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Certinia adds AI capabilities to PSA cloud suite

The PSA vendor adds AI functionality to its professional services cloud applications that are designed to help services firms manage customers, personnel, resources and projects.

Certinia is infusing its professional services automation software with a dose of AI.

Certinia, formerly FinancialForce, offers cloud applications -- Professional Services (PS) Cloud, ERP Cloud and Customer Success (CS) Cloud -- that are built on Salesforce architecture and designed to help professional services firms manage their customers, personnel, resources and projects.

The Certinia Spring 2024 release incorporates several AI capabilities aimed at enabling services businesses to generate accurate forecasts, make more informed decisions and improve their productivity, according to the company.

The new AI capabilities, unveiled on Wednesday, will position Certinia well in the professional services automation (PSA) software market, according to analysts.

The company is taking a "pragmatic approach" to integrating AI into its services applications, Certinia CEO D.J. Paoni said. He spoke at a media and analyst briefing before the public release that showed the new capabilities.

This means that the new AI capabilities are focused on providing "tangible customer value" for goals such as improving services margins and efficiencies, resource allocation, and cashflow forecasting, Paoni said. Specifically, organizations will be able to scope projects more accurately and analyze estimates faster, which overall can reduce the time to close a deal and begin the project.

Early AI adopter anticipates benefits

Jellyfish, a global digital marketing services agency in London, is a four-year user of PS Cloud and an early adopter of the application's AI capabilities. The company has seen the potential for AI to make faster and better decisions on scoping projects, winning business and managing services projects, Senior Operations Director Adam Hay said at the briefing.

[It's about] looking round corners and seeing what's ahead before it happens.
Adam HaySenior operations director, Jellyfish

Jellyfish is working with Certinia's early adopter team to understand the models and take advantage of the data it already has, Hay said. The company is looking at predicting project margins and understanding project scheduling risks to "get ahead of the curve" and understand where resources have an effect on projects.

"[It's about] looking round corners and seeing what's ahead before it happens," he said.

However, implementing AI poses challenges, Hay said, particularly in user education and adoption. Jellyfish is making an effort to show how AI can help users improve their productivity.

"Not everyone in the business knows how it works, so there is certainly a journey to be taken with those that are going to be users, but also leaders in the business," he said.

In particular, employees might be concerned that AI will replace their roles, but this is not the case, according to Hay.

"We actually see it in the other way," he said. "We want to realize the potential of our staff and those that are responsible for delivering BI so that they can focus on the outcomes that that insight provides."

Hay said he anticipates benefits once Jellyfish puts capabilities into production in the near future, primarily by helping the company make speedier decisions.

"We are in a very fast-paced industry, and if we are not scoping our work effectively [and] efficiently, and we're not learning from our scoping ... we lose business," he said. "It's about getting there first, and getting there first in the right way. So that's really what I'm looking forward to so that we can turn around things quickly and improve the revenues in our organization."

Salesforce Einstein connection will help

Many other enterprise software vendors are also taking Certinia's "pragmatic AI approach," but it has some advantages, according to Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica, an enterprise industry analysis firm.

"[There are] a couple areas of differentiation for Certinia," Reed said. "On the AI front, leveraging Salesforce's considerable Einstein AI platform and analytics investments is something other vendors in their market aren't able to do."

Organizations have been looking for some of the AI features that have been added to PS Cloud, he said, particularly around managing projects, like being able to more quickly assess project risks and take actions.

"These types of features illustrate how a solid grasp of a customer's pain points can be put into an improved and more automated approach," Reed said. "I like that they aren't just pushing AI [for the sake of AI], because right now services industry customers want to improve their operations using any tech that they can."

The AI capabilities that cover the scope of an entire project lifecycle are impressive, said Predrag Jakovljevic, an analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers.

Few other applications similar to CS Cloud can actively measure things like project success and the health of accounts, such as whether and when to renew, or preventing churn, he said.

"This should serve Certinia well against PSA market competitors like Deltek, Kantata and Oracle NetSuite OpenAir," Jakovljevic said. "Surely, these guys will come up with their own AI stuff, but it's not sure who else has the CS [functionality] yet."

Jim O'Donnell is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial who covers ERP and other enterprise applications.

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