, customers, and more
- Project backlog, status, and profitability
- Financial forecasts, including income backlog and deferred revenues
- Technology costs, including capital expenditures, maintenance and operations, and ROI
- Work breakdown structure and project tasks
Smarter reporting with unified data
The Salesforce platform can deliver better and faster reporting than relying on multiple, disparate systems and unreliable integrations. It includes FinancialForce Financial Management and PSA Analytics, which are powered by Salesforce Einstein. Features include out-of-the-box dashboard reports and easy-to-personalize drill-down analysis. They also use Salesforce Lightning to offer modern dashboards and the ability to more easily share and collaborate.
With the Salesforce platform, IT will spend significantly less time aggregating data and coding custom reports, and can spend more time supporting new projects and driving business opportunity and growth.
The Salesforce platform:
A modern approach to security
Salesforce undergoes comprehensive privacy and security assessments and has achieved certifications from multiple auditors and certifying bodies. Native Salesforce applications from FinancialForce are protected by the security controls designed and implemented by Salesforce.
When you rely on the Salesforce platform instead of many disconnected systems, you dramatically simplify security management while helping your business become more secure. If you’re trying to secure many different legacy applications and data sources or struggling to comply with evolving standards, the Salesforce platform can save you time and help make your whole environment more secure.
Secure your projects and customer data
Professional services companies hold highly valuable and sensitive information, which makes them an attractive target for data breaches. According to the Ponemon Group, the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $8 million.6
As CIO, security must be at the top of your agenda. But securing an environment built on legacy technologies can be challenging and expensive. Securing more systems means more patches and more administrative overhead. Plus, legacy technology is especially vulnerable to breaches. A modern security framework can help you secure your applications with significantly less time and effort.
How many different security procedures do you manage?
The more disparate systems you run, the more security procedures your team must manage. Every platform and OS must be regularly patched and updated, and every database must be secured. Also, a growing number of employees now access company email and data from their smartphones, creating hundreds or even thousands of new endpoints you must protect and manage.
Generally speaking, the more procedures, applications, and devices under your purview, the greater the chance for error and the higher the likelihood of data breach or loss.
Does your data security comply with industry standards?
Security standards are constantly evolving to keep up with emerging threats. Depending on your industry, you may have to comply with multiple security and data privacy standards. Examples include GDPR, ISO 27001/27017/27018, PCI DSS, FedRamp, SOC 1, and SOC 2.
Ensuring disparate systems comply with the latest standards is a major challenge. If you have multiple legacy systems and data platforms, your team may have to spend extra time and money to make sure they’re compliant. Additionally, once legacy systems or OS versions reach end of life, you may be solely responsible for managing and maintaining them, which can make certifying compliance even harder and more expensive. Utilize the Salesforce platform’s extensive industry certifications to help secure your data and manage who has access to it, when and where.
By connecting your front office CRM solution with your back office FinancialForce applications, the Salesforce platform allows you to eliminate costly, time-consuming, and manual processes while automating and streamlining your entire professional services business. When you switch to the Salesforce platform, you can:
- Access data and C-suite reports in real time to help make better decisions
- Automate the entire project lifecycle from sales to service delivery to billing
- Eliminate numerous custom applications and spreadsheets
- Reduce security risk
- Cut operations, maintenance, and legacy licensing costs
- Avoid roadblocks related to scalability or security
- Ensure you can hire and retain top talent
- Help your organization close more deals, work more efficiently, and grow
1. MGI Research, Modernizing Quote to Cash Webinar, June 24, 2019.
2. 2019 CFO Survey Report, Grant Thornton LLC & CFO Research.
3. Smarter Order to Cash Processes, Genpact
4. “Beyond 606 compliance Automate revenue recognition, improve operations, reduce risk and realize greater value,” PwC, June 2018.