As Dreamforce gets under way, CODA, a UK financial applications provider put me on touch with CyberSafe, its first customer for CODA2go, an order-to-cash process built on the Force.com platform.
CyberSafe is a UK SAP certified apps provider specializing in security solutions that sells product globally. It has been a Salesforce.com customer since 2003. On the back end accounting it has been a Sage Line 100 customer. The company found that even though it derives good value from Salesforce.com, it was spending way too much time aligning customer quotations to customer orders and invoices often finding transcription errors that delayed both processing and cash collection.
Tim Alsop, CyberSafe's technical director picks up the story: "Rather than reading the customer's order, we get them to reference the quotation which we can then turn into an invoice. We always assume that we have sent the customer a quotation. Since the quotation is already in Salesforce.com we can take advantage of what that environment offers. That allows us [for instance] to see the whole activity history including any requotes, invoices, how much is owed - it's all there."
CyberSafe also uses CODA2go to balance the amount of money it receives against invoices delivered. Each month, the company uses that data to update the Sage general ledger. CyberSafe believes that as CODA brings out new functionality, it can gradually migrate away from Sage.
I was interested to discover how this type of implementation works, given the company is using both saas and on-premise systems.
Alsop says this provides his company with an easy migration path that doesn't involve a forced 'big bang' approach. I was also interested to find out why the company has opted for a new product rather than perhaps wait to see if Sage might deliver an on-demand/saas solution. Alsop said that the combination of Salesforce and CODA is right for them and that they didn't see signs that Sage will develop for the Force.com platform.
This is an interesting observation because it implies that CRM is the technology driver behind the business and that financial accounting has to fit into that scenario. That is very different from the way software has been implemented in the past where the financial side is often implemented first. But the story doesn't end there. CyberSafe has been able to extend CODA without waiting for the vendor to develop extensions or customizations:
"When you create an invoice in CODA it expects you to enter the due date for the invoice which required an extra click and date entry. What I have done with a Salesforce trigger which was only three or four lines of code, is to automatically create the due date by taking a custom field that I added which knows the customer payment terms. I don't need to go back to CODA and ask them to make the change. Pretty much every Salesforce customer is doing the same sort of customizations that I'm talking about."
Equally intriguing was Alsop's view of what these types of customization mean for customers more generally. He argues that in a 'web 2.0' world, software customers expect there to be a community where ideas can be shared and where the software vendor can take those that are most common and incorporate them into the base product. "I'd be quite happy to contribute that code to the community."
Cybersafe is one customer and it would be wrong to draw too many conclusions from this early stage conversation. However, I was surprised at just how different this customer is thinking about business applications. The combination of starting from the CRM side, having a platform which allows modest customizations without requiring vendor or consulting intervention and taking that back to the vendor via community is very different to the way software is traditionally iterated and implemented. It will be interesting to see whether this is a model that is replicated and what that means to both software development and the relationships that operate between vendor and customer.