Mastering Growth: Live Panel on Integration and Automation to Scale

Join us for a discussion with technology leaders from GetBusy, Aryaka Networks, and BrandMuscle in a lively and engaging roundtable with Mark Simon, Celigo’s VP of Strategy.

This is a great opportunity to learn from experts who have walked in your footsteps and hear their real-world stories into their integration and automation journey. They’ll share insights, what worked, what did not work, and what they might have done differently.

Topics discussed include:

  • Integration and automation as a competitive advantage
  • Prioritizing integrations and automation 
  • Building the roadmap and getting started
  • Evaluation Process
  • Live Q&A

Watch Now!
Full Webinar Transcript
Really excited to talk about mastering growth and in a live panel here on integration and automation to scale, sharing the journeys of three really great Celigo customers that we’ve worked with over the years on their integration journey. So some short introductions here on our panel are in order. I’m Mark Simon on the VP of Strategy here at Celigo. I’ve been at Celigo for a bit over two years, but I’ve been in the mid-market ERP automation, custom software development, and integration space. I was in consulting for about 12 years prior to joining Celigo and actually had an iPaaS practice. I was a Celigo partner before joining the team. We have three great panelists today. We’re joined by Brian Kuntz from BrandMuscle who is the VP of Corporate Solutions Delivery there. Brian has been with BrandMuscle for four-plus years with the role of implementing IT initiatives for the finance department. Brian leads multiple projects, including enhanced revenue recognition, corporate-wide expense reporting system, warehouse fulfillment software, and others. Brian’s largest accomplishment was leading the selection and implementation of the state-of-the-art ERP solution, NetSuite, converting all BrandMuscle subsidiaries onto the platform. With the selection of NetSuite, a cloud-based solution, Brian needed a tool allowing him to integrate his proprietary software. With the help of his implementation partner, Brian implemented Celigo as the iPass, allowing NetSuite to integrate with BrandMuscle’s proprietary on-prem software, the integration routers, the manual data entry by the BrandMuscle team, reducing errors and increasing efficiencies. Since the implementation of NetSuite and Celigo, Brian has identified multiple manual processes where he’s been able to implement Celigo with other third-party vendors, increasing efficiencies, reducing errors, and decreasing their employees’ manual data entry. And from here, I’ll hand it off to Jason for his intro. Thanks, Mark. I’m Jason Ross. I’m from GetBusy. We’re a multinational software company, publicly listed, based in the UK, which at the moment, and we’ve also got offices in the US and Australia. We specialize in document management and productivities and integrating those tools into ERP systems and practice management systems. I’ve worked for GetBusy twice, and in total, I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, and I’ve worked mainly on the consulting side. And over the last four or five years, I’ve worked on a digital transformation project to CIO where we’ve moved from our own in-house ERP system, which was developed by ourselves as a software company right the way through to a selection of best of breed products from Salesforce to NetSuite to Zendesk using lots of different tools to do that, and that’s the journey that we’ve been on and hopefully can go through here, we can explain some of our experiences. I’m looking forward to it. Excellent. Thanks, Jason. Over to you, Venkat. Good morning. Thank you for joining. I’m Venkat. I’m a business technology for Ariacom. Almost a little more than two decades of enterprise experience implementing various business systems, you may call it, from the same source or the sale side of the systems to support side of the systems to finance systems. Have gone down the path looking at how these systems get connected, what needs to be watched out for. What makes the value which business gets created, so that that’s what my property is, and I run technology for– Aryaka Systems. A little bit more of a background on Solego for everybody before we jump in and get started. Solego is an integration platform as a service. Otherwise known as an iPass. We recently were awarded a G2 Crowd Best Of Software award for 2021. As one of the top IT cloud management solutions. Obviously, very proud of that. And you know, iPass is really– iPass is the foundation to solid integration strategy. Integration is the foundation of automation and digital transformation. As we’ll discuss a little bit further, here, with the team. What I’d love for– as we get started here with the team, to our panel here today. Jumping in. Giving us maybe a little bit more– going through the group, and just getting a little bit more insight into your– business and how your integration and automation journey started, and challenges, and– successes along the way. Just to give a– kind of a high-level perspective on that journey. And would love to kick off into it with Brian, here. Sure. Thanks, Mark. Yeah, when we were converting over from our old DRP system, into NetSuite, we are going to a cloud-like-based solution, and we still had our proprietary software. So our biggest challenge was how would we get that information from there up into the cloud where before we would do sort of procedures and move everything back and forth? That’s where we started working with– StickIt was our implementation partner. And they were able to help us decide on an iPass solution, and we selected Solego. We were able to easily move the stuff by creating a couple of public APIs. And moving the stuff from the proprietary software up into NetSuite. Jason, can you give us a bit more perspective on your journey? And integration journey and how that impacted your business? Yeah, sure. So we moved from– as I mentioned earlier, we moved from our own in-house VRP system, which was on-premise with all the good stuff that goes with it. Right the way up to– we started by moving to Salesforce, so we had a process where part of our business was already on the Salesforce. So we moved out of that ERP system into Salesforce as a CPQ system. And called DealHub. So those two were up and running first. And that worked relatively well on its own. The problem that we have is that we were an enterprise document management system, which meant that we had a lot of custom deals over 20 years, right? That has been– that happened. We were both reselling a lot of products, we had resellers of our own product. And therefore, we had quite a complicated business model to feed into the protein cell system. So we needed a new ERP system to help with our billing, and our general ledgers, and our multiple surgeries. And our multiple currencies as well. So with that, we chose NetSuite. And during that process, part of the requirement when we chose NetSuite was, if whatever ERP system tries, they had to integrate with Salesforce in a way that meant that we didn’t have to have licenses for everyone for every piece of software. Cause that was a very expensive solution for us. We were still at that point, and relatively small business a few years back. So we wanted to keep our cost down, but we wanted to keep our sales in Salesforce, and then move our ERP system to next week. And during our process, we selected to be able to be the bus between those two applications. We’ve also since added Zendesk into that mix so that our support team, our finance team, and our sales and operations teams are all looking at the same data, they’re just looking at them through three different lenses. And then over to you Venkat. We’d love to hear a bit more about Aryaka and your background on the business and your journey because I know it’s been certainly been an interesting one as well, just like these others. Certainly. And thanks Mark. Just regarding Aryaka just want to take a step back. Most of you may or may not know Aryaka is in the space of SD-WAN, software defined wide area network. What we do is we can connect any customer with a global connect. We can provide global connectivity for any customer in a flip of a switch. You don’t need to go through the traditional network companies and then install in and establishing the whole network, which takes a long time. Even China. So that we are good at it. This company exists almost 12 years. For the past 10 years these guys are building the product when there was no such thing called like SD-WAN. But around two years ago this comes a situation where you’ve got to transform, you’ve got to move into the new world. So that’s when this whole thing started and then I came along. The company as such is very well funded. It has a massive– disturbing the massive market. We have a global network and a well-established past. So what Aryaka does as I said you have global connectivity which is the bottom of the layer. And that would enable you to connect all your sites. It may have a site in Europe UK or in India and China. It doesn’t matter. Globally we can connect. Once you connect we know how we can transfer the data in a very optimized manner. We can also connect to the cloud systems. And then also we can secure. Any data which goes to the note security checkpoint security we can connect that. And then you have an idea of what data is being moved from one of your branches to another of your branch. That is our key. So you get to see it. Pretty much you get to manage it in a flip of a switch. That’s what the SD-WAN is all about just the nature of that. So what happened is only two years ago the whole leadership team changed. It’s a time for us to right. And this whole new team came along and then said, “Now we have a very solid product, now how do we take it to the market?” So there’s a transformation going on in the organization, how we sell our products, how we package our products, and how we do it. But our systems which are certainly fellow speakers talked about we have a Salesforce, we have a NetSuite, we have a Zuora, all of those financial systems out there in the ERP and then CRM systems. But they were never being thought through. Sometimes I feel like saying it might be the case. Companies go and then spend too much money on the software. But they don’t put the people to use it and they don’t enhance it. So that was the situation. So what our goal was to see how we can sell these new products, new offerings by enabling and transforming all of the business systems. And as part of that how do we move the data between these systems? Because that was the fundamental problem we had. First is we are unable to sell the way we want to. And then even if we sell how do you bill it, how do you collect the money, how do you recognize the revenue? Those are all pieces that have been kind of broken. So that’s where the Celigo came in and we were able to use the Celigo to integrate all of them over 14 months I would say. And now the system is fully ready and then ready to go. And then we had a very success by doing this in a step by step manner. A lot to talk about it as we go. That’s a quick intro of me. Excellent. Thank you, Venkat. Great background. I really wanted to understand SD-WAN I appreciate that because I think a lot of our attendees wouldn’t necessarily know how to explain what that was or understand how you fit into the networking landscape. So this is what you saw. So those are all our pops across the globe. So that’s how you guys get connected. So then we can transfer the data from across the globe using those props. And that’s the one by Aryaka. So we kind of touched on everybody’s integration journey at a high level here. I’m curious to know if anybody has anything they want to share about their journey– I think a lot of times it can be tough to get started for companies when they think about automation, integration, they know maybe their processes can be more efficient. It’s something we see very common that there’s a pain point. And sometimes you have a singular, very acute pain point and you start there to solve, other times the approach is more holistic. I think I’d be curious– Yeah, hearing a little bit more from our panelists here about how you began your automation journey and what were some of those decisions you were looking at early on and making to kind of help guide yourself at the beginning? And maybe come back to– maybe come back to Brian. Sure. So we knew when we were going to a cloud-based NetSuite solution for ERP that we had to have some sort of iPaaS solution. There is no doubt. So I don’t want to say we’re forced into it, but we knew going into that, that’s what we’re going to have to do. So we just wanted to find the right one and that’s how we chose Celigo. But we’ve been up and running on this now for the past two and a half years. And those processes, there’s probably about 15 processes that we had to put in place to get the two pieces of software to talk. But since then, we have found probably another half dozen or so areas where we can take advantage of this iPaaS solution that nobody even thought of before. One of the latest ones we’re doing is we’re actually moving data from NetSuite or into Snowflake. So we’re putting together a whole big data science project and just on a schedule, taking that data, dumping it over into Snowflake, doing our transformation, and coming up with the answers to our data science questions. So there is more and more of these types of applications that are probably right around you that you may not even notice because I didn’t even think about that one at first until I started typing in, oh, let’s see what we can do at Snowflake. And the built-in connectors were there allowing us to very easily move the data back and forth. Brian, thank you. That data warehouse use case is of particular interest to us. I know on the Celigo side, we’re hearing more and more about that use case from our customers. And we’re seeing that need kind of come downstream, so to speak. And be I’d be interested, what kind of drove that need internally for that integration for that data warehousing? Don’t your SaaS applications have reporting within them? What we’re kind of the– What was driving going to do an external data warehouse solution? Yeah. So it’s a little bit more than just reporting. So we have transactions that live inside in NetSuite. We have transactions that live inside all of our other systems, which are about five or six other different systems. So what we’re trying to do is let’s get all those transactions into our data warehouse at a specific transactional line level, and then let’s go ahead and normalize that data so all the transactions will look the same, which will help us with some of our data science type of questions and answers that we have out there. So it was really a transformation of the data from multiple systems into one. Got it. That makes sense. We’ve certainly seen that need with other customers as well. Now, looking at kind of getting started on that journey, what we’ve seen– Vencott, what’s your perspective on that? Did your journey look pretty similar to Brian’s, or how did yours evolve? I mean, more of the same. So my journey is, of course, as I said, I’m transforming the whole system, then I need something to glue, which is where I started to come in and look at– the iPaaS is the only way to do it. I mean, the traditional integration software, there are many out there. I have worked with them. This is not my first rodeo on the integration. So when I started to look at the integration software, what I wanted to choose at the time that– I look at the company. I look at what the requirements today and then what fits for what I wanted to do, and then Celigo fixed right in between uploads. So I have taken a look at what within the Celigo. I opened up the out of the box and then see what does I need. I need to connect by next week. So then, basically, yes. Do I have next week, integration out of the box available? So that cut down my level of effort. And then, I looked at the custom integrations I need to build from Salesforce to Zuora. Can I do it, and then easily doable? Yes, that fits the bill. And that’s how I looked at it. And we went with Celigo, has been– I would say it’s a great journey, 14 months. And I would even say it’s much longer than what other systems took the functionality to enable than I get to in a minute. But yeah, the end goal is seamless data transfer from my business systems from one system to other systems so we can build it in a timely manner and then invoice the customer and then recognize that revenue is what the end goal is. So yeah, it does what it’s supposed to be doing, and we are happy. Fantastic. So you mentioned seamless data transfer. That’s everybody’s goal. Were there any bumps along the road? I would say yes, of course, there are always bumps along the road. And kidding aside, I would say anyone taking an iPaaS solution and then implementing– you guys have to understand this is the longest pole in the tent. This takes a good amount of time to implement. And it’s not the tool. It is your own business. You’ve got to understand what the business you are in, what type of transactions you are generating. And kidding aside, actually, as a technology professional, we try to code 80% as the commonality and then 20% is the exception. But the business is other way around. 80% is the exception and 20% is commonality. So when do you know that? Only during the integration. Because the way they are selling is not going to fit in your billing system, then you are to start making changes. And the way you are collecting the money may not be fit into the revenue recognition, then you need to start making the changes. So it gets very tricky. So what I suggest is know your business, know your exceptions. And then, you would be spending a good amount of time on integration, fixing those gotchas. So even though you don’t want to be, but that’s where you end up be. So yes, there are it’s not a easy part, but you’ve got to go at it every day. So is it fair to say work on your business processes? Focus on those. You’ve got to make sure you’re– you can’t expect the integration to fix your business processes. You’ve got to integrate good business processes then. Exactly, yeah. I mean, the tool is there to help you on how do you want to integrate. But you need to know the business, see because the thing is the way you are selling may not fits into the billing system. They both are two different schemas because the Salesforce is a different way of looking at things, and then Zuora so is my billing system look at things differently. So the integration comes in between as to transform the dataset. If you don’t know how to transform, then that’s a problem. And that the integration tool is what it’s going to do. Even when you transform, your sales team is not going to sell in the same manner. Today they sell in one way. Tomorrow the customer pushes them, and then they sell it slightly with a different flavor to it. Maybe your billing terms are different. Maybe they give a grace period on how they sell it. So now all of a sudden, you need to transform that into the integration to make sure your billing team understands that. So know your business, know you’re in all these gotchas. And then make sure you tighten the integration. That’s why I call it as integration is a journey. It is the longest pole in the tent. You got to go at it. But once you do it, you are the man. Thanks, Venkat. That was an excellent perspective. Jason, anything there you want to share on getting started? And that prioritization challenge always along the way. Yeah, sure. I mean, I agree with Venkat there on everything. The same. You got to know your business and so on and so forth. From my perspective, we had to move fast. We did our ERP implementation in between three to five months. So the integration needed to happen relatively quickly. So from my perspective, the integration between Salesforce and NetSuite needed to be something that myself or our team could look after. It had to be something that we could monitor because it had key data going back and forth. And it had to be something that wasn’t bespoke development, that we had to go and pay thousands of pounds every couple of months to get it changed, right. I mean, that would take us time, and so on and so forth. We weren’t that big a business to be able to handle that. So we very much had an internal requirement that we wanted to look after stuff ourselves. So we started with understanding what the native integrations between our three tools were. And we failed already at trying to integrate Salesforce with Zendesk with the native integration. It failed because it was sync-based. It was done very much on a batch. And you had to pick which one took precedent, right. So you had to say, “Okay, Salesforce is the king. Zendesk will follow.” But the support team often needs more stuff, data up-to-date than the sales team for obvious reasons. So from our perspective, we went with the– I think the journey for us actually was very interesting that we had when we looked at Celigo, we started to look at it as being a way of delivering data from A to B. Well, it turned out it was that, and they had the transformation Venkat was talking about, right, with Zuora and Salesforce. We did the same with NetSuite there’s some transformation there. But more importantly, it didn’t just deliver our data. It actually gave a home for our data in some of our other systems. So actually, as an example, Salesforce doesn’t know about NetSuite sales orders. It knows about orders. But the Celigo integration gave us an object in Salesforce called Sales Orders, and it pumped the data into it. And then we used that to feed into our CPQ system. Developing that from scratch and design time alone would take us longer than our ERP’s implementation. So we had to move fast and agile. And what we did was, whilst I agree with everything Venkat saying you need to know your business processes, we actually gained quite a lot from saying, “Hang on a minute, let’s just see how everyone else is doing this and how is this integration working out of the box?” And then we tweaked it from there to work for us first rather than the other way round. So that, for me, was sort of a good learning lesson, particularly for companies our size that need to move quickly. Excellent. Well, first of all, I’ll say congratulations because an ERP implementation, getting that done in just a few months is a big feat. I often say there’s nothing more difficult than a company will go through than an ERP implementation, so. And did you find the integration, from your standpoint, moving so quickly? Going through ERP, was integration something that you thought about later? Or did you plan around that at the beginning during the ERP planning process? Where did that come into that? And sometimes those things evolve very, very rapidly. And just see where that came into your thinking. Yeah, I mean, from our perspective, it was the integration that allowed our contract and our subscriptions of our software to be fed back into Salesforce for our customer success team, our support team, and our sales team. To be able to understand what our customers had was really, really important, right. So arguably, just as important as the financial data in NetSuite. So what we did was we had to make sure that we started. As part of the design, we started with a sandbox of both NetSuite, Salesforce, and Celigo. And we made sure that the data was flowing correctly. And we made sure that we were able to tell the story further down the line. Otherwise, we would have to be– we would have had to be going back to the finance team and asking them to check the pricing for this customer, or, “Why is this customer on direct debit rather than bank transfer when it should be over here?” All of those things were things that needed to be done pretty early on. And we needed to make sure that we don’t use– but we didn’t use NetSuite billing because it wasn’t in our region at the time. So we have to do quite a bit of customization to NetSuite to get it to match our requirement to be someone that sells something directly where reseller software of some other software, and we have resellers. Quite a big requirement from our perspective, and I appreciate maybe not for others, but in a short period of time, we had to make sure the integration was part of the critical path to go live. Excellent perspective. Thank you, Jason. One of the things that I’d like us to touch on here and get some perspective is on the technology process and people portion of the integration experience. Now, when we look at digital transformation, that’s the big buzzword nowadays. A key component of digital transformation is automation. You can’t have a digital transformation if you’re still moving physical pieces of paper around or emailing documents, manually entering data. And I think we still all see, even in the most automated business, we all still see inefficiencies today with that. And then as you work through that, you all just shared the impact of the integration, how that enabled you to get, Jason, your story there about getting those business system implementations. You really couldn’t have moved to those business systems without the integration. It wouldn’t even have been feasible. So we’ve got this at the core. I think of it as integration is being at the foundation. And so now you can see, “Okay. We know we need an integration foundation to start in our digital transformation journey.” But there’s still the big side of how do you build a team around it, how do you build those resources in-house, do you use external consultants, do you build those skills in-house. What’s the best mix of that? And I’m kind of curious to hear a little bit about how you’ve built your teams around that, and how you’ve accomplished those goals, the WHO part of that journey. And then we start off with– back to Brian, would you mind just sharing that people side of building your digital transformation engine? Sure. And I think I might be a little bit luckier than others on this. But I had a team that had a lot of development background. So I have two NetSuite developers on my team. They had 40 hours a week. They performed NetSuite development operations. So it was a very easy transformation for them to become Celigo certified passing all the courses in the Celigo University. And they’ve really taken the lion’s share of the work to do the integrations. At the very beginning, I was very heavily involved in working hand in hand with the developers. Like Jason, and Venkat said that understanding your business operations. I knew that. And then we went ahead and transferred that into the actual integrations taking the data from point A transforming and putting it into point B. Since we’ve been working on it for two and a half years or so, I mentioned there’s a lot of other opportunities, and you made mention of peoples and moving paper from here to there. Well, we see these things and the first thing people are saying to me, “Well, what can we do with Celigo? Can that solve the problem?” Well, it can definitely help the problem. So some of the things that we’ve seen in one of the later ones we’re doing is, we were downloading an Excel spreadsheet from NetSuite and manually entering it into another system. Well, this is how Celigo is been through our system. People have said, “Hey, can we do something with Celigo on that?” I didn’t even bring that up. I wasn’t even in the meeting. Finally brought to me, then after about 30, 45 days or so and multiple transformations of the data, we have now eliminated that entire piece. So I have a team. They’re dedicated to this from a NetSuite perspective. They know Celigo very well. The word has got out over the organization of the things that it can do from an automation standpoint. And we just keep on adding and adding and adding to the portfolio well on the monthly basis. Excellent. Now, do you anticipate your team running out of things to automate Brian? Well no not really. I mean it’s not their only thing that they do. But when you’re working with a– we were a conglomerate of four different companies. And all put together. So we had four diverse systems that were trying to get together. So there’s still– there’s a system in Chicago, there’s a system in Cleveland. We’re still getting these things to talk. So yeah I see that there’s going to be more work. But hopefully, we don’t run out of it too soon. I had to throw that out of it because with the– I’ll speak just personally from our perspective at Celigo internally with our own operations and business systems. The number of SaaS apps we use keeps proliferating. And it measures in the dozens. And it’s amazing. There’s these amazing cloud point-based solutions to solve something very precisely and just the absolute best of breed. And they’re fantastic. But I know on our side we just see those. They start accumulating. And every time when you get another one of those more– it increases the need for integration. And I think our team building our own internal integrations will never be– they will have work to do. And it does not just work for the sake of work it’s because we see the value out of it. It’s good work. Yeah. Yeah. It’s good to work. We see tremendous value with it because there are always new systems being added. There’s a modification to the business process. We see this kind of continual evolution. To kind of get another viewpoint on the team and another perspective, Venkat love to kind of hear about how you structured your team through your automation journey around building out and those integrations and progressing? So my journey if I look at Brian and then mine is totally opposite directions. And of course, our end goal is the same. Before I jump in– and I really like the title you put technology and process and people. I know typically people, processes, technology. It’s kind of reversed it. And that’s how I really think. One thing I say is the limitations of the technology need to be addressed by the process. The limitations of the process need to be addressed by the people. I mean that’s how I send my message to the team whenever we do any solution. Coming back to your question is how I have set my team. You got to understand when I walk into the– two years ago when I walked into Aryaka we have a huge technology debt. We have business systems, they have not been fully implemented. And the company wants to transform those systems. And then I know there are two things that make it happen. One, necessary business functionality needs to brought into these business systems. In salesforce especially in the next week, not only implementing the next week but it’s also bringing the revenue recognition and sales tax. And then going into the Zuora building we need to enable the whole building. So those are the six, seven balls up in the air. So I have to focus on that immediately. But I know the success will be seen only when I integrate them. But if I go to the leadership team and then say, “Hey I need to have an integration team, I need to have an X-number of people doing this job.” They won’t listen because that’s not their pain point and they are not seeing the pain point. They are seeing the pain point in the different systems, different areas. So the way I have met– I have done my work is knowing what I want to do in an iPaaS solution, knowing the team I need. But I didn’t do I didn’t expose that. I know that. So I have baked into the overall project what I do and then I have given them a cost to enable this such functionality required in all of these systems. This is the cost. These are the people. And then I do know I have to do integration, there’s going to be a small cost. I’m not looking at any FDA’s. When I started, there were three people. That’s all, of course. We have now grown 18 to 20 people at any given time. So, three people, I can’t ask for an integration project. So what I did is with integration people, I baked into my overall project scooping and then what it would take to do the integration. And now we started to deliver all the key functionality in each of these applications over the last 14 to 15 months. Even during the COVID, literally, we were delivering on certain business functionality in every month and in every quarter. And underlying, now I’m building the team to do the integration. So we are at a juncture. I just got my full-time employees to be part of my team from an integration perspective. It took me 18 months. If you asked me did I run the whole team without the integration team for the last 18 months? No, I did have people, but they were mostly consultants, contractors helping me to do that. But now business started to see– they are started to see the value of what integration does. So now the CFO is ready to open up his wallet for a full-time employee. So you’ve got to pick your battles. We are used to you’re winning a war, you’re about winning a battle. So you see where you want to– how you want to play your cards. Make sure you deliver what the value of a business is looking at. And then underlying, you keep your eye on where you want to take it and bring it back up. And the same thing goes now– I mean, I have these systems are done, integrations are done. What’s next? My business analytics. That’s something we need that we don’t have that today. So I’m just kind of putting the groundwork on to that. Eventually, value comes in, and then the leadership team ceases. Then they will open up their wallets for full-time resources. That’s how I kind of worked for especially for the integration area. Excellent. And I think that that perspective is a great contrast to Brian’s. In a way, your path to getting to where you are now was different from a resource and perspective. But what I hear there as a big takeaway is that you both built an internal– you’re building our internal capability to build those integrations. That you’re building that– that you might have enhanced it with contractors and consultants to get there, but in the end, you’ve proven that value. And in the end, you’ve got those capabilities in-house and that provides greater value and flexibility as you move into your next phase. Excellent. Well, I want us to talk a little bit about business and technical value achieved. As we start talking about people at time savings, there’s often an assumption on the value of automation, but it often can be quite tangible. The ROI can be measured and it has both a measurable direct impact as well as the observed one. Jason, could you talk to us a little bit about what you’ve seen from an ROI standpoint, from a value perspective what you’ve been able to observe or how it’s helped you scale out by investing in the integration and automation? Yeah, sure. Well, for starters, we moved from an ERP world, which was fully integrated because it was in one system. Right. So our thing was let’s not go backward. And so it wasn’t necessarily about how much can be gained from its certain investment. It was more of a , “Let’s not go backward and have these not really shiny tools that cost a lot more money than our ERP systems run, but all of the staff running around going, ‘It takes too much time to do everything. That information siloed in Salesforce or NetSuite or Zendesk.'” That was our sort of worst-case scenario. So we wanted to make sure first off, we didn’t go backward. On top of that, which we did, because we needed a tool like Sligo and the other approaches that we’ve done that we talked about today have helped us to achieve that. As far as benefits are concerned, we’ve managed to be able to take our team, and we’ve been able to take our finance team and build them around specialist knowledge and build the finance team so that it’s can use Agile finance to run the business. And the information that they hold is not stored in their system and locked away. It is shared out via our integrations to our other tools. So our support engineers know exactly if someone has or hasn’t paid their invoice and so do our salespeople. We also know exactly what special pricing a particular customer is on, if they just had a price increase or a decrease the month before, and all coming from our data flowing out to those other things. So it’s hard to judge, but we get a lot of good feedback from the team based on what they used to have to do even in our old world, which was manual calculations on a lot of our stuff, as it custom. It wasn’t to a price book per entry. So it’s a tough one for me to actually put a number on. But that’s the sort of soft benefits. Excellent. That’s great perspective. Thanks, Jason. Brian, what type of– yeah ROI and technical value that you’ve observed on your end? So just talking about that last project where we downloaded an Excel sheet from NetSuite and manually typed it into Jira, we were able to– once we converted that over to the automation, we were able to save basically an hour per transaction added. So you might think, “Oh, that seems like a lot of time to enter something into Jira.” Well, it was the downloading, the entering, the verifying and not have it, “Oh, I don’t know where this data is. Oh, it’s not in the file. It’s not here. So we have to go ahead and dig.” So there is a lot of other pieces that went with that. So we were able– and now we don’t have any mistakes. So as long as we set it upright, which we did. And we QA’d it. Now, we don’t have any mistakes. So the ROI I’m at I can’t make revenue by doing automation. I’m not going to get another customer by doing automation. I can do my automation by saying, “Hey, it’s going to save 40 man-hours a month to do this.” Hey, that’s a quarter of somebody’s job a month. So those are the things and as I said before, these opportunities just keep on popping up. People are here, they see the power. They know what it can do. And they hear like if I don’t have to type this manually, I don’t have to hire somebody to do this. I’ll give it to Brian and his team, 30 days we’ll have it automated and now I don’t have to worry about it. So our ROI is really on man-hours per month is what we try to do when we go ahead and implement our projects. Excellent. That’s a great perspective and it sounds like the other business units are hunting you down and trying to get your help. It’s not like you have to go looking for an opportunity. That’s great. Venkat, that same question over to you. Yeah. In terms of the business value, this is how I look at it. There are two factors I look at it and they’re customer-paying, and they’re nice. So imagine in the sales side of it gets created, and it takes into the billing system manually doing it in two days, three days. Have people, somebody doing it and end up a week. You don’t know what happened between these could be so many changes could have occurred. And this could be– some data might have gotten pretty intense. Whatever that is, if we pretend to make changes after a closed one. So we don’t know. We never had that tracking. So, an integration tool like Celigo, you are getting that order immediately into our building system. And then somebody in finances is looking at an investor an hour after our initial– if there is a change occurs, then the billing system has a flare. And then a billing team, they are looking at what is the changes that really impacting financially, or did something happen? Someone on the sales has done what they are not supposed to do. We never had that tracking. It was always– the biggest issue our CFO is complaining about is the availability of the data, into the respective, to some degree, and the new system. And the second most important complaint is after the closed down, there are some changes that are happening and we don’t know what it is. How do you control it? So now having the integration in place, and then in order on the system. So any change can be triggered, captured, and processed. And then looked by people in the most– value I could bring in, identification team can bring in, that which they never had. So they were depending on the manual upload process. So it goes to the same. So you try to relay anybody any time you’re going and somebody comes and then approach me for an integration, I look at two things. Is this annoying? But it’s a real pain. I know to some it could be just an annoyance. Particularly no real pain. Even though you do it, you will not get credit. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do the noisy ones, maybe you may have to do it sometimes if it’s high up in the ladder. We just want to do it, and that’s bugging them. But if you just start throwing the bodies, and spending in a lot of integration and an offer that nobody uses, is no value, then with the real pain, you are making a difference by doing that in terms of the process, in terms of the quality of the data, in terms of the cash flow. And I would say go ahead and do it. So, that’s the pulse I check it. And I look at it, how quickly we are closing the books. We choose to be 15 days outside of a quarter ended, and then maybe 10 days after the month ended, but today, that’s not the case. We were trying to lock in an already small amount of dates. So that’s the dates you were able to cut out in the most on a TPI, which you could present to business. So, integration does make wonders, integration does make that seamless integration does make those value come to life– comes to life. We just have to go out and do it. And the other piece, and not to drag on this, is as you are being put in an integration in close vacuum my point of exceptions. Sales to sell as many exceptions. So now, the integration layer is what is catching those exceptions, and then not pushing the data to the downstream is the triggering factor for somebody to go in and operations team to watch what happened, why that exception? And if you do not do that, then it’s like, you know, floodgates open and all the data goes to the downstream system. Now your job is to clean up those. Start with the immediate major hurdle and the thing in the neck for– systems thing. So use your integration to be an engaging factor. And if something is not within your– whatever the box, and identify, tag it, and hold it. Don’t even move the data, don’t send. So now you have someone to look at it. So that’s how I use it and all of the value I’m bringing right off the bat. And then reducing the mistakes in our trends upstream system, so the downstream systems would be cleaner. So that’s how I use it and that’s how I present it. Okay. Yeah, Venkat, you bring up a really interesting thing there around just when you have exceptions, I think it’s easy for someone to look at integration and say, “Hey, well, gosh, it’s going to be too big of a project to try to build out and do it perfectly and handle all the exceptions and get everything running through the integration.” Do you think you should hold off on building the integration until you can do that or you take it off, do it in bites and leave some for manual? Be agile. I would say be agile. Don’t stop it. That’s why I say considering achieving the integration on the out-of-the-box is a very short duration, then comes the business flavors. So be agile because each scenario is different. There may be mistakes done by sales team that is not even supposed to be done so you can hold them accountable. Same, if they are a valid reason then they have open up your integration to say, “Yes. Now this is the data; needs to be processed this step,” put it into the agile delivery, which I have. Every bi-weekly release is going on on the side. So they get stagged into the next release and then we would process that. In the meantime, if the customer needs, we manually process that data through some loosening up of an application integration layer, but that would be coded into the next sprint so that way that scenario is accepted scenario. It can go down. It is tough and that’s why you’ve got to see integration resources at the table for every release to look at all of them and they need to take the frenzy to identify all the business exceptions and the mistakes, knowingly, unknowingly, they are doing. So you can act on them and then you can put out whatever the fix is. It’s a business fix. It’s a process fix. It’s a training fix. We could do that. Excellent, that’s great perspective, and I think it kind of segues to our final round-robin question here, a commentary, which is words of wisdom. I’d love to get everybody to kind of go around the table with their words of wisdom to our audience here or anyone who is considering embarking or extending on their automation journey. Brian, you mind kicking us off with that? No, sure, sure. Absolutely. I guess my words of wisdom is when you’re planning to do integrations know that you’re going to need to find a solution that meets your goals. So like when I was implementing NetSuite, I knew that I needed something. Make sure that’s part of the actual discovery rather than, “Oh, I have these two diverse systems. Oh, now I need to make them talk,” because you have to put the right amount of time and the right amount of resources in there to make sure those integrations work properly. Once those are in there, then that’s when, as you can see by my previous comments, people from other business units will be like, “Oh, let’s solve it with this. Let’s solve it with this.” It’ll speak for itself and you will be able to implement more and more of these type solutions just by word of mouth because of the proper planning and getting those solutions in place at the beginning rather than, “Oh, oh, now we have to integrate that.” I think that was the biggest thing when I was doing this: doing it at day 1 rather than day 100 when I want to go live on day 150. Excellent. I definitely agree with that, that planning. Any planning upfront is well worth it, pays back in big dividends in any of these projects, so. Jason, your words of wisdom. Apart from listening to these two guys, I think the only thing I would add is the real-time element was a big thing– is a lesson that I learned rather than the word of wisdom. So looking at real-time integration rather than sinking batches of data between two systems and having them to argue which one’s primary and which one’s secondary was really key for us. It was a game-changer in our ability to be able to mobilize our business processes between our applications. Understanding that when I hit a– Venkat was mentioning earlier, when we hit the sales or the button in salesforce, knowing that that had sent that across and it was giving confirmation to a sales guy back into salesforce, confirmation that that had worked. And it wasn’t just a process that happened in the background and then on Monday morning they come in hoping that it worked. And from my perspective, it’s understanding that real-time element is definitely possible without a huge amount of custom coding and would employ to get a sandbox and actually start using those things. Excellent. Very good perspective. Thank you. Venkat, the wisdom you’d like to pass along. Three things I say: know your business; know your tools; know your partners and people. Because the business is what drives the whole thing when you are given a seat at the table as a technology leader in the organization. And then number two is knowing your people: people maybe your own employees or the partners you work with like Celigo. And if you want to know who– and if I have a solution problem, who do I reach in Celigo? I need to know that. That’s the most important thing. And then the technology because what tools and technology you are using and which makes this whole and the value you want to create for the organization. So we got to work hard on those three and I do every day. But, yeah, know your technology, know your people, and know your business. Excellent advice. Very good. Well, a huge thank you to the three of you, Brian, Jason, Venkat, for joining us and taking time out of your very busy schedules to share with our audience your automation, your transformation journey. It’s really inspiring to hear these successes and I hope, yeah, we all can learn something from today and put it into place in our own businesses, business lives going forward. Thank you. Really appreciate your time.

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, Jason 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.

Venkat Ranga

Venkat is the current Head of Business Systems at Aryaka, a global leader in managed SD-WAN, and previously led Business Systems delivery at Malwarebytes and VMware, with nearly a decade of experience between those roles. In this capacity, he’s spent a lot of time thinking about how and why Business Technology teams need to exist and often shares why a SMB’s stands to benefit from adding one to their org structure. He believes in continuous learning and motivates teams to learn and experiment and fail fast. He is currently spending time on getting himself abreast of Security.

Brian Kuntz

After Brian graduated from John Carroll University with a BSBA in Accounting, he started his career in corporate accounting for a transportation company. In addition to monthly financial statements, he also ran all of the corporate systems, enabling him to transition his career to IT. Throughout his career he has held various IT positions which include Developer, Consultant, Business Analyst, Project Manager and multiple Management roles working with a variety of verticals, including Marketing, Higher Education, Franchises, Manufacturing, and Services.