by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 5 January 2012
For all their benefits, online accounting applications are not always a winning proposition.
While they may be cost-effective and scalable, these solutions do not always translate into process improvements. For example, stand-alone cloud systems with limited integration and time-consuming processes are just like on-premise solutions, minus the maintenance headache. To achieve real efficiencies, cloud accounting solutions need to provide value beyond normal accounting solutions.
This week, we will review a solution that promises to do just that.
FinancialForce Accounting Application is a software package that transforms data and processes of traditional standalone accounting packages into exciting 360 degree views of your company. In addition, it integrates with over one thousand cloud apps on the Saleforce AppExchange which is akin to the Apple App Store but for enterprise apps. and enables you to automate several accounting-related functions. We will look at its features, interface and see how it can be of use to you.
SO, HOW FORCEFUL IS FINANCIALFORCE ACCOUNTING?
FinancialForce.com focuses on building business applications for Force.com, a leading cloud computing platform from salesforce.com. The folks at FinancialForce.com have over 30 years expertise designing accounting systems, but the cloud platform provides them some unique capabilities to create a more innovative solution to an old business function. The platform includes a full range of application tools that work together in one single cloud environment including workflow, reporting, enterprise social media, enterprise wide search, customization and Salesforce.com's market leading web-based CRM application. This translates into applications that move beyond the footprint of traditional accounting packages and an ability to take a more modern and holistic approach. Thus, in addition to its accounting package, FinancialForce.com also has Professional Services Automation, Billing and Media applications, that are all tightly linked to Salesforce CRM.
This means you can analyze your whole operation from CRM to Financials in one cloud or system. So, you can see customer sales opportunity data from Salesforce CRM, customer invoices, revenue analysis, cash payments and project services activity for each of your customers in one place. Reporting, Dashboards and Search work across the entire spectrum of Marketing, Sales, Services, Billing and Accounting. FinancialForce.com calls this a 360° view of the customer.
THE SPECIFICS OF THIS FORCE
As I mentioned earlier, FinancialForce Accounting automates several accounting-related functions. Perhaps, the most useful one is automated invoice creation. The system enables you to generate invoices and capture financial data in multiple-currencies. What's more, you can do this in a by turning a "closed' Salesforce opportunity into an invoice in a single click.
Because invoice generation is an automated process, you can reduce business cycle time by quickly generating invoices from multiple sources and divisions within your organization. Enhanced features such as deferred revenues enable you to move beyond manual excel sheet forecasts into automated processing.
The system has a myriad of ways to structure your chart of accounts to create more insightful and detailed reports. Thus, you can generate financial reports for practically any aspect of your business using the financial system like your own custom database. The chart of accounts flexibility is particularly valuable if you are migrating from an entry level bookkeeping system or a legacy accounting application that is struggling to keep up with the information needs of your business.
One of the most awesome features of FinancialForce.com is its integration to native Salesforce CRM and other native Force.com applications on the App Exchange. There are over 1,300 applications available on the AppExchange with over 1,000,000 applications downloaded in 2011. These application plug-ins can be used in several ways. For instance, document management and electronic signature applications can be added to help retrieve contracts, and design approval systems for the order approval process. There are applications available to automate pesky chores like sales commissions and tax filing. FinancialForce Accounting comes bundled with Chatter, Salesforce's Enterprise Social Media software that is built into the platform. This Facebook like application allows you to create Chatter streams around customers, accounts, transactions and other data in the system. For instance, the software enables you to create or extract information relating to specific deals and have conversations with relevant stakeholders regarding these deals. What's more, you can also build specific rules relating to each of these deals for alerts.
THE BASICS: WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
It looks pretty nice. The interface is split into two panels and looks very much like an Inbox. The global navigation panel on the top enables you to move between sections. The left hand panel is simple and enables you to create new objects such as Invoices. On the other hand, the system's mobile layout is significantly different. It is split into sections and objects. While sections provide summary (and informational views of accounting), objects enable you to perform specific tasks such as generate an invoice or make a list of tasks. You can also customize your dashboard or the layout of your reports to perform a multidimensional analysis of your revenue structure. If you are familiar with Salesforce CRM, FinancialForce applications will be very easy to learn as the UI and tools are identical.
SUPPORTING YOUR SYSTEM
Based on research and conversations, I guess this one comes out tops. In fact, support begins during installation. A FinancialForce.com consultant is assigned to each client. The consultant guides clients through the implementation process, provides an overview of the application, and assists in data migration. Users are offered three support options: direct, online, and premier. While the direct and online options refer to telephone (human) and automated support channels, premier is especially designed for customers who use both Salesforce.com and FinancialForce.com premier support. According to the company website, premier has been designed to provide maximum value, a collaborative partnership, and personalized services. This translates into quicker response time for your problems and expert and personal guidance to resolve them.
IS IT FOR YOU?
If you are looking for a cost-effective solution that integrates seamlessly with Salesforce CRM and moves accounting beyond excel sheet chores, then this solution is definitely for you. That said, this recommendation comes with a caveat. Accounting (and, indeed, finances) retrieve data from multiple domains and systems. Whenever you are considering a new system it is important to evaluate solutions against your existing systems and if necessary stagger migration in phases.
May the force be with you!