Announcer 1: This is The ERP Advisor.
Announcer 2: The ERP Advisor’s overview of Salesforce App Exchange.
Juliette: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us today. This summer ERP Advisors Group spotlighted the most prominent vendors in the ERP software market, and we are continuing with this series. We'll be discussing Salesforce App Exchange, their offerings, and providing key insights into our experiences with these vendors. Shawn Windle is my guest today. Welcome, Shawn.
Shawn: Thank you as always.
Juliette: Thanks for joining.
Shawn: It's good to see you.
Juliette: Yeah, we have a new setup, it's kind of fun, a little different.
Shawn: I know it's cool, we've come a long way from the conference phone of “is this thing on, is this on?”
Juliette: That's exactly right, exactly right. I know I love it. So, you truly know about the ERP offerings within the Salesforce.com app, right? I've always known Salesforce simply as the CRM application.
Shawn: So, let's go in.
Juliette: Right, but what should we know about the Salesforce App Exchange, and what are the major ERP offerings on this platform? Can you share a little bit about that with us?
Shawn: Yeah, it's a good question and fortunately we were able to attend the Salesforce Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, which was super cool. I hadn't been back to the city in a long time, so that was really great. I went to school out there, my dad lives in San Francisco, and I went to a place called Fort Funston. Here's a little fun fact. On the West side of San Francisco, where the coast is, there’re cliffs.
Juliette: Oh interesting, I've never heard of it.
Shawn: There are these huge cliffs and. There was like a park that my dad and I used to go to when I was just a kid, so I got to stop by and check it out, and it was really just great to be in San Francisco. I love that city, a little different. Things are definitely a little different now, but it was good, and the conference was great. Salesforce put on a good, very informative conference, plus they had the Red-Hot Chili Peppers, which was pretty cool.
Juliette: Oh fun. And it's a big conference, right? Like it takes over that city?
Shawn: Tons, tons and tons of people usually, but it was a little smaller than pre-Covid.
Shawn: It was a little bit of an experiment frankly. I'm getting way off-topic now, but it makes it kind of fun. But it was good to have everybody safe. There were tons of hand sanitizers, and you could tell people were cognizant of the new world we're in.
Shawn: But there was a lot of interaction, a lot of communication, I met a ton of great people, and had a good time with some of the Salesforce team, which was very helpful. It was really interesting to observe that these ERP applications built on the Salesforce platform used to be called force.com. And it’s now referred to as lightning--as I look to Rebekah, that's what we realized. You think about big enterprise applications, whether it's SAP or Oracle, or Salesforce, and you basically have to build the tools in order to build the apps. With all of those tools they've basically created this layer of application development framework, you could think about it that way.
From tools and workflow, user interface creation, custom objects, or even just objects in the database layer with business logic, etc. There's all this stuff that apps people care about to then build applications from there. There’re three vendors we're going to talk about today that really stood out to me at the conference: Financial Force, Rootstock, and Accounting Seed. They’re basically ERP applications but just built on the same platform that Salesforce’s Sales Cloud or Service Cloud apps are built on. It's the same platform, and there're benefits to being on the same platform for sure. There's a lot more to it, but does it make sense where these guys fit in?
Juliette: Yep, on a high level, well now let's focus on FinancialForce. You mentioned them.
Shawn: Let's do it.
Juliette: So, in more detail what does Financial Force offer their clients?
Shawn: So Financial Force is probably the bigger of the ERP solutions. This is where I look to the camera and tell people to correct us.
Shawn: Please correct us if that's not quite right. In our own research, when we looked at when these firms were founded, the amount of capital that they've received, the backing, the number of employees, number of customers, and all that stuff, it looked like Financial Force really does end up near kind of the top of that list of the three.
Juliette: Is it the biggest of the three?
Shawn: Yes, it is, that's right. It’s been in business since about 2009, headquartered in San Francisco, and the interesting thing with Financial Force was there were multiple investors, of course, but one of the investors was Salesforce Ventures. So, Salesforce, as you can imagine, has done very, very well. They're not just in the enterprise software industry of selling apps, they sell our framework, they sell a development kit called force.com. They are also in the real estate business, so if you if you're in San Francisco, there's a new tower, it's been there for a bit.
Juliette: Right, right
Shawn: It's the Salesforce Tower.
Juliette: I've seen it.
Shawn: Actually, here in Denver they have their logo up on a building I started working in in 1996, but that might just be a logo. I'm not saying they own that building. But they own the one in San Francisco, as I understand it. They’re in the real estate business well, they're also in the venture capital or private equity business too. They've set aside money to invest in different solutions. Salesforce Ventures, along with Unit 4, whom we've talked about a lot right this summer, came together with other investors in 2009 to found Financial Force.
Shawn: Yeah, so you had some ERP people, some Salesforce people come together to start the business, so it's been around for a while. It's not that long, is it? Does that mean we're really old? Yeah.
Juliette: Maybe it might, yes.
Shawn: Anyway, it's really grown; they have about 750 employees and they've got over 1000 customers, even globally I believe. They've really worked through a lot of the startup kind of issues and code, and we've reviewed them over the years, and they're in a really good position in the marketplace right now. They’ve also homed in on a couple of industries, we can talk about that too, but that's a little bit on Financial Force for us.
Juliette: Yeah, so now let me ask you about this, I didn't know that Unit 4 came together with Salesforce, but Financial Force is associated with Salesforce, or are they also associated with Unit 4 because I've never seen Unit 4 and Financial Force in the same sentence, so how does that work out?
Shawn: Well, you have to think about it like, uhm—how do you think about this that's a good question.
Juliette: Well, was Unit 4 like the quiet money behind it or what?
Shawn: As well as Salesforce Ventures.
Juliette: Oh interesting, ok.
Shawn: So, these are big companies Unit 4, Salesforce, and like I said they're in the enterprise application space, but they also have money that they invest in early-stage technologies. Rebekah covers a lot of the acquisitions in The ERP Minute, which was a great ERP Minute this week by the way. I thought it was really good, but these organizations go out and buy companies. Well, who's buying them? Who's doing their due diligence, who's deciding it fits in the product roadmap? That's their venture, people at Salesforce and at Unit 4.
Shawn: So basically, there was some, I don't know the details, I'm sure there was a super cool story where Unit 4 was like “huh”.
Juliette: About how they came together to do that?
Shawn: Oh yeah, “we should maybe do something around a pure SAS platform,” and Salesforce was like “huh we should do ERP,” but there are other ERP companies. There might be a little too close of an overlap for Salesforce. I am purely speculating on this, and again, open to any corrections. It made sense when Salesforce was like, “yeah, we want to get into this market and try it out.” Unit 4, “yeah we want to get into the SAS-based ERP market, integrate with Salesforce. Let's throw some money together, let's hire some smart people, and let's put together a new product.” That's basically how Financial Force was founded. But like I said they have over 500 employees. I got to attend an event with them at Fogo de Chao--I just love, saying, Fogo de Chao--I got to do a pretty long demo just to see the application. It's a nice user interface. It's all baked into the Salesforce platform, so it's a good product.
Juliette: Yeah. Well, we can identify each Financial Force, Rootstock, and Accounting Seed, but let's just quickly focus on each one individually. With Financial Force, what industry or industries tend to fit best with it?
Shawn: As we're learning the product it’s interesting because I think it’s a change from the last time, we really dove into it. It's really around professional service automation. Compared to some of the other vendors we've covered in that space are like Deltek, but this is folks that just focus on professional services.
Shawn: So, it's definitely optimized for things like time and billings for sure, expenses management.
Shawn: But also, resource management, resource allocation, and integration on the financial side. It has a financials app, but it could also be a best-of-breed that a pro service department uses that then integrates back to their accounting system that might be separate.
Shawn: That's really their focus.
Juliette: Does Financial Force tend to win over competitors based on that industry or just what their offerings are?
Shawn: Yeah, that's exactly right. Their differentiator is definitely very industry specific, some of the other applications that are maybe a little broader, that focus on other industries, *voop*. These guys are just in there in professional services, and the fit really comes down to a Salesforce customer.
Juliette: Oh, Ok.
Shawn: They have invested in the Salesforce platform, and they may even be using Salesforce business intelligence and reporting from the tableau stuff that Salesforce bought. The integration framework the customers already committed to is called MuleSoft, which is also Salesforce, and so now they need professional services. It's kind of a no-brainer. There're other project tools on the app exchange; task grade is one that a lot of folks know about. That's a great product, we've used that before too. From a pure professional service automation, the requirements of a professional services firm, like ours, that solution meets all our requirements out-of-the-box; not just project or task management, but all the stuff I mentioned earlier.
Shawn: So usually when a customer is on that platform, they're on force.com the Lightning platform, their resources love it, and they want to stay on that platform. That's where you see Financial Force come into play. We're talking to them about one of our clients right now that's a project-based business that really wants that nice user interface flow look and feel that’s more modern, and that’s Financial Force.
Juliette: OK, well, let me ask you this because it's quite obvious I do not have the technical expertise, if you are running on Salesforce is Financial Force an add-on, is it a customization, or if you're not on Salesforce can you get Financial Force and have that app all on its own?
Juliette: Ok, yes to all of it?
Shawn: The answer is yes to all of it, everything you just said.
Juliette: Ok, ok, ok.
Shawn: Here's the deal, this next part is really applicable for all the other apps we’re going to talk about, so it’s good we’re talking about this upfront. The Salesforce of an organization says, “we love Salesforce,” and it can get religious like you don't want to mess with Salesforce for the sales team. I was so embarrassed the other day; I couldn't believe I did this and I apologized to him. And I'm apologizing publicly; we were on a call with a global client that has a very diverse business. I'm not going to say anything specific because I'm still embarrassed.
Shawn: But there was a guy on the call from a more technical department within the company, and he was talking about the need for a certain platform, and it wasn’t Salesforce. He was in more technical operations and was like “we need to go with this, and this is why, and it makes sense, and this is the heart of the business and, and, and, and, and,” But I had already talked to the sales team and they're like “we don't care what ERP, but we're going to be on Salesforce.”
Juliette: Oh, interesting.
Shawn: “And we have the expertise in-house, and we're building out our sales process on Salesforce, and we're going to use sales force.”
Juliette: We're staying with Salesforce. Yep.
Shawn: No problem makes total sense, totally fine. It's a great platform for that, but this guy in another part of the business was like, “well, it would be better if everybody was on the exact same platform, not Salesforce,” it was a different platform. And we talked about it and went through it, and the problem was there were quite a few people on this call. There's a reason why I had to start my business because I would sometimes say things that later I'd be like “foot in mouth.”
Juliette: Oh no.
Shawn: And then I had a partner over me like “you shouldn’t have said that.”
Juliette: At someone else's expense. Oh boy, right yeah.
Shawn: At somebody else’s expense, that's my expense. But anyway, we kept going on and on, and I ultimately said to him “look, if you like your job don't push on Salesforce anymore. Just knock it off,” and I mean we had a lot of people on the call, and they kept pushing, pushing, pushing, we needed a lot more stuff to do so. Anyway, I apologized after that. I went too far, I didn’t choose the right words, but the bottom line is that's what happens sometimes.
Juliette: The Salesforce loyalty.
Shawn: Salesforce loyalty versus the other team's loyalty, or IT’s loyalty or the operations loyalty, and you get these conversations where you're like “this is like a religious topic guys knock it off, we got to focus on what's best for the organization here and move on.” And sometimes, especially on the Salesforce side, you're going to use Salesforce, or you won't be able to hire certain salespeople. And there's a whole thing on that, I'm sure we have a gentleman who keeps us honest in the Microsoft Channel. And I hope he gives Rebekah feedback on what Microsoft is saying, and what's really going on, and we need that feedback for sure, but it's usually Salesforce where it's that religious.
Juliette: Interesting, yes.
Shawn: So long story short, I got into way too much detail, the bottom line is because of that not just loyalty but expertise in the framework, an organization can say, “I don't want to have a different framework that I have to support.”
Juliette: That's very interesting, right?
Shawn: Yes, and that's where I really want to look at Financial Force or some of these other apps.
Juliette: Yeah, well let's talk about Rootstock a little bit. What do they offer their clients?
Shawn: So, Rootstock is different than Financial Force, although there are similarities. It’s still built on the Lightning platform.
Shawn: We're leveraging all the common objects that your Salesforce instance is, and we have logic built around manufacturing.
Juliette: Hmm, ok.
Shawn: It's a completely different industry focus which is super important.
Shawn: As Rebekah has put together for me, when we look at the background with Rootstock it's in that early stage as well; building out the market with revenue of maybe under 10 million, but definitely scaling its business. They have over 100 employees, over 100 customers, so it's really expanding and it's getting a name for itself. Again, it's in the Lightning platform where the organization has made the commitment to be there. And they’re a manufacturer. You wouldn't think manufacturing and Salesforce what are you talking about? Well, that's what Rootstock has built. They've got a lot of industry experts. We sat down with some of them at Dreamforce and it was great to get their feedback on their product development, the road map, and the kinds of problems they're solving for a manufacturer that are quite complex.
Juliette: Because there's a lot of offerings out there for manufacturing companies.
Shawn: There are. Not only a lot but a lot of offerings that have been around for a long time as we covered this summer.
Juliette: That's right.
Shawn: Some of these are 40-50-year-old solutions, but again, the value is you're in one platform.
Shawn: If you think about an organization that goes with the best-of-breed approach as we call it, where you have a CRM solution from one vendor, and ERP financials from another vendor, manufacturing from another and then purchasing from another, those are four different applications. You have to figure out how to administer those solutions. You have to figure out how to do security. You certainly have to figure out how data flows between them. But really like “ok, I need to create a report.” “Ok, well there are four different reporting tools.” Or “I need to do something even simpler like a match between purchasing and manufacturing.” Manufacturing does the receiving, purchasing has the PO, and accounting has the actual AP transaction. “I just want to see where this transaction is at,” “well it's in three different solutions.”
Juliette: Oh boy.
Shawn: Whereas if it's in one platform with different apps, there's still some integration that has to happen between Lightning Solutions, but it's a lot easier; you go to one place. That's what the big guys, the SAPs and Oracles offer is, “hey, we do everything, it's in one place, you don't have to worry about all this third-party stuff.”
Juliette: The ease of functionality and stuff.
Shawn: Ease of functionality and support and all that so I think Rootstock is an option for a manufacturer that is looking for a single platform with Lightning, and that's good.
Juliette: Yeah, ok so I'm trying to think if there's more to cover for Rootstock, we can circle back, but let's talk a little bit about Accounting Seed. What are their offerings and what industries do they tend to be best for?
Shawn: From what we've gathered Accounting Seed is very focused on accounting, and it’s a really nice alternative for like QuickBooks where a customer needs more depth of accounting functionality just in the accounting area and that's on purpose. When we talked to them, their focus is really on being the accounting software solution if you will on the Salesforce platform. The other two have industry specific focuses, but these guys are a little more horizontal, meaning accounting, which transcends lots of different businesses.
Juliette: Right, right, right.
Shawn: Sometimes you need the integrated accounting and deep inventory and warehouse management for a distributor or accounting in projects for a professional services firm and that. Accounting Seed said, “no, no, we're just going to focus on the accounting.” They have a good pretty good customer base, about 1000 customers. They've been in business for a while, they've got really good backing. I think we're looking at maybe 2008 when the gentleman Tony Zorc founded that organization, and a lot of users too, are using the platform. It's a viable solution out there, especially for those we do this presentation for on what to do when you outgrow QuickBooks. I think Accounting Seed is an option there that gets you in the cloud, it gets you in the lightning platform, and it gets that next level of accounting functionality that QuickBooks doesn’t even portray to provide with multi company, multi-country, intercompany consolidations, or multi-currency kind of stuff. Accounting Seed is focused on those kinds of issues.
Juliette: Is there a natural progression from something you're on to go to Accounting Seed?
Shawn: Yeah, it really is that you've outgrown QuickBooks and you're looking for that next level of financial solution. I ran into a lot of folks even at Oracle Cloud World, just this week, where they're just using financials and they don't have inventory or projects or whatever, they just need strong financials. This option Accounting Seed is for them.
Shawn: Coming up from QuickBooks, Xero, or maybe Peachtree which is called Sage 50 where you’re just done. We're on QuickBooks Online, we only use it for invoicing and financial reporting. We do a little bit of time tracking there for our admin folks, but that's it right now. Now if we bought a business in Europe and we needed to do intercompany transactions, it'd be a great option for that because that's all we need. Would NetSuite or Intacct or even Financial Force be able to do that stuff, for sure, but it's a nice step up from QuickBooks.
Juliette: OK, well, let me ask you about partner ecosystems. Do they each have their own individual partner ecosystem or is there just one overall partner ecosystem? Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Shawn: Oh yeah, great question. You would wish that there was something like you just go to a one-stop shop and ask them if they can do that, but no.
Juliette: That'd be too easy.
Shawn: Yeah, it’d be too easy. In an ERP space it’s like “eh, it’s easy? We don’t do it.” There's a difficult button. There's no easy button in ERP. We try to be the easy guys and gals. But anyway, each solution is pretty technical, and there are intricacies on how the solutions are built, configured, customized, reporting, analytics, and blah blah blah.
Juliette: And on and on and on.
Shawn: And on and on and on, so you really do need to look at what we do in our selections as we figure out which product is the right fit from a feature functionality, usability, technology perspective. Then we'll dive into the implementation partners to decide who's the best one, and the good news is all three of these, I even believe Accounting Seed, probably do their own implementations, I believe. They may have some partners. Did we come across that Rebekah?
Rebekah: Yeah, they do have some connected apps and other different partners that are encouraged to also implement their product.
Shawn: Exactly, yep, thank you. Rebekah is behind there, we can't turn the camera around or it’ll screw the settings up. And Will’s back there too, we'll talk about him later.
Juliette: We have to thread him in every episode.
Shawn: We do! He’s so great.
Juliette: He's not embarrassed at all.
Shawn: At all. We’re contemplating--if anybody’s listening to this and they can send in some feedback, do--we're contemplating doing an ERP Advisor from an airplane, doing a parachute exercise.
Juliette: Ohhh, that would something.
Shawn: Will is not quite a professional yet, but close.
Juliette: Yes, an ERP minute in the air, that would be amazing.
Shawn: With Will, Rebekah, me, and…
Juliette: Not me.
Shawn: Not you. We'll have Juliette on Zoom. I don’t know, that might be kind of cool, anyway, we’ll see.
Juliette: Oh my gosh, start planning now.
Shawn: Already done *laughs*. I’ve just got to talk Erica into that one. I have lots of life insurance, but we don't have insurance on Will, so maybe we can't do that.
Juliette: Workman's comp would be very expensive *laughs*.
Shawn: *Laughs* oh God, that's right. If the Department of Labor is listening, please, we're not going to do this *laughs*.
Juliette: That's right.
Shawn: Long story short, you really do need to be aware of which implementation partners have the experience in your industry, understand your business, blah blah blah the normal stuff.
Shawn: It is important.
Juliette: Knowing your needs and all that.
Shawn: Yes, exactly have referenceable customers and all that, you got it.
Juliette: Ok so you did talk about the loyalty for Salesforce, do you find that most people who start out on these apps tend to stay with them, or is their longevity there? Can people grow with them, and do they grow with companies, or I don't know. Does that make sense what I’m thinking in my brain?
Shawn: It makes perfect sense; your brain's always spot on. That's why we do these, I love it. These are great questions. Here's the thing, all three of these solutions are almost different tiers of solutions. We talked about that. Tier 1 being the big guys, Tier 2 being the middle market solutions. Tier 3 being accounting plus one other area in the business. And then Tier 4 being basically accounting. If you look at Accounting Seed, we would tend to put them going from a Tier 4 to a Tier 3, where an organization wants really strong accounting but their capability is really strong with accounting; they're very focused on accounting.
Juliette: Mm-hmm, ok.
Shawn: So, if an organization were to implement Accounting Seed, then they would probably need a partner. A distributor would probably already go towards a distribution-specific ERP. I'm trying to think about the selection scenario. They may be getting bigger bigger, and they need a bigger GL. They might have 40 locations throughout the world and might have outgrown Accounting Seed by then anyway. The key part is that you don't have to implement a ginormous Tier 1 or even Tier 2 financial system to get the benefits that I think Accounting Seed can bring.
Shawn: Chances are if an organization is scaling, they may need to look at something, but they really have to scale on that particular solution.
Shawn: Now Rootstock and Financial Force are so industry-specific, and so focused in their different areas that as businesses get bigger in those lines of businesses, they're fine. A benefit of being on the Lightning platform is we have some of the largest businesses in the world running on the Lightning platform. Scalability is not an issue.
Shawn: In terms of transaction volume and memory and all that kind of stuff, we don't have to worry about that at all; it's more around functionality. Maybe we have a services business, and Financial Force is doing a great job there, and maybe we're using accounting, maybe we're not. Now we have an Internet of Things device where we need inventory and some of the other things that might come with it. Maybe we get a best-of-breed to handle that like a fishbowl. Or “Ok, we got to get an app that does everything.” Same thing on the Rootstock side from a manufacturing standpoint. There’s really good technical manufacturing know-how at that firm and in the app. But again, maybe from a line of business perspective, we have to diversify, but that would be the same with other ERPs out there at that Tier 2 level as well. I don't think it's any different than other vendors on when you would out-scale the applications.
Juliette: Right, Ok well good. All right Shawn thanks so much for always sharing such great information with me, I appreciate it, and explaining all this technical stuff to me that I have zero clue about.
Shawn: You're very, very welcome, and very well done as always. These are great questions.
Juliette: Thank you.
Shawn: Imagine you're responsible for making this decision. You come across some marketing material from one of these vendors, and by the way, your lead salesperson says, “you should do this because it's on the same platform as CRM,” and you’re like “that makes perfect sense. I should do it. And it does make sense to do it, we just want people to know what they're looking at for sure.
Juliette: That's right. Alright, well thanks Shawn, I appreciate it very much.
Shawn: You're welcome
Juliette: Yep, thank you. Be on the lookout as we continue to add vendors to our overview offerings to advance your ERP knowledge and allow you to take advantage of over a century of combined ERP experience from our expert consultants here at EAG. Thank you again for joining us today.