As a cloud based consultant I have alway been able to work from anywhere so “Stay at Home” is not an issue. Whilst more and more software is available online, or via a VPN link, there are not many accounting systems that are truly cloud, and even fewer that are native to Salesforce. As an independent FinancialForce consultant I’m lucky to use the Salesforce platform that is constantly being upgraded and developed, as is FinancialForce. When I started as an independent consultant I badged my company “Declarative Solutions” – no code here. Now, six years on, the range of declarative Salesforce tools is massively expanded and every Salesforce release brings more fun tools to play with!
In my experience very few internal management accounts teams are aware of the degree of automation and sophistication that can be implemented for accounting systems. Spreadsheets still rule the day, as a database, as an analysis tool and as part of the operational process to produce reports. However some more enlightened finance teams simply use reports and dashboards native to Salesforce. Whilst a period end process is still required, some reports really can be real time. Imagine turning up for a board meeting with no paper, just system reports available to all board members. This really is happening now. And guess what – need the report at home? No problem as it’s a cloud based system.
A recent push from Salesforce and FinancialForce is the use of “Einstein Analytics” – a fancy name for a sophisticated reporting tool. FinancialForce are investing a lot in this area as it solves many of the accounting reporting challenges. With Einstein you can aggregate, slice and dice, dynamically filter and also drill down to source transactions. There are a variety of ways of presenting data to suit different data sets and user requirements. And it’s a pretty sexy looking UI too. This is all available in near real time from any web browser including mobiles.
About fifteen years ago as an early client I said that FinancialForce is the future of accounting. Both Salesforce and FinancialForce have improved massively since then, so I think the statement stands. In these difficult times it certainly helps to have a sophisticated “use anywhere” accounting system, easy to adapt and change to whatever challenges come next.
In my experience accountants, like me, tend to be fairly set in their ways, using tried and trusted methods and systems to do their stuff. Don’t get me started on accountants’ use of spreadsheets – they pop up everywhere!
Some of you may have noticed that we’re in the middle of an industrial revolution, with digital technology driving ever-faster innovation and increasing expectations of customer service via mobile always on internet based connectivity. There’s some amazing things happening and the pace of change is not about to slow down. Companies need to embrace digital transformation or fade away.
So what’s this got to do with accountants?
Well sooner or later even the world of accountants will massively change. The lines between front and back office systems and processes will become blurred with integrated systems enabling automated processes. This in turn will enable the ability to analyse data with ever increasing levels of sophistication to obtain deeper understanding of what drives profitability and what trends are happening in the business that can help drive actions. One day we won’t have teams of people producing paper based documents that are then processed by other teams of people…….
As a FinancialForce and Salesforce consultant I know that all of this is possible now. My clients have integrated systems that, with the minimum of human intervention, issue daily Sales Invoices to customers and process them fully coded, automatically accrue related costs and display real time profitability on executive dashboards. Need to introduce a new product or service? No problem, as the platform is flexible at pace – easy to change quickly. Got a question or an issue to investigate? All data is visible and easy to report on and is connected – so you can analyse those debits and credits by say customers in the north, or project, or project manager, or project team etc.
It doesn’t stop there either. Salesforce has recently embedded Artificial Intelligence into the platform and FinancialForce is exploring how best to use this to unlock new insights into financial performance.
So I challenge all accountants out there – how much do you know about what is possible now? How will you develop your systems, processes and way of thinking to take advantage of new technology? Are you ready?
Just passed my process Automation Superbadge on Salesforce Trailhead – up to 47 badges and 43,000 points – not far off being an Expeditioner.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about – check out Salesforce Trailhead. It’s an interactive way of learning how to do anything on Salesforce. It’s excellent training and preparation for the formal Salesforce certifications – of which there are 27 at the time of writing – and a really good way to explore the many Salesforce features. It’s also a great way of keeping up to date with new functionality as Salesforce relentlessly add new features three times a year.
Completely free plus there’s lots of support if you get stuck or need a bit of help.
Since I started Declarative Solutions Limited I have worked non stop helping clients install FinancialForce or help automate processes, create new reports and dashboards to aid transparency and generally make life better for the finance teams.
From my perspective more and more companies will understand that they have to go digital or they will loose out to competitors who do. If you decide to use Salesforce (an excellent choice) then integrating your front and back office by using FinancialForce is an obvious next step.
To get the full benefit from FinancialForce I believe you need more than a standard Financialforce install, you need to step back and understand where real value can be achieved from your investment. This is likely to be from automating processes and improving visibility of data. These things are not provided by FinancialForce as standard.
This is where Declarative Solutions can help – unleash the potential of your investment.
Just passed my Salesforce Platform App Builder certification – very happy. I continue to believe that Salesforce declarative functionality can deliver most requirements. Couple that with FinancialForce functionality and there’s all sorts of you can achieve – so much more than standard accounting software.
Last Friday (10 Feb 2017) I attended the London’s Calling Salesforce Community Event. It was a great way to meet like minded people, catch up on all things Salesforce, plus find out what Salesforce partners are up to on the App Exchange. I’m always on the lookout for partner products that will make life easier for finance teams. One App I saw might have the potential to automate attaching supplier invoices to the relevant FinancialForce Payable Invoice record – that would be awesome!
Salesforce continues to innovate at an amazing pace and one day I hope FinancialForce will further integrate their products with Wave Analytics. That would allow you to really get under the skin of your accounting transactions and allow you to analyse income and costs however you like for large volumes of data. Bring it on…
I’ve often wondered why accounting systems aren’t designed to help automate the month end process. We’ve all been there, managers screaming for month end results and you’re bogged down with complex accruals spreadsheets and reversing journals. You’re analysing a balance and all you can see is endless identical debits and credits for month end postings, masking what’s actually going on.
So wouldn’t it be great if you could tell your system when your income or cost needs to be recognised and let it figure out when to post to the profit and loss account. Well with FinancialForce Accounting and Revenue Recognition you can do just that. Simple to set up and as it’s all Salesforce based, easy to report on and modify to link to underlying records that drive income and costs. All system based with a proper audit trail that anyone (with appropriate access) can see. Get the system to tell you what makes up your deferred income balance – in real time.
And what’s more, as well as taking control of P&L postings, the system knows future postings, so it’s easy to report on e.g. future revenue.
No spreadsheets, no reconciliations, come on accountants, let your finance system do the boring stuff so you have more time for value added analysis.
If you work for an organisation that uses Salesforce, the latest version of FinancialForce accounting has a new trick that may be of interest to anyone with a desire to really understand what drives their profitability. How come? Well the clever people at FinancialForce have added the ability to link invoices (sales and purchases) to any other Salesforce object. So what? If you get this right it allows you to directly connect income and costs to whatever drives the business. The obvious example is projects, if you have a separate Salesforce object tracking projects then linking purchase and sales invoices (or journals) to a Project record gives an easy way of reporting profit by project. Not only does this remove the need to set up project codes in the accounting system (no duplication, no meaningless codes), it also allows you to report on profit by any field held in the Project object, such as Project Manager, or Client, or region or….. you get the point. Combine this with native Salesforce and/or new FinancialForce reporting, drill-down and dashboard capability and you get a rich and easy way to view and slice and dice profitability. I’ve only scratched the surface of what could be done in this post, swap Project for say Opportunity and you instantly know the profitability of each sale. I set up this kind of reporting using an earlier version of FinancialForce so I know it works, now they’ve made it really easy to implement. To my mind this is the future for accounting systems and we’ll look back and chuckle at the crude categrisation of income and costs currently used in an attempt to understand what drives profitability.
After 20 months intense work my time at the Daily Mail Group (DMG) has come to an end. I was contracted to join the project as the Solution Architect to design the solution. This was a really complex project that used a combination of Salesforce and FinancialForce to replace an existing bespoke Sales Ledger. The solution involved 13 integrations (using Talend), 3 source systems, 2 destination systems, 3 bespoke FinancialForce packages, and DMG customisation (declarative and code). I was part of a 20 strong project team, performing business analysis, development and implementation roles as well as design, as I was able to draw on my knowledge and experience of Salesforce, FinancialForce and accounting, a rare combination. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Daily Mail and look forward to the next challenge.