SalesForce and Financial Automation

A quick 5 mile (up) view of the landscape, so if this is familiar, apologies, and it will be over quickly.

What is SalesForce? You already know this - its a CRM (customer relationship management) system on steroids, and its in the cloud, so you don’t have to purchase and maintain equipment to run it. It works with your favorite browser - and its mobile enabled. Right? Well yes, but if that, or something like it, was your answer, you may have been wondering why there’s been so much hooha about it, how could it have a $100 billion+ market cap and over 4 million business users and still be growing at 25% per year.

Although about a million start-ups use SalesForce for leads and conversions, think about some other customers - Amazon, Comcast, The Girl Scouts of America, Penn State and the State of Michigan. Some don’t even have “customers” but they are all SalesForce users and they are all using it differently. They could be using an application from one of the ~2,700 third-party development companies, or they may have their own application which manages something central to their operations. The variety of uses is too long to list - but they all have one thing in common - business process management and automation.

How did this come about?

The flagship application of SalesForce, which didn’t used to have a name (because SalesForce was its name) is now called SalesCloud along with numerous extensions, like Marketing Cloud and Analytics Cloud. SalesCloud was ingeniously designed to run on (in addition to a data base) a suite of “services” or utility functions that happen to include critical elements of business process structuring. They include the following (non-technical) list.

  • A built-in highly-configurable approval process design capability, with automated notifications and record locks pending approval, escalations and rejections actions;

  • A comprehensive application security system, configurable by customers. This is used to govern user access (by user profile or with a defined user group) to pages, records and fields (create/read/edit/delete), with audibility, so that any change can tracked down to the user with a time-date stamp;

  • A workflow builder through which users can create work flows in a drag and drop environment with relatively little training;

  • Reporting capability that permits tabular and complex matrix reports on any of the data in the system, with graphics for dashboards;

  • Robust application programming interfaces, so that an implementation system can access and/or update information on a specialized third-party business system, or create transactions with financial institutions;

  • Useful process functionalities, such as conditions-based field updates, formula field definitions, and communications via email (with inputs from SalesForce data and automatic triggers for sending. See banking and finance communications in an upcoming note.

In 2006, SalesForce launched the AppExchange. Today it has over 3,000 3rd party applications listed - all developed on the SalesForce platform. These include field service, HR, ERP, logistics, real estate management, vehicle and asset tracking, recruiting, automated email marketing, government contracting, professional services management, supply chain management, lease management…and finance and accounting.

Now if…

If you happen to be reading this post, you may be considering a new accounting system. Perhaps you are now on an unsupported version of Dynamics, Sage100 or QuickBooks and not satisfied with the reporting and the integrity/controls you now need for your system. You may have thought that since you have SalesForce, you should take a look at what’s available on that platform. You can certainly get the better reporting capabilities and controls that a more “industrial strength” package like Accounting Seed(TM), a fully SalesForce native package offers. But with a package like Accounting Seed on SalesForce you can get vastly more. You will now have the opportunity to fully automate processes that run across your entire organization - right through to your general ledger. Here are a few examples of the power of financial process automation on SalesForce:

  • Approved sales orders can be shipped, invoiced, and collected without the need to re-enter numbers into an accounting system, and your accounting staff will retain all of the control they will want to approve and post billings, allow shipments and define how payment is received. Of course inventory will be relieved at the correct value with the appropriate cost of sales debits - however you will want individual sales order items booked;

  • Sales commissions, which are often done on spread sheets because of plan complexity. - the commission plans may depend on when billings are collected, or depend partially on sales performance in prior periods, performance against quota, be split between individuals, or depend on product/service mix. This can be a straight forward customization, which eliminates calculations, creates a payable to the salesperson at exactly the appropriate time, and provides a display with computational elements visible to a salesperson with status, so that accounting can be freed from providing real time updates and explaining numbers;

  • Payroll can go directly from your payroll service provider to your general ledger to eliminate journal entry creations - with salaries, bonus and withholdings - all coded automatically to the appropriate department - accounting will always have posting control.

  • Time entered by factory floor employees can automatically flow through to inventory WIP and finished goods for costing, so that variations in cost based on the job can be based on true, rather than standard costs for better profitability insight.

  • E-commerce orders can flow directly through to the general ledger with receivable and payment records for each account.

Automation can get your back office costs down, but more importantly put your organization on a different cost curve - so that growth is not choked by bottlenecks in operations. It will eliminate repetitive tasks and free staff to deal with higher impact activities than closing the books each month, and enable any reporting you want - when you want it delivered how you want it.

With an accounting/finance system that is native to SalesForce, it is not much of a stretch to say that, apart from the core logic of the accounting system which requires every debit to be matched by a credit, you will be able to get the system which matches how you do (or want to do business), rather than force your processes into transaction templates that look like they were for another industry.

A systems admin level trainee will be able to manage and maintain your system, and all of the interfaces and reporting tools will be the same across sales, marketing, service, finance/accounting, etc.

Where to Start

When you can relatively easily create processes that don’t end with functional areas, but run across the old silos, the next question will be where to start and how far to go, when. We’ll start a discussion on that in an upcoming note.