Delivering Seamless Revenue Operations in the Digital Office of Finance



Andy: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the latest in our series of webinars on the subject of The Digital Office of Finance. Today, we’re going to be looking at the area of revenue operations: a really fundamental part of any business to ensure profitability and efficiency and is receiving a lot of visibility at the moment. I’ve got a number of colleagues joining me today. We’re going to have a really interesting demo to show you everything that is available.

So, here are the people that you will be hearing from. I’m Andy Campbell. I’m the Solution Evangelist at Certinia, and I’m joined by Aishling Finnegan from Conga, Nick Chaffe from Asperato, Mark Carpenter from Avalara, and my colleague Gavin Castle who will be taking us through the demonstration.

Before we get into the presentation and the demo itself, here is our standard disclaimer, which effectively says should you purchase any solutions on the back of what you see today, that decision needs to be made on the most current product capabilities, and we certainly hope that you find today’s presentation of interest.

Here’s the quick agenda. We’re going to be having a quick introduction around the subject of digital transformation, what that means in terms of the digital office of finance and revenue operations in particular, where those points of friction are that we typically experience. We’re then going to go into the meat of the piece, which is a demonstration of what the revenue operations business Journey could look like in the future – or, actually, could look like now. Then, we just have a quick summary at the end.

To start off with, though, let’s talk about digital transformation. Everybody is talking about digital transformation. To some extent, this has been escalated by COVID. A lot of organizations have found that gaps in their existing processes and systems have surfaced as a consequence of people working from home and people working in these difficult times. Frankly, most organizations have seen more change in the last six months and they’ve seen in the previous six years. Whatever the new world is going to look like when we come out of this pandemic, we’re pretty sure that the old ways of doing things will not suffice, and people will have to do things differently. There will be a need for more digital capabilities. There will be need to operate in a more flexible and agile manner, to be able to respond to new business opportunities as they materialise. The focus of areas like compliance are unlikely to go away, be it revenue recognition rules, be it HMRC submissions around tax. Whatever it may be, those things aren’t going to change either.

Frankly, a lot of organizations are finding that their current systems can’t cope. Spreadsheets can’t cut it. Having tactical bolt-on systems as adjuncts to your main system. They’ve typically been found wanting and exposed. As a consequence of that, people are looking at a joined-up platform.

A Finance Officer (CFO) requires and is heavily reliant upon technology to be able to do their job. Here, as we can see in the Digital Office of Finance, there are a lot of areas of functionality that a CFO needs to deliver. You can’t do that if all those different pieces are serviced by different solutions. We can’t have different bolt-on systems brought together to be able to deliver this effectively. What is needed, really, is a Digital Office of Finance brought about through one common platform that provides seamless capabilities across all of these different areas.

We’ve already talked about the technology infrastructure that underpins that, and in previous webinars, we’ve talked about Financial Management & Accounting and the operations. Today, we’re going to be focusing on the really interesting one for me: this whole area of business operations around revenue operations. This is where the transactions occur, and this is where the money is actually made within a business.

Revenue operations is, frankly, where the front and the back office come together. If we’re looking at the complete process as a whole – we’re talking about selling, delivering, billing, providing service – it’s where we bring the customer and our internal systems together. In reality, we don’t want them to be disparate. We don’t want a front and a back office to be separate. We just want one joined-up office that supports everything we do.

The issues are that we can currently experience some degree of friction if we’re using different systems. If we’ve got silos, then things can fall between the gaps. If we’ve got manual processes or systems that are difficult to use, that results in errors, delays, duplications and all the sort of revenue leakage implications that can have, and you can see articulated around the slide there.

We all know that in the world of finance, if there’s any excuse not to pay, if there’s any reason to dispute what’s going on, that results in a delayed payment – and that’s what we don’t need. What we do need are joined-up processes, a seamless user experience, and above all, we want things to be simple. That’s hopefully what you’re going to be seeing today.

So the articulation, in terms of the demo, is going to involve these partners. Obviously, the starting point is Salesforce. Salesforce provides the platform that underpins everything that we do. There are a number of benefits as a result of that (having everything in one place) that will hopefully be manifested as we go through, or around ease of use, ease of maintaining – all of these various capabilities, all in one place. Salesforce also captures all that lovely information about our customers, about our opportunities, and that’s very much the start of our journey.

We then hand on to the Certinia piece where we manage all of the operational and finance systems that any business needs. There are already three of our ReadyApp partners I’m delighted to join today.

First, from Asperato, we’ve got Nick Chaffe. Nick, do you want to tell us something quickly about Asperato?

Nick: Sure. Asperato essentially enables the collection of payments across the entire Salesforce platform. We do this by automating and driving payment collection across all of the business processes, which is both good for employees, business finances, and great for customer experience.

Andy: That’s cool. Great. Thank you.

Second, Avalara. Mark, do you want to give us a quick one line on where Avalara fits?

Mark: Yeah, sure. Avalara looks to simplify the tax compliance through automation. So we use technology integrated into business platforms to really help manage the US sales tax, excise GST, VST and other tax types across the world from the tax treatment all the way through to automated filing.

Andy: That’s great, thank you. Really complicated area that you make dead simple. It’s fantastic that you’re on board.

Last, but by no means least, we’ve got Aish from Conga. Aish, could you give us a quick heads up on how Conga fits into this?

Aish: Thank you, Andy. Yes, Conga can help organizations in the entire revenue operations process. Whether that’s helping around CPQ, CLN, automating all of the documents within the processes, and a signature. We also can help with the advanced complexities around integration of systems.

Andy: That’s cool. Thank you.

So, those are the moving parts that we’re going to see. Let’s see what we’re going to show you today. We’ve decided to describe it through one simple process that, hopefully, you will all recognize. One seamless process through from Sale, Signature, Contract, Delivery, Billing, all the way through – starting with our customer, our opportunity within Salesforce, and then all of the members of the Salesforce family coming together, culminating at the very end with handling things like revenue recognition and tax implications around the compliance piece.

The way we’re going to be demonstrating that is through a demo scenario. It’s going to be using an organization called Merlin Technologies, and they are a UK-based software company. They’re going to be selling it to two of their customers. The first is called Prestige. They’re a US-based customer, based in Washington, where they’ve got peculiarities around their tax regime, to say the least. We are going to be selling three products into Prestige, a two-year license fee, a one-off installation charge, and also there is a recurring charge based around usage, consumption, whatever. Their payment terms are that we’ve arranged that they will have automatic retrieval of funds based on a previous arrangement.

The second customer that we’re going to see at the end of Primatech. They’re a UK-based customer, and they just have a much simpler situation to your licence fee, installation fee, both charged on a monthly basis (just on standard monthly invoice terms). So, those are the customers that you’re going to see. They’re the actors, if you will, in the play that Gavin is going to let out in front of us. The way that’s going to be described is very simple. We’re going to break it down into three demos. At the end of each demo, we’ll have a chat with one of the other members of the panel.

The first one is going to be looking at this whole area of sales through to signature.

One last thing that I will say before we get into the demo, this is a live demo. This is no smoke in mirrors. This is no screenshot sitting on PowerPoint. Because everything that you’re seeing is sitting on the Salesforce platform, this is unique. Nobody else can deliver what you’re going to see here, and we’re really excited to be able to show that to you today.

So, with no more ado, I’d like to hand over to Gavin. Gavin.

Gavin: Thank you very much, Andy. Hello, everyone.

Today, I will show you how today’s modern CFOs, armed with the great tools, can embrace the Digital Office of Finance to deliver a seamless revenue operation. That is, the automation of processes across both the front and the back office.

Imagine a world where we can take any product or service-based opportunity, close it, capture a customer signature, validate, and capture a customer’s preferred payment method, and automatically create and distribute tax-accurate invoices. Then, auto-collect and cash-match those invoices, and while we are at it, ensure that all of this is reflected on our on-platform general ledger. A flawless experience that will delight your customers, CFO, and CRO in equal measure – all driven by the Salesforce platform and the Digital Office of Finance.

Okay, so, I’m going to start with an opportunity at the final stages of closing. I can see the opportunity amount, anticipated close date, and some authorization information (which is currently blank). This relates to establishing the payment authorization to enable auto-cash collection. However, we will revisit these fields again a little bit later.

Further below I have my billing information, where the sales rep has recorded information such as the agreed contract start date, the first invoice date, and my anticipated ARR, which is a derived value. This billing information is working in tandem with my products to drive how I will be billing for the products sold. If I jump to the top of my opportunity and hover over my products link, I can see, as Andy described earlier, a two-year license fee, one-off setup charge, and a usage-based product – which we’ll charge based on consumption of, say, minutes or gigabytes of data, for example. Please note that this is a UK-based organization selling into the US client base. Therefore, products to this client are US dollar denominated, as we can see.

So, let’s move to the point where the prospect says they would like to proceed with the sale. This is usually where the paper shuffling begins. Right? IT requests that specifications are completed for the billing system. Someone advises coming in from Finance that she needs to include a whole bunch of additional rows and her [unknown] spreadsheet. The CFO needs to be reminded that this is an international sale. Therefore, we need to make sure that we get a tax calculation and the submission correct. Then, the sales rep needs to bring the contract posted to the client, and remember to chase for signature and return of document.

Well, that’s one way of doing things. However, today, I’m going to show you something a little different. Assuming our new client is happy to proceed, I’ll mark the current sales stage as complete and move to the Signature & Authorization stage. I’m then going to select the Conga sign and Asperato button. This automatically generates my contract, dispatches the contract to my designated contact on the opportunity, and, in the same communication, requests a setup of any agreed payment authorization on the account.

So, acting in the capacity of the client, I’ve received an email with two links. One is the contract for signature and the other is the payment authorization link. So, let’s open the contract. Adopt and auto-sign. I will now return to my email and set up the payment authorization as an easier mechanism to settle my bills automatically when they become due.

Okay, all done. If I return to my opportunity, I can see that the client’s signature on the contract has created a Closed Won Stage of the opportunity. I can see that the Conga Sign button has been checked, as has the authorization enforce checkbox, and I can even drill down to explore the details of the payment authorization if I wish.

You will also note that the Finance Billing Contract has been created. Because the full Intuit solution I am demoing today is fully native to the Salesforce platform, information already captured in the account, product, and opportunity objects have been employed to pre-populate the billing engine. So now that we have a signed contract, a Closed Won Opportunity, our payment authorizations in place, all our billing and invoicing rules set up and ready to go, we are ready for the next stage in the process, which is invoicing the customer.

Back to you, Andy.

Andy: That’s so cool, Gavin. I love it. Thank you very much, indeed. It was completely seamless. For an opportunity through the contract, fully automated, fantastic. Couldn’t be simpler.

Key part of that, as we alluded to earlier on around the whole revenue operations piece, is the contribution that Conga brings.

Aish, could you tell us something more about Conga? It’s not just about this piece around contracts, is it?

Aish: No, not at all. If anything, the key thing, I said, what we really care about is the revenue operations process end-to-end. We know that revenue operations is all about taking your Marketing, Sales, Finance right through to Customer Success and making them collaborate and maintain focus on a single goal that everyone is accountable for revenue.

So, where Congo can really help our customers and bring that level of expertise is helping them create that optimized, frictionless business process. Not a sales process, not a legal process, but a business process end-to-end, helping them with the proposals, quotes, contracts; whether it’s with our doctrine or using CPQ or CLM, right through to Finance and working with tools like Certinia, to ensuring that we can streamline all of those document processes, making sure that you get back true customer success.

We want to help our organizations automate and integrate all the systems end-to-end, create the end-to-end data transparency (ensuring there’s agreement on metrics across all teams). Really, what Conga wants to do for all of our customers is about delivering transformational capabilities that maximize the revenue yield to connected customer experiences. To have that connected customer experience, you need to streamline your systems, your processes and your people. This is where Conga can really add value to the end-to-end process with all of our customers.

Andy: That’s cool, Aish. It’s really about that whole issue around transformation, and we’re seeing it manifest in what Gavin’s demoing. Thank you.

Moving on to the next piece. We’ve already got our signed contract. Gavin, can you take us through the next piece where we’re going to be moving it through into delivery and then through to billing?

Gavin: Yes, let’s do that, Andy.

Just as a recap in the final stage of the first part of the demonstration, we created the contract, the payment authorization, and the finance billing contract. As just highlighted, we will now take a look at how we invoice the client. So, from an opportunity screen, I’m going to click on my finance billing contract – which was automatically created when the opportunity reached the Closed Won Stage. The first thing I will highlight is the billing contract is in draft mode, because, usually, someone from Finance would want to review the billing elements of the finance building contract before it is activated. So let’s do that now.

Over on the left-hand side, I have my billing contract heading with contract dates drawn from the opportunity. Moving further down, I have a link which facilitates drawback to the source of our transaction – i.e. the initial opportunity and the contract which the client signed, providing us with that full audit trail back to my source.

Moving to the billing contract detail, we note the three products captured on the opportunity, which have been drawn through to the billing contract from the opportunity. For each of these, at the Salesforce product level, we have captured key pieces of information such as the billing type. You can see that one of my products will be billed on a recurring fee basis, compared to my setup charge – which is a one-off charge.

Moving further over to the right, I can see my billing terms. You will note the annual advance billing versus monthly recurring billing on my usage line item. I will also point out that the start dates are staggered. I only start billing my client for the usage-based element of my contract in month two. Perhaps the client negotiated a month’s free usage. You will note the same is true of my first bill date. Each product within a multi-element contract can have its own start, end, and first bill date – provided these are within the confines of the project start and end date, of course.

One final feature to point out is that, for my two-year license fee – which I charge annually in advance, already has a revenue recognition template associated with that product line item. Again, this is due to the nature of the way in which I bill for this product or service. I attach the revenue recognition template to that product. Therefore, when the sales rep includes this product in the contract, we already have a number of key attributes which support the billing process attached to that product.

I’m now happy to activate this billing contract, so let’s do that. The end result is a set of rules wrapped around the products which we have sold, to determine how much, how often, and when to invoice our customers. There are a number of features that we’ll simply not get time to showcase today, such as change control covering activities – such as contract upgrades or price changes, to name a few, and features such as consolidated invoicing.

The financial billing engine is an automated, accurate, intelligent, and malleable solution which will grow and flex with our business. The moment the billing contract was activated, it produced an invoice in line with the various product billing terms. So, if I move over to my billing document or invoice, which was created automatically on activation of the financial billing contract, I can see that I have my products, dates and descriptions. But I’m missing my tax information. If you recall the point I raised earlier concerning complex tax arrangements, I don’t want to assume the burden and risk of managing complex tax arrangements. So I’m going to automate my tax compliance using AvaTax, which is Avalara’s cloud-based sales and use-tax calculation solution. From my dropdown menu, I can select the option to just calculate my tax, then view this calculation, or, instead, which is what I’ll do now, I will go ahead and calculate my tax. My Avalara service is engaged. The relevant location, address information, is retrieved from my customer’s account record, and the tax is calculated and inserted into the correct field on my invoice.

The breakdown of the tax calculation by jurisdiction is available here in the related tab. Please bear in mind that what I’m showing here is not the client-facing invoice, but my Certinia billing document interface.

The tax calculation was the last step necessary in finalizing the billing document. I’ll set the invoice to Complete. This will post the invoice. I’m just going to refresh the page to make sure that my background scheduler has the time to post the billing document to the ledger and update the client’s payment.

Okay, remember that I don’t have to concern myself with chasing payments on this account, because when the due date arrives – thanks to the payment authorization already set up on the customer account – the customer will be automatically debited and all the cash receiving and matching transactions applied in the general ledger. It is not always the case that the customer will agree to automatic debit of funds on the due date from their account.

So, if I move over to Primatech as one of my separate customers… This is one of those clients. Regardless, I can still take payment over the phone by clicking on a payment URL and taking the customer’s bank details, or the client can pay directly by engaging the link you see here on the invoice emailed to the client.

Regardless of the specific method, the customer employs to make payment – be that fully automated or URL on the invoice or calling to the accounts team – because I’m using Asperato to manage the payment process, the accounting functions of cash receipting, matching, and all general ledger transactions are taken care of. Please bear in mind that what I’ve just demonstrated would usually take place as a background activity. Therefore, production of invoices by the billing engine, the tax calculation and posting of the invoice, would normally be caught by background processes. However, in order to demonstrate various components of the order-to-cash process, I have intervened for the purposes of this demonstration in order to showcase these components.

Back to you, Andy.

Andy: Thank you, Gavin. Again, perfect example that you get all the information set up at the beginning, and as a result, you can have automation throughout the whole process to really streamline it, which is precisely what we’re looking for in the whole revenue operations piece.

You alluded to a key part of that, again, being Asperato. Nick, what are your thoughts on what you’re seeing?

Nick: Yeah. Andy, Gavin, this is really great. It’s so good. It’s a great buying experience for Prestige, and it’s a great way for Merlin to reduce Day Sales Outstanding.

Efficient payment collection within revenue operations is, on one hand, obvious, but often it’s so badly handled. You wouldn’t believe how many of our prospects still invoice and hope. Literally, sending an invoice, hoping it gets paid on time, and it hardly ever does. As you know, that time-consuming back and forth – often between systems, by the way – of chasing those invoices costs time and it costs money. I really believe we can bury that outdated approach.

What I also really love is the fact that we’ve removed so many technical barriers here to include things like tokenization, card and bank account validation, Pay Now buttons on Conga-generated documents across the Salesforce platform without required technical knowledge. This is a game-changer for me, as it means Certinia consulting partners and the customers themselves can deliver this end-to-end solution time and time again.

But, also, importantly, it does reduce your risk of fraud and compliance breaches. Asperato is a PCI Level 1 service provider, and it’s our responsibility to monitor and implement compliance and regulatory change. This benefit cannot be underestimated or undervalued. Even just a simple “pen” test for a DIY payment integration can set you back thousands every year.

The next thing I really love is that this is truly a system of record for revenue operations, not just accounts receivable. It’s so unusual to see this. With Asperato providing real-time payment collection data, you can automate things like receipts, failures, and even expiring credit cards. This access to data allows you to pinpoint and deal with the present and future issues,and this data – combined with automation – will really change the status quo, I think.

Gavin has shown us quite a simple example, but Asperato can also handle real complexity. We have customers like the iconic Harley Davidson, and the unstoppable Deliveroo, transacting in multiple locations, multiple languages across multiple payment gateways, and we remain focused on delivering the best experience for Certinia customers and users across the globe.

I could go on. Andy, Gavin, I’m really excited to see this, and to see such thought leaders coming together to share this reality with customers.

You’re going to love the next and final section. To see all of this data in one place is amazing. So, I’m going to let Gavin crack on and show everyone that.

Andy: Thank you, Nick. I love that idea of invoice and hope. I’m sure that a lot of people listening to this well will empathize with that a great deal. Yeah.

So, we’ve seen that process. Gavin, just to finish off demo three, we’re gonna look at things like revenue recognition and maybe some executive dashboards as well, just to just to close off the piece.

Gavin: Thanks, Andy. The points just raised actually dovetail nicely into the final chapter of the demonstration, because in order to facilitate and expedite the monitoring and collections of revenue, Certinia has introduced applications like the Collections Workspace, To Collections personnel, this is what the cockpit is to the pilot. The collections workspace will capture key stats concerning my debtor’s book, such as recent overdue invoices and their value, and invoices which have been placed on hold.

Below this, I have my action banners highlighting unmatched receipts and tasks I should be looking into completing. A task, for example, could be the result of a workflow creating a call to action based on the state of one or more of my overdue accounts. All these items are drillable, as we can see here.

Moving down the page, I have a report highlighting my group-wide debtors position. Further down, I have my as-of-aging report. As we can see, the as-of-aging report is completely configurable. Note that users have flexibility over which reports, banners and stats appear on the page. Again, my frequent tasks appearing on the left hand side of my page is customizable to the tasks which are important to that user group. From this list, I can launch, manage, and execute my dunning process. I can review and print customer statements. I can essentially use my collections workspace to reach into all the activities that I need to manage my debtors and collections and cash processing.

Similarly, if I move over to my billing management workspace, this will give me immediate insight into the state of my billing contracts, such as my projected billings, or MRR, highlighting my future bookings based on live building contracts.

Earlier, we touched on the need to ensure that we recognize revenue on the correct time and basis to ensure that we remain compliant and that our reporting remains accurate. The revenue recognition engine will monitor advanced revenue and, based on a set of rules and other compliance criteria, will release revenue to the P&L on an automated basis to bring up your finance team to focus on more valuable tasks.

I will use aids like the revenue management dashboard to track all aspects of my revenue recognition process, such as tracking revenue recognized to date, or my predicted revenue to be recognized over future periods.

Below this, I have a graph tracking my forecasted revenue to be recognized, versus what I actually recognized. Over to my left. I’m checking revenue recognized by type of revenue, revenue from billing contracts versus revenue recognized on projects. I can get a breakdown of my future revenue to be recognized by customers, and keep an eye on the deferred revenue sitting in my balance sheet. In summary, not only are we striving for that seamless order-to-cash process, but we also need to ensure that we stay in front of our cash and compliance positions.

With that, I will hand it back to Andy.

Andy: Gavin, thank you very much, indeed. That was fantastic. I love this idea of the dashboards acting as the pilot being able to steer the ship of finances. That’s a fantastic metaphor. I love it.

Thinking about revenue recognition, though, that’s not the only compliance issue that we need to think about. We also need to think about areas like tax filings and that. Mark, from Avalara, we saw how Avalara can help with tax calculations earlier on, but it does much more than that, doesn’t it?

Mark: Yeah, and I think what we’ve seen in the demos was really how the overhead of an incredibly difficult process can sort of benefit from the right technology.

We saw the correct rate being added to the invoice or even the quote, which may seem underwhelming, but it’s really based on the 14,000 different jurisdictions across the US, using the “ship to,” “ship from,” product, the state rules, tax holidays. In the US, it goes down to street-level. So, we have to validate the address to make sure that’s correct. So, really, we can plot that on the longitude and latitude tax map for an accurate rate.

The blended rate was shown on the invoice, but, really, it’s made up of various bits of information, albeit at the state, county, special interest levels to really get that piece correct.

It’s similar with VAT determination. That will depend on country, item, whether it’s B2C, B2B, any triangulation, tariffs, VAT registrations, distant sales, etc. So, that’s equally complex, but in a different way.

All this information is stored for file-ready returns, and that’s based on the local requirements. Could be PDF, could be XML, could be other e-formats being introduced, including many of the additional filings required, such as SAF-T or SII in Spain.

As you heard, the integrated demo is about streamlining and reducing the risk of the financial process – including the areas of tax compliance, which is a mystery to many people outside of their core country. Avalara, alongside Certinia and the wider partners we have with us today, we can really address the various pieces along the end-to-end process, and we can really support businesses with improved efficiency, accuracy and really reducing the risk of managing the cost of this whole process.

Andy: That’s cool, Mark, Thank you very much. 14,000 different jurisdictions. That adds a degree of complexity into the mix, doesn’t it?

So, anyhow, there we are. Revenue operations is critical to the success of a business. It requires seamless processes. It requires things to be simple, effective. Automation drives speed, quality improves or reduces errors and reduces all sorts of leakage and friction points that we’ve alluded to earlier on. That’s best delivered by having everything in one place, having that all in one platform, all of our partners coming together. As I’ve said before, this is a unique proposition. It’s real, it’s here, and it’s available now.

So, to summarize, I’d like to thank all of our partners for joining us today: Asperato, Avalara, and Conga. Thank you very much, indeed. Revenue operations is key, but if you don’t have a common platform, there’s going to be issues for revenue leakage. To deliver that, you need a platform, and that’s called a Digital Office of Finance.

A lot of people are talking around digital transformation and what that means for their business. You’ve just seen what it looks like, and I’ll just leave you with one question. What would this mean for your business? If you could have these types of capabilities, what sort of benefits would you realize for your organization?

So, I hope that you’ve enjoyed the event and found it of interest and found it of use. All the attendees will be receiving a recording of today’s session. We’ve put everything together into an e-book called the Digital Office of Finance E-Book, and we will also provide you with information on Asperato, Avalara and Conga partners who have joined us today.

So with that, no more ado. I wish you a good day.