This video interview was originally posted on SMB Group Spotlight.
Laurie: Hi, this is Laurie McCabe from SMB Group and today I’m here on the SMB Spotlight at Salesforce’s Dreamforce 2014 Conference. I’m talking to Aaron Harris, who is the Chief Technology Officer for Intacct. Aaron, thank you for sharing time with me today. Can you tell me a little bit about Intacct, who you are, what you do?
Aaron: Sure. Thanks Laurie. Intacct is a cloud accounting and finance solution that we have designed for small and medium-sized businesses. We’ve taken a best in class approach, so all of our resources are targeted at building just what the accounting and finance team needs, the general ledger, payables, receivables. We’ve got a strong relationship with Salesforce, so if you’re using Salesforce we’ve got a very nice native integration where Intacct and Salesforce synchronize data and processes and it’s a beautiful way to get your front office and your back office working together.
Laurie: So what are you highlighting here? I know you have an announcement about some new collaboration capabilities with Salesforce. What’s going on with that?
Aaron: That’s right. So at Dreamforce this year we are announcing Intacct Collaborate. What Intacct Collaborate does it takes Salesforce Chatter and extends it into Intacct so that your sales and your marketing and support people who are using Salesforce today and who are collaborating on Chatter are using now the same network that the accounting team, the finance team, project managers are using on the backend. So there’s one social network, there’s one collaborative network across the enterprise for the whole organization to work on.
Laurie: Good. It sounds like that makes it easier for everybody to feed information into the whole financial process.
Aaron: That’s right. There’s a lot pieces to it. Obviously there are some great stories, right? I’m a sales rep, I’ve got a deal that I want to get done, I need to get a 10% discount approved on that deal. In the old world I’d write an email to the CFO, the CFO doesn’t know anything about what I’m talking about so the CFO has got to go do some research. She responds to the email, there’s lots of back and forth, none of the communication is captured, right? So it slows down the sale, it adds frustration, there’s no log to what happened. So in this world that all happens via chatting and collaborating, and it’s all in real-time, it’s all captured, it’s all part of the record. We also see this being useful within the accounting and finance team, getting them to collaborate over some of the more tricky business processes. I was talking to a CFO the other day who said 20% of finance transactions are exceptional, they’re complex. And we spend 80% of our time on those 20% of the transactions, the exceptions. We have to find out what’s going on, what do we do? Having Collaborate allows them to not only more efficiently communicate about these transactions and these exceptions, but it generates a log that you keep the communication around the transaction.
Laurie: I know Intacct is really aimed at small and medium businesses, but that’s a very diverse audience, so what segments of the SNB market are really the sweet spot for Intacct?
Aaron: Sure, so there’s really two categories of customers who are choosing Intacct. The first is companies who have outgrown their first accounting product, usually it’s QuickBooks. They’ll outgrow it when they need to automate processes that are manual. Perhaps they’re now a multi-location business and it’s just too difficult to aggregate or consolidate data across the locations. It might be that the reporting tools available in QuickBooks don’t give them kind of insight that they need, which product lines are the most profitable, which of my professional services engagements are losing money and which are making money? This kind of insight is just not possible in some of the low-end products. Or it may just be that this is a growing company that expects to go public, they need to have proper controls in place, they need to have a certain way they’re going to get through their Sarbanes–Oxley audits, so they need a product that will help them…
Laurie: Even if you’re preparing to be acquired or something like that. If you sell the business you would need that.
Aaron: Exactly. You need a product that cannot just assure external auditors that you’re following these controls, but that allows you to provide the evidence that you’re doing it.
Laurie: And that’s about half of your customers are coming from that.
Aaron: About half. So the other half are people who have embraced the cloud. They love Salesforce, they love some of the other cloud products. They can see that with Salesforce they’re getting constant innovation, it embraces mobile technology. You know what I’m talking about.
Laurie: Yeah, they just want to be able to do things on the fly, they way they want, on the device of choice.
Aaron: And no more headaches about hosting the infrastructure, that’s security, right?
Laurie: No, they don’t want to mess with that.
Aaron: So they want to take their accounting and finance processes and modernize them to the same extent as they already have sales and marketing. So they’re choosing Intacct not just because it’s cloud and it gives them the same advantages they’re getting through Salesforce, they’re also choosing it because it’s fully integrated with Salesforce. They’ve got the full front office/back office integration, data synchronization, process integration.
Laurie: It takes the integration headache away too.
Aaron: That’s right. No more disconnect in the process.
Laurie: So how can a potential customer or prospect learn a little bit more or better evaluate whether this might be a good fit for them?
Aaron: The easiest way is to go to our website, go to www.intacct.com. There’s a number of things you can do there, but maybe the easiest is just to get a trial.
Laurie: So you do still offer a free trial? I think a lot of them don’t anymore
Aaron: We do. We’re very proud of our product, we think it’s very easy to use, so get a trial. We actually walk you through how to learn more. It’s actually a really nice way to learn about Intacct.
Laurie: That’s great. Well Aaron, thank you again for sharing that information with me about Intacct. I think it will be really valuable for a lot of small and medium businesses out there. Have a great rest of Dreamforce.
Aaron: Thanks Laurie.
Laurie: Thank you.
Whether a business is large or small, identifying, qualifying and hiring the right employees is critical to innovation and growth. But, as the recession wanes and the economy picks up, more companies are hiring, and competition—especially for top talent is intensifying. This makes it more difficult for many companies to find, track and hire the talent they need to thrive.
As a result, many businesses are reassessing and refreshing their existing recruiting practices and solutions. They are looking for knowledge and tools to give them the agility they need to compete more successfully throughout the recruitment process.
In this three-part series, sponsored by IBM Smarter Workforce, I look at how companies are using applicant tracking systems (ATS) and assessment solutions to better address these issues, and new developments in this area that promise to provide further enhancements.
Behind the Scenes at A Leading Hospitality Company
Almost everyone that has ever had children has been to venues that combine a restaurant with arcade games, amusement rides, climbing equipment, entertainment and other activities, including climbing equipment, tubes, and slides.
But it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes talent to pull all of this off. According to the Senior Recruiting Administrator at one of the largest hospitality companies of this kind, the Kenexa Recruiter Enterprise ATS that they had implemented years ago “was very basic, it served as a database for resumes. When managers read the resumes and selected top candidates for management and technical positions, they would have to manually overnight applications to them, and the candidates would have to complete and overnight them back. We had HR statuses, but they didn’t trigger anything. We couldn’t automate or control the process, or assign different levels of access to different types of users.” In addition, although the hospitality company had created two custom assessment tests for management and technical positions, hiring managers had to administer the 35 to 40 question tests to applicants over the phone.
By 2011, the manual processing required to support these workflows had become overwhelming, and says the senior recruiting administrator, “the company decided we were well overdue, and it was time to upgrade both its ATS and revamp its assessment tools to keep up with our evolving recruitment requirements.”
Although the company was familiar with Kenexa, the company wanted to check out competitive offerings to make sure that there wasn’t a better fit out there. They were looking for a cloud solution that would provide them with the automated ATS workflows they needed, and at an affordable price. In addition, the company also wanted to move its custom assessments into an online assessment system.
As the administrator observes, “We looked at 6 or 7 systems, and most offer fairly similar functionality in terms of ATS. But price was a key consideration for us. Some of the competitive solutions had lots of bells and whistles that we knew we wouldn’t use—along with more expensive price tags. So we’d be wasting our money.”
In addition, competitive ATS vendors that the company evaluated didn’t have the assessment piece. “They would have handed us off to a third-party, and we’d have to negotiate two deals, and manage two maintenance contracts and vendors,” notes the recruitment administrator. Kenexa’s ability to provide both ATS and assessments at “the right price” was also a key factor.
In addition, since the company had decided to deploy cloud-based offerings, it didn’t need to involve its 25-person IT staff. “Our bread and butter is the stores, so our IT staff is pretty lean.” Ultimately, the Senior VP and Director of HR at the company made the final decision to go with Kenexa for both ATS and custom assessments.
Moving to an Automated Approach for ATS and Assessments
Once they decided to go with Kenexa BrassRing ATS and assessments, Kenexa assigned a project manager, to help keep project milestones on track, and the team planned the rollout. They started with an initial group that included herself and four field recruiters, because recruiters would be using the solution in the most depth. Says the administrator, “I learned fairly quickly that you need to go beyond the project manager that’s assigned, and ask a lot of questions to a lot of people, including the technical people who configure everything. Once I got more resources on the Kenexa team in the loop, it was easier to figure out what approach to take and get it done more quickly.”
Kenexa also provided this initial small team with a day of training the week before it went live. After about one month using the system, the recruiters “had a good grasp of the solution. It’s pretty simple to use. But don’t get me wrong, we stumbled. We could have done more…like have more people testing it. It was a learning process, but one of the guys on Kenexa’s technical support team helped us and in the end it was a smooth rollout,” she added.
After the initial group was up to speed, they rolled it out to 45 district managers through an initial meeting, and then the company’s four recruiters worked with the district managers individually. Now, in addition to field recruiters and district managers, Internet recruiters, hiring managers, HR managers and regional managers are all using the system.
Observes the administrator, “The biggest challenge we probably had was getting people used to it, to the change. We sent emails saying you need to create a new profile, get a new password. So notifying people in each store caused us a little bit of trouble. And doing assessments online was also a big change for them. So in general, it took about 2 weeks for them to get comfortable with it.”
IBM now provides ongoing support via its Global Support Center staff, and the hospitality company’s IT staff hasn’t needed to get involved in supporting these solutions. If the internal team gets a call or email, they send it to IBM. However, when the business is ready to integrate Brassring with its Workday HRIS, its IT staff will play a role in the integration.
According to the recruitment administrator, “Gaining the ability to pull a lot of reports, much more easily, and on our own is very helpful. We used to have to request reports—and then wait for someone to pull them. It definitely also helps us control the workflow.”
She continues, “Triggers, forms and having things go at specific times ensure a more uniform recruitment process. The best part is that it reinforces the workflow, and helps us limit exceptions. Because there’s a single platform, everyone has to do it right, its set up the same way for everyone.”
This provides peace of mind, especially in the assessment area. The business has had two successful validations of its assessment process since automating it. As she observes, “It’s great, we’re not open to any legal issues here.”
Although the company hasn’t done a formal ROI, the cost and time savings benefits are clear. “Recruiters used to sit on the phone getting 35 to 40 questions answered, now this is online, saving time and eliminating expenses for overnight shipping,” notes the senior recruiter.
Talent is the lifeblood of any organization, fueling the innovation required to grow and thrive in today’s hyper-competitive world. Many cloud-based ATS and assessment solutions are available, but as this story highlights, there are some of fundamental considerations that need to be factored in regardless of which solution you choose to ensure a smooth transition, including:
- Distinguish must-have requirements from nice-to-have features. Affordability and getting both ATS and assessments from one vendor were top priorities in this case. Setting these priorities helped stop them from getting distracted by solutions with nice to have, but expensive and unnecessary features.
- Ask questions early, often and from multiple people on the vendor side. Implementing or upgrading an ATS system is a big project, and its unlikely any one person will have all the answers or the depth of information you need to make the best and most expedient decisions during the implementation process. Learn who the best resources are for different questions and guidance, and use them.
- Get more people involved in the testing process. It can be tempting to limit initial testing to a very small group of users to make the process more manageable—over the short-term. But, things usually go more smoothly over the long-term when you involve a few more people upfront to work out more of the kinks earlier in the process.
When it comes to ATS and assessments, each company has unique requirements, workflows and considerations that come into play. However, across the board, strong communication and collaboration, both internally and with the vendor, will help ensure a successful outcome in the short-term, and set the stage for your organization to adapt to new requirements.
This is the third post in a three-part blog series written by SMB Group and sponsored by IBM. The series examines talent management solutions and trends.
Laurie: Hi, this Laurie McCabe from the SMB Group, and in today’s SMB Spotlight I’m speaking with John Mason, who is IBM’s new General Manager and VP for Midmarket. Hi John. Thanks for joining me on this two-part discussion about developments at IBM in the midmarket and SMB space. In our first discussion, I’d like to focus on the IBM acquisition of SoftLayer, which I understand provides dedicated hosting, cloud computing and cloud services offerings.
Before that though, I’d like to learn more about you and your background. I understand you’re relatively new to IBM. Can you tell us a little bit about where you’ve been and what kind of experience you bring to your role?
John: Thanks Laurie. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. I joined IBM three months ago. I started my career at Compaq in the 80s. I spent thirteen years there and moved to Cisco, and ran the SME and midmarket business with Cisco in Europe, Middle East, Africa.
Then, I ran global channels for Nokia’s Enterprise business. I also ran a mobile cloud service in eReading and News for a couple of years, and a white label mobile messaging service provider that had been acquired during my time there.
So, when the discussion started with IBM, it was an interesting combination of different hardware, software and services businesses in small and midsize enterprise and across mobile and social. It was the opportunity to combine that with IBM’s amazing global reach in over 170 countries and find ways to get that to the millions of small and midsized companies. Many are possibly not even doing any business with IBM today but can benefit from those solutions.
Laurie: What will you be focusing on in your new role as GM, John?
John: Finding new opportunities to grow the business and bring mobile and social and analytics, and particularly cloud solutions to small or midsized businesses. This means working very closely with our partner organization and focusing on MSPs as the key route market.
Laurie: Thanks for that background. So help me understand a little bit about the SoftLayer acquisition and why it’s so important. IBM makes a lot of acquisitions in general, and I think probably at least a dozen in the cloud area. What makes SoftLayer stand out for IBM?
John: This is one of those few times in our industry where there’s an absolutely fundamental shift that changes everything. When client-server computing started taking off was one, and when mobile really went to a whole new level was another. Now, with cloud, we’re seeing a major shift, which is very beneficial to smaller and midsized companies. They may not have the IT expertise in-house to take advantage of some of the technologies that larger companies are able to use, but now through cloud, they can use more advanced solutions without having to deal with the complexities.
Laurie: Tell us about what SoftLayer does and how that will help IBM help SMBs? What does it give IBM you that it didn’t have in the cloud area?
John: The SoftLayer acquisition was driven by a change in the way that customers are looking to buy. I would say it’s as simple as answering these questions. Is this technology solution is going to be hosted at your place or mine? Is this something that I have to build and manage on my premises, or is it something that I can tap into through a web browser to connect to infrastructure that’s sitting somewhere else outside of my physical office buildings? Then, is that going to be dedicated to me or is it something that I share with somebody else? So, it’s really your place or mine, shared or dedicated, and what software brings is the ability to offer the full range of different deployment options.
That’s whether it’s a complete public cloud solution or it’s a private cloud or it’s some mix of some parts public, some parts private in a hybrid deployment. SoftLayer lets us accelerate our ability to deliver those pieces across a broad range of different businesses and different services.
Laurie: What about purchasing and pricing mechanisms for customers?
John: Yes, that’s really key. It’s really important to make it easy and simple to understand what the offering is, and how can I choose the combination that is right for me. Then make it really easy for them to purchase and deploy that solution.
The beauty of SoftLayer is they have a very simple credit card purchase capability. You can be up and running literally within the hour and choose whether you want to be billed monthly or hourly. It’s simple and flexible, and that’s as important as the underlying technology.
Laurie: One of the other things that I’m curious about is that it seems like managed services is another big part of the SoftLayer business. IBM has been heavily courting managed service providers (MSPs) for quite some time. Does this create a conflict with them?
John: SoftLayer is really complementary to what we’re doing with MSPs. In fact, we’ve had a number of key wins with MSPs for SoftLayer with service providers who have said, “I really don’t want to have to manage this infrastructure myself. It’s not my core business. My focus is on security services or hosted exchange services. So, rather than me scarce resources building and managing an infrastructure layer, I’d rather focus on the higher value services on top of that, and I’ll use SoftLayer as infrastructure.”
Laurie: Will they be able to resell SoftLayer?
John: Yes, there’s that too. MSPs can use SoftLayer themselves as part of their own infrastructure, or they can resell it to customers together with other value-add services that they bring to the mix.
Laurie: Where does SoftLayer sit in terms of IBM’s SmartCloud services?
John: SoftLayer gives us the ability to accelerate our own leadership position, scale out the smaller cloud service portfolio, add additional higher value services and solutions across mobile and data analytics, social–together with partners. It’s the combination of all of that into a solution that adds value for customers.
Laurie: What kind of experience in SMB and midmarket does SoftLayer bring that IBM can leverage, and how will you do that?
John: I mentioned this earlier in our conversation when we talked about what attracted me to the role at IBM. Frankly, the SoftLayer acquisition hadn’t closed but had been publicly announced. That was a real additional level of credibility that we could use to address the SMB market because SoftLayer had over 20,000 SMB customers already. They clearly have a very strong focus on that market and a solution that is very simple, easy for the smaller customer to understand, choose, purchase, deploy and operate.
So, to me that said IBM’s not just talking about the midmarket, but actually putting a significant investment in technologies, ease of purchase and deployment to enable this. SoftLayer convinced me that we very serious about this and that was a decider for me.
Laurie: What does the bigger go to market plan look like? Many SMBs still think IBM doesn’t have solutions that are relevant for them. How are you going to change that?
John: First, we need to be careful that we don’t hug SoftLayer to death. We need to give them space to continue to operate their own very successful go to market model. There’s always a risk when a big company acquires a smaller company that sometimes the big company process can slow down the smaller company. We will be very diligent about ensuring that doesn’t happen and that SoftLayer continues to operate somewhat independently with their existing go to market model.
At the same time, we need to take advantage of what they bring and combine that with IBM’s traditional business partners, managed service provider partners, and some of the ISVs that we work with. Really, this is more about connecting the ecosystem that needs to work together to deliver solutions to small and midsized companies. SoftLayer helps us accelerate that with a full range of all types of different deployment options–everything from bare metal dedicated servers, virtualized shared servers, managed private and public cloud through to a full range of storage and networking and managed services.
Laurie: So, what does success look like here if this all goes according to plan?
John: I think we’ll see continued acceleration of cloud adoption within small and midsized companies and SoftLayer will help to significantly accelerate the deployment of both hybrid private and public cloud solutions for small and midsized companies. I certainly expect the 20,000 existing SoftLayer customers will increase significantly without putting a specific number on it. Beyond that, it’s about helping MSPs to accelerate their offerings with more value-add services above and beyond the infrastructure layer. That way we really bring complete solutions for small and midsized companies that are simple to deploy and use.
Laurie: John, thank you for joining me, and I look forward to our next discussion, when we will talk about IBM’s other new plans for SMB and mid-market customers.
John: Thank you Laurie. I appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion and certainly look forward to future discussions we’ll have.
This is the first of a two-part SMB Spotlight interview with John Mason, IBM’s General Manager and VP for Midmarket, sponsored by IBM. In the second post, I’ll ask John about other new IBM strategies and developments for SMB and midmarket companies and channel partners.