Agile Monetization Integration for High-Growth Companies

Managing Quote-to-Cash (Q2C) processes is one of the top and most complex challenges for growing companies. Fast and accurate processing is crucial to close deals faster, drive positive customer experience, improve cash management and visibility, and increase operational efficiency.

Through every sales cycle, there is a need to share information from different teams: from sales, accounting, customer success, and more. Without automation, companies find themselves dependent on manual processes, such as manual data entry, quote creation, and data uploads downloads across software via spreadsheets. Not only are these activities resource intensive and prone to error, but they slow sales cycles and increase the risk of deals having to be resigned.

During this 2021 Monetize Forum Conference session, Jason Ross, CIO, GetBusy, and Igor Stenmark, Founder and Managing Director of MGI Research covered:

  • Q2C automation & integration strategy
  • Staffing, resources, and tool requirements
  • Change management
  • Best practices & lessons learned
  • And much more!
    Full Webinar Transcript
    Hello. This is Igor Steadmark of MGI Research. Welcome to Monetize Forum 2021. Our next session is focused on how companies integrate monetization technology components in an overall quote-to-cash solution. We often cite our Agile Monetization Platform, or AMP, approach to quote-to-cash. AMP is a modular set of components, of functions such as billing, CPQ, financials, CLM, Aetna, dozen others, all tied together via a single integration bus. When we usually present this concept to companies, their first reaction is, “Okay, where can I buy all these piece components?” Reality today is that no company can just go and buy the entire quote-to-cash solution off the shelf. You can buy some mini-suites. You can buy some best of breed components. You will have to integrate those modules into an overall solution. And when it comes to integration, application integration used to be one of the most expensive elements of an enterprise system’s portfolio. In the late 1990s, that number was about 65% of an overall application budget. So even today, this is a topic that tends to cause the most fear and skepticism. It is perceived as complex, brittle, high-risk, and very high-cost. And yet, over the last 10 years, there have been fundamental advances in how integration is accomplished in terms of efficiency, efficacy, and time to revenue. And many high-growth companies have taken advantage of this transformation and integration in order to turbo charge their growth. Our guest speaker for this session is Mr. Jason Ross, who is the Chief Information Officer of software firm, GetBusy, a UK-headquartered company with global operations in Europe, Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. GetBusy built much of their quote-to-cash solution through integration and so today, we will look at their experience as a case study. As the CIO, Ross currently leads the information technology system within GetBusy with responsibilities for strategy, implementation, operations, and budgets. He has a broad range of experience in areas such as quote-to-cash, application integration, and customer service, among others. He holds a degree in computer science with honors from Anglia Ruskin University. Jason is joining us today from Cambridge, England. Jason, welcome. Really so happy to have you here and looking forward to diving into kind of conversation with you about your experience with quote-to-cash integration. Welcome. Before we launch into kind of our main line conversation, can you give our audience a bit of background about GetBusy, kind of a scale and scope and focus of your company, what you guys do? Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me. As you mentioned, we’re in multiple regions. We do three main product lines, all software. Two are document management systems, one called SmartVault, primarily in the UK and US, and that’s an online document management system, SaaS system. We’ve also got Virtual Cabinet, which is our enterprise document management system, primarily in the UK and Australia, New Zealand. And we have our GetBusy product, our main communication tool. Across those three products, we’ve got around about 130 staff. That’s probably the size of our business. And the enterprise model is where we really focus on our quote-to-cash because of the complexity around the implementation and product offering. Thank you. So looking back now– well, kind of if we were to look at your quote-to-cash stack what does that look like? What are the key tools? What are the key elements and what is your strategy in this area? Were you focused on leverage, kind of complete suites or kind of going for best of breed solutions, point solutions or did you apply a hybrid approach in this area? Yeah. So it’s a good question. Our quote-to-cash process 10 years ago was in our own home-bred ERP system software warehouse so we’ve got developers. And so, therefore, our quote-to-cash process is mature today but our approach is more strategic about implementation change rather than what tools we’re using. So we started off by moving the sales team to Salesforce and we needed the CPQ system to be able to do the quoting as complicated as it was in our bespoke system. So we changed the system from Dealhub to do that. So that was our first step. First step was Salesforce and Dealhub. Then what we needed to do was also move the billing element so we needed to harness that off to consultants for delivery and so they can go and actually deliver the software. They were enterprise-based so long sales cycles, long implementation time sometimes months or years. So what we did was we looked at NetSuite and brought NetSuite into the billing perspective and we needed to integrate that with Salesforce and so, therefore, that was a tricky one because they’re both strong powerhouses. Which one is the master and how does that information flow? And bear in mind our thought came from one single ERP system so they were used to having every piece of information at their fingertips, whichever side of the fence it sat on. And then we introduced Zendesk support as well into that stack, So those are our main tools. So we have Zendesk support, NetSuite if you like it’s the heart , where our billing is done, where our general ledger is done, and all of our business is done and for our enterprise business as well billing is done and then our sales is in Salesforce. Right. Right. And how did you tie all that componentry together? How did you approach that? A good question. Again, it was a tough one. Actually, the procurement of NetSuite part of our requirement was that we had to have integration with Salesforce and that was what we led with and that was as much of a feature as it was to have because I knew that that was something that we needed to tackle. Also, with experience of native integrations we were concerned that with native integrations between applications that they work in one way. There’s not a lot of flexibility in them so the experience that I’ve had with connecting to larger applications together sometimes with native integrations you’re basically a turnkey so you turn them on and then you’ve got a couple of options and that’s about it. Coming from our old ERP system there was a huge amount of bespoke effort there. We have resellers that sell our product for us. All of that sent– if I’m honest it sent shivers down my spine. So what we did was we used Celigo basically to create the highway between Salesforce and NetSuite and Netsuite and Zendesk. So if you create a customer in Salesforce it would then set a certain type of criteria, we create a sales order in NetSuite at the click of a button to be the manual process for someone willing to deal with and automate that enterprise level. So what happens is that information is sent to NetSuite, NetSuite sends it onto Zendesk or using Celigo connectors and integration. And at Celigo to all then become important to those other applications in our stack. It’s another application, it’s a platform, rather than just a line on a whiteboard, which is connecting most of them altogether. So that’s essentially become your data bus more or less. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. bi-directional data bus. And so I guess you’re not moving data kind of in batches between different systems, it’s all kind of synchronized and if not, in real-time, is in quick-time almost in real-time? Yeah, it’s very much getting close in real-time as possible. The other concern was that we wanted to make sure that we didn’t have to worry about seeing arguments either, which one is the master and then we were changing information in our system. Sounds good. Sounds good. When you look back at your original kind of a quote-to-cash strategy and also your integration approach, would you do anything differently? And why? What worked and what didn’t? And what did you learn from that whole integration experience? I mean, it’s been very successful. So I’ll do exactly the things we have done, I would– having said that, where we’ve had challenges is around where we’ve had to import data, on Macs into some of those systems, that’s where the challenge for us is around integration when we are doing data migration. Because we didn’t do it all as a big bang, we did the project in small chunks over a two year period. So at some point, we were migrating data into one of those three applications. And at that point, you’ve got to be very careful about integration. Because if you’re migrating 1000s, and 1000s, of records, the integration, let’s say it’s going to do its job and sending 17,000 or 100,000 records the other way. So I think that’s really where our challenges came. So that, if you do it again, we would plan on migration better. So in a simple example, I would make sure that when I migrate my next week [inaudible] data, I would be migrating it already with my Salesforce links in it rather than letting the integration do the linking for me. But that’s probably too much detail. No, but it’s a practical approach, obviously. When new requirements come up, and you have to integrate new piece parts into the overall quote-to-cash solution, do you guys have an overall strategy or do you pursue a more tactical approach? Yeah, and we have a strategy to make sure that– because originally, we only did this for the UK business last year just before the first UK lockdown, or the pandemic, we implemented Australia and New Zealand into this as well. So that required quite a big change. That was different currencies, it was different fields, different sales revenue coming on board. So we had a strategy after getting to maturity. Now we’re at maturity, we’re very reactionary on changes that the business might want to make. We’re an enterprise business but we do sell new modules all the time. And then we come up with new models for our products all the time. So sometimes that comes with different billing elements. We now do direct debit monthly options for our customers where we never used to do and stress prior on doing more regular transactions of integration have to be able to cope with that or maybe categorize it. All of those things do end up changing Salesforce and next week on a regular basis. What kind of when you look at integration specifically for quote-to-cash what kind of resources do you have committed to this right now in terms of staff, budget, additional tools? And who owns integration in your shop? Well, we have a team in the UK that look after all of our systems and for all of our products. And we have one– myself and one other member of staff and he’s primary responsibilities to look after Celigo and a lot of the other integrations as well. So we’ve got one person looking after change and the requirement to shift things like that. But the changes are relatively easy to do when you’ve got a platform rather than something you’re trying to change for obvious reasons. Yep. Yeah. You’ve got to change internally, but on our end, we’re trying to make sure people are following the right process. So we can go through that relatively quickly and we have sandboxes for all of our systems and we do it in a sandbox. But, for example, if we want to come along and create a new currency, let’s say we’re starting to do stuff in Euros now rather than British Pounds, that is a very easy test and change to do in the Celigo product because it’s a point and click interface and we can create mappings between the two optimizations or even a third one with Zendesk. So we can come up with our own custom relation in the integration as well very, very quickly. Good. Speaking of change management, so integration used be years ago discipline where you take two systems, you freeze the design, you build the integration, pray and hope for the best because if one of them changes 1%, it’s like a physical brick and mortar bridge, things all of a sudden move and the building is no longer stable. So for a modern company like yours, a high-growth company, that just seems completely to me unworkable. And given the kind of the depth of integration requirements, what you guys have, how do you guys manage to change when it comes to integration? Yeah. Well, most of the change is established by us and support. So in essence it’s a business change request which usually my department is in the driving seat, usually it comes to someone saying this isn’t working, or why is this record not got this information on it? And then we look back at the integration to find out whether it was an integration or whether a problem in NetSuite, Salesforce, or a customer relation. Change management is relatively straightforward for us to do when we’ve got [inaudible] in the mix together rather than us having to speak to developers about there’s a field that’s catching API. We get detailed logs with Celigo and other tools like Celigo one way or the other. And you can very quickly and usually we apply the change as part of the fix. That’s great. It’s proactive, I will say compared to being reactive. Because these tools know about the problems before the users do. Because unlike normal integration that is silent that is happening in the background and only when the user puts their hands up, nine months later or something that some record that didn’t sync that they did not have. With these newer tools and with reporting and talking about Celigo as an example. But our integration tools are exactly as reporting tools and they all flash warning signs on us when serious things go wrong. So we can jump on it and we jump usually before the users are aware of it. So it’s a very different experience from what companies used to go through 15, 20 years ago it sounds like. Yeah. What are your plans to expand integration? What’s on your wishlist, are you bringing in new systems, new capabilities? Where do you have kind of new challenges? Yeah. Our overall challenges are we like to keep evolving, we like to learn and expand and stay in front of the innovation curve. We actually are looking at trying to integrate our own GetBusy applications into much of our own products, offerings, customers as much as possible. It’s something we sell to our customers, so we want to also integrate communication tools into our business processes and that’s a new communication tool. So it’s instead of sending someone an email to do something [inaudible] GetBusy to give them an actionable task. So we’re looking at integrating those into our processes as well rather than an email.. Yep. Yep. Let me ask you a bit of a side question here. So as a growth company, what did you guys learn through a pandemic cycle and specifically as it applies to quote-to-cash and in general too? Workplace, workforce. Yeah. Well, we learned that we did the project at the right time because we used to have a scenario where before we had these systems connected. The sales team would often be tapping someone on the shoulder, ringing someone up or saying, “I won this deal. Can we convert it?” because it had to be checked. And this sales manager, I was involved with these new tools and through the pandemic pretty much meant that the system that was thriving all the new communication. And so, we didn’t have to worry too much about manual steps. So that definitely helped in the integration perspective. I knew that our finance team could operate purely out of NetSuite. I knew that our sales team could operate purely out of Salesforce. I knew our support team could operate purely out of Zendesk. You didn’t have to worry about it and it was hands-off integration. So not that we have a problem with that but it would’ve been very difficult during the pandemic if we had our old systems. Right. Right. In closing, what is one thing that every company should know about GetBusy but they don’t? What’s your secret? I think we’re very agile. So we’re fast-moving and we like to always try and constantly innovate and use and learn from others as well which is why we do things like this actually because we find there’s a shortage of people sharing now, there’s a resources problem and we feel that we definitely like share what we do as much as possible. In that way then, we can help others with our own tools. Our own GetBusy tool is something that we’ll be making quite good changes in the way people do business. So it’s been very successful. Jason, many thanks for joining us here today. Really appreciate your participation. I would encourage everybody who is listening, send your questions to Jason, any kind of Q&A and enjoy the rest of Monetize Forum 2021. Thank you very much, Jason. I hope to see you again. Thanks.

    About the speakers

    Jason Ross

    Jason Ross is the CIO of GetBusy. With over 16 years, experience, he places a heavy emphasis on facilitating and managing change within a business through the development and implementation of specialised software. Prior to his role at GetBusy, Ross was a Technical Project Manager at Lindenhouse Software. Away from work, he is a big football fan and likes spending time with his family. He also has a degree in Computer Science from Anglia Ruskin University.