FinancialForce update may pique enterprise customer interest
The latest release of FinancialForce SaaS PSA software has more automation and a simplified UX that could move the platform beyond its mid-sized market to larger enterprises.
FinancialForce released the latest version of its cloud enterprise applications aimed primarily at professional services organizations.
The FinancialForce spring 2023 release for its Professional Services (PS) Cloud and ERP Cloud applications include automated processes and analytics designed to help professional services firms better manage customers, personnel, resources and projects, according to the company. FinancialForce's SaaS professional services automation (PSA) and ERP software are built on Salesforce architecture.
Analysts said the FinancialForce spring 2023 release adds almost no new features, but it has solidified its functionality for professional services customers. FinancialForce may also be aiming to capture more businesses beyond its traditional base of SMBs.
FinancialForce is "laser-focused on the service economy," said Scott Brown, FinancialForce president and CEO, at an analyst briefing last week. "It's a highly under-vended part of the IT market, and our customers are in desperate need of automation in these areas."
The new capabilities in PS Cloud include the following:
- Scheduling Risk Dashboard, designed to help project managers identify and manage potential project risks.
- Skills Hierarchy, aimed at helping resource managers and personnel identify and manage employees with the right skills for projects.
- Estimate Export in the Services Configure Price Quote module, designed to help resource managers form more detailed estimates for proposals.
ERP Cloud includes a simplified user experience for making and collecting payments and contract renewals.
The automation capabilities and user experience changes are designed to help accounting teams save time and increase productivity, said Dan Brown, chief product and strategy officer at FinancialForce.
For example, customers can automate price changes and contract renewals. Revenue recognition automation also lets customers configure recognition by company, currency and revenue stream. This can provide better visibility into their expected earnings from services.
The capabilities were the result of FinancialForce's deeper integration with Salesforce technology, such as the Lightning app development environment, he said.
Solid functionality for professional services
Overall there's not a lot of net-new capabilities in the new release. But the scheduling capabilities in PS Cloud should help professional services firms, like consulting companies, solve one of their biggest challenges: finding and staffing projects with the right personnel, said Brian Sommer, founder and president of TechVentive, an advisory firm in Batavia, Ill.
"FinancialForce has the ability to scour your entire workforce and use different filters [to staff projects]," he said. "[These capabilities] aren't just eye candy. It's where the business value comes from in that product. That stuff is like catnip to cats for professional services firms -- they can't resist it."
Brian SommerFounder and president, TechVentive
Kevin Permenter, research director at IDC, agrees. While groundbreaking functionality is lacking, FinancialForce is starting to connect the dots in helping firms solve issues around talent management and retention as well as provide tools to alleviate those pressures.
"They're making investments around analytics, and I like that they're providing more automation tools," Permenter said, noting that the functionality FinancialForce offers is more sophisticated than what's commonly seen in PSA.
In the PSA market, FinancialForce faces competition from Kantata, a platform created through the merger of Kimble Applications and Mavenlink in 2022, Sommer said. For more general applications, it competes with Oracle NetSuite and Sage Intacct.
"Sage Intacct could go toe-to-toe and beat some of the others on pure-play financials. But in the past, they had trouble finding integrators that could do more complex implementations," he said. "NetSuite wasn't as robust as Intacct or FinancialForce and was more suited to smaller businesses. But that's changed, and now it's more of a horse race between FinancialForce and NetSuite."
However, Permenter noted that FinancialForce faces competition from vendors that provide PSA software for specific industries, such as Oracle Cerner for healthcare and Tyler Technologies for legal and public sector, as well as from large ERP vendors.
"In general applications, Sage Intacct and Microsoft play there, and SAP and Oracle also have a pretty sizable footprint inside of professional services just from sheer mass of market share," he said.
FinancialForce may move upmarket
The analysts noted that the FinancialForce platform is maturing. This may position the company to move beyond its traditional market base of SMB professional services firms to other industry verticals and larger enterprises.
"They're transitioning from teenage FinancialForce to adult FinancialForce, and with that age should come wisdom and greater expectations," Sommer said. "Now I want to hear them talk about another big vertical they're going to pursue. They've been a bit of a one-note story lately, and it would be good to hear more about other spaces."
From a functional perspective FinancialForce should be a good fit for some larger enterprises, but they should approach that market carefully, he said. The question is whether FinancialForce can develop the implementation partners and local presence needed to support those customers.
FinancialForce tends to pursue larger deals, Permenter said. But as it pushes into the enterprise market, that may mean things it does well now -- such as customer support and product development -- are put at risk.
"Sometimes going after the enterprise space means that you have to devote more resources there, and that can take away a little bit. So there's always a push-pull there," he said. "If your traction is in the mid-market, you have to be judicious about how you market, and you have to be strategic about it. You maintain your core competencies while going after and building functionality for larger organizations."
Jim O'Donnell is a senior news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for TechTarget Editorial.