1+1 = 3: The Integration Edge

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, Jan Arendtsz, Founder and CEO of Celigo, and Igor Stenmark, Founder and Managing Director of MGI Research covered:

  • A Q2C overview
  • The changes in Q2C process as companies mature
  • Streamlining processes
  • Automation through Integration
  • And much more!
Full Webinar Transcript
Hello, this is Igor Stenmark of MGI Research. We are at the 2021 Monetize Forum Conference, and our next session, Integrating quote-to-cash focuses on integration of monetization capabilities, tying together various elements of quote-to-cash. And I’d like to welcome our guest speaker, Mr. Jan Arendtsz. Jan is the founder and CEO of Bay Area-based integration software provider Celigo. Jan is a perfect subject matter expert to help us shed light on this complicated topic. So just let me introduce Jan briefly here. Jan has over 25 years of experience in the software industry. He just looks very, very young here. Jan founded Celigo with the goal of simplifying how companies integrate applications. Prior to Celigo, Jan held executive positions at companies like NetSuite, Cambridge Technology Partners. Jan has a BS degree of science from University of Texas in Austin. Jan, welcome to Monetize Forum 2021 and welcome back. Remember our last Monetize Conference when we were on stage live? That’s right. Thank you, Igor, for having me back. Those were different times, but good to be back here virtually. Excellent. Happy to have you here. So let’s talk about integrated quote-to-cash. But to begin, maybe just let’s give our audience a bit of background on your firm, Celigo. What do you guys do? What do you focus on? What sets you apart? Absolutely. So we are an integration company, the space is known typically as iPaaS or integration platform as a service. And ultimately, the way we look at integration is integration is a means towards an end. And often that end is to automate certain business processes. And quote-to-cash, I think, is a great example of a particular business process where it may spend many different applications and we come in and help customers, companies of a certain size, be able to stitch those apps together and automate these business processes. Great, great. So oftentimes we hear this kind of refrain from potential buyers in the space, companies trying to modernize, quote-to-cash. We can’t buy it off the shelf, there’s nothing you can buy that says, okay, quote-to-cash on the box. So you have to buy maybe a couple of media suites when you buy components. So it ends up being, I think you also describe it as you have to integrate not only two applications, but really multiple applications all at once. So it’s not just this one simple problem. So there’s a lot of kind of uneasiness. I wouldn’t say resistance, but unease. People are concerned about risk. We’re concerned about the cost, concerned about skillset, time frame. Because integration used to be this huge, huge problem. What has changed in the last few years? And how people have a misunderstanding how the changes in technology make integration a different proposition. Yeah. So first off, I think there are a number of misconceptions around integration. We certainly see customers come in somewhat concerned and intimidated by integration. And we understand as to why that is because, as you said, you cannot buy quote-to-cash in a box. And we think ultimately someday, and this is something that we’re working on and hopefully, I’ll get a chance to speak to this as well later on, is we think we have the plumbing to be able to connect these various applications in a way where it just makes sense. But we certainly understand why there is apprehension out there, because there’s no one single solution. There’s not a framework. There’s no standard when it comes to automating a business process like this. So I just wanted to start with the background and then to answer your question, what’s changed in the last couple of years? Well, one thing that’s changed quite a bit is we’ve gone from having a couple of key systems, such as the CRM and an ERP and perhaps a billing system to having more applications take part in the quote-to-cash business process, right. There’s e-signature or contract lifecycle management. There might be a CPQ solution in the mix. There might be a professional services automation, PSA-type solution in the mix, and they all go into this hodgepodge that ultimately makes up quote-to-cash. And therein lies, I think, the challenge, the apprehension, because companies end up with a number of apps and then they’re left scratching their heads as to how to connect these apps together. Flip side of this discussion, so we meet people who are very skeptical, I think that’s the majority. But then, we meet some companies where maybe somebody, the CFO’s office in the finance division said, “Oh, integration, piece of cake. I just bought this Do-It-Yourself tool, a webhook, and I’ve tied my application A to application B and I don’t need anything else. I’m completely good with that.” What’s your view on that? Is that also a misnomer? Or is there something in it, maybe that has a place but what differentiates that from production integration? Right. So let’s start off maybe by defining Do-It-Yourself because it could mean different things to different people. I think one thing that we see often when people refer to DIY is the fast vendor built integrations. Is that part of what you’re referring to? No. More like a webhook, like a Zapier or something like that. There’s a lot of applications, but I think Zapier is one that’s kind of best recognized, and for example, we use that here at MGI Research for a variety of little tasks, especially with conference prep and so on, that we need to synchronize things. Let’s say different lists from different systems. So it’s used largely by non-technical users. Sure. So let’s talk about a service like Zapier. So by and large, a service like that is designed to be used at an end-user level, at the employee level. So let’s say, if you have a particular task that you want to automate that only impacts you, then you go ahead and subscribe to a service like that. It’s out of the box. What you see is what you get. You cannot really customize that. That is entirely different from an integration running at a company level. And by that I mean, let’s take an example, let’s say there is a company that has Salesforce and a number of other applications for the downstream. So if there’s someone updating an account or closing an opportunity that can happen across the entire Salesforce, right. And if you want an enterprise-grade integration to really do quote-to-cash, then the underlying automation has to cover all of that rather than to use your word, the DIY integration, a la Zapier that runs more at a user level. So the short answer is that is definitely not the solution, although there is a place for it for other problems to be solved in the enterprise. What have you seen in your practice in terms of like – share with us some war stories when integration works, why does it work? When it falls apart, why does it fall apart? Yeah. So that’s a great question. And I’m trying to give you the quick answer because I can speak about this for a good 20 minutes. So the companies that get integration to work well, especially something like quote-to-cash, are the ones that have gone through a process to be able to get there. And I’m going to introduce a quick concept called the Integration Maturity Model. It’s something that we’ve been promoting quite a bit, especially in this day and age. If you think about all the companies that have hundreds of SaaS applications before you know it, it just turns out to be a complete mess, right? You have all these investments you’ve made. You’ve collected all these apps, and now you’re not getting a return on your investment. So the Integration Maturity Model is designed to really self-identify where you fit in terms of how mature you are when it comes to integration. So if you can just visually imagine five different stages moving from left to right, where left is pretty much immature. All you care about is solving a particular pain point and you may have acquired a new SaaS application, you need to connect it to something else. Once you’re done with that, you don’t really want to think about anything else because you’ve solved that immediate problem. That’s one extreme, one bookend. On the other side, is a company that does everything with an automation-first, integration-first mindset. And integration is a first-class citizen. And of course, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. So the companies that are more towards the right end, the more mature side of that are the ones that we think are successful. And the reason for that is they’ve thought about the business process. They’ve taken a step back. They’ve understood what’s the system of record for a particular business object? Let’s say it’s the account or the sales order. How is the data going to flow if you add another app in the mix? Is a design in a way to be able to withstand and incorporate that into that particular float? Those are some of the things that companies think through. So my feedback back to your audience is to think about integration, not necessarily as something disparate. Ultimately, you are automating a particular business process. Understand that you need flexibility. There are certain pre-built integrations that you can use. I mentioned the vendor build integrations. They can be used effectively in certain cases. But think about the big picture that planning becomes really important. Those are the companies that are typically successful. So planning kind of part of I guess best practices. What have you seen in terms of kind of interesting best practices and integration area? For example, one of the issues we encounter in our advisory work is, where does integration really live? Who owns a budget for that? Who is responsible for that? What are the best kind of class approaches in the industry that you guys have seen? Yeah. And again, so this is something that we really focused on, and I’ll just go back in time a little bit. So there are many different models. There’s one model called the centralized model. That’s kind of being the prevalent model where IT controls everything, right? So any integration, any automation is ultimately streamlined through the IT department. The opposite of that is a decentralized model where it’s a little bit akin to the Wild West where at a departmental level, companies acquire SaaS applications. And then those departments are left to their own devices to try and build out integrations. And as you can imagine, if that company were to scale and become larger and acquire more applications, then the whole situation becomes messy. It just doesn’t scale. Yeah. Chaos, basically. Absolutely. So the model that we really promote here in 2021 is what we call a federated model, where there are particular business processes that are central to the entire company. They can be construed as the backbone for the company and those, by and large, should be under the jurisdiction of IT. Even though they could have been built by other departments, it’s owned by IT. And then other business processes that are more at a local level can be handled by certain departments or a line of business and by subscribing to this model, the advantage is that you can enlist a much larger talent pool within the enterprise. IT as well as line of business users to be able to take part in integration instead of trying to send everything through IT. And a quick example of a potential business process for being under kind of the IT realm is quote-to-the cash because it hits so many different departments. Got it. Got it. When you think about the kind of innovation disruption in the world of integration, what do you see on the horizon? Where is that going to come from? And what are you guys working on? What’s been your kind of wish list of things in the pipeline of your R&D organization? Yeah, so I’ll try to tailor my answer to this forum in terms of quote-to-cash. So we’ve talked about the fact that quote-to-cash may spend on many different applications. And what I hear oftentimes is customers look at this and then they scratch their head and they say, “Surely I’m not the only customer who has run into this problem and is trying to solve this. Right? Why doesn’t a solution exist?” Well, that’s because it’s a solution across multiple vendors. There’s no one dominant vendor that owns the entire bus, so to speak, that pulls and moves this data. So it’s just not going to work. And the quick analogy is like we use a laptop or a PC, we can plug in other devices using a USB or HDMI, and those are supposed to work. In integration, it doesn’t work that way. The other thing that I hear oftentimes is customers want as much of it pre-built as possible because they go like, “Why do I have to do the work?” But on the same token, they will say, “But I want flexibility. My business is different from any other business so I want to be able to do this tailored to my business.” And that’s the contradiction. So one thing that I’m really excited about is a new line of products that we are in the process of rolling out called business process applications. As the name implies, it’s a flexible, pre-built solution that takes a complex business process such as quote-to-cash and takes the user through a journey. It’s going to ask you a number of questions. What’s the business process that you want to automate? What are the application categories such as a CRM or CPQ or a billing application that they want to utilize? What is that particular application? How does the data flow? What’s upstream, what’s downstream? What are some of the particular use cases? Are you trying to synchronize an account or billing information or send certain billing information back to customer service as an example? It’s going to try and identify all of that. And once it’s gone through this process– and by the way, may also have the ability to be able to pull in some data, then it’s going to propose a solution for you, trying to utilize as many pre-built components, building blocks, so to speak, as possible so that you don’t have to build things from scratch. We want to create that framework and give it to users within an enterprise so that they can be successful. All right. This almost brings us– you and I could probably be talking about this stuff for hours, but this brings us to a conclusion of our short time slot here at the conference. I want to thank you for being here. And in closing, is there one thing that companies should know about Celigo but don’t? What’s the secret sauce? Yeah, the one thing is we are the iPass for the mid-market. If you’ve invested in a certain critical mass of SaaS applications and you want to automate your business processes, we’ve built a product that can be used by both technical IT type users as well as what we call tech-savvy business users, the people who understand the integration use cases. It’s a product for both parties and we make integration as simple as possible. Terrific. Jan, I want to thank you for participating in the conference and I want to remind everybody to go visit Celigo in the virtual exhibits booth and go find Jan and his colleagues and they probably have answers to some of your questions. And I hope everybody has a good remainder of the Monetize Forum in 2021. Thank you, Yan. I look forward to having you back eventually. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you. Take care.

About the speakers

Jan Arendtsz

Jan Arendtsz is a veteran of the software industry with more than 20 years of experience in development, product management, client services, and sales roles. He founded Celigo in 2006 with the goal of simplifying the integration of cloud-based applications. He is responsible for overseeing all company operations.

Jan was a Director of Technical Services at NetSuite, where he led a team that provided technical solutions within the professional services group. He also worked as a Product Manager at NetSuite, launching the integration platform.

Before NetSuite, Jan worked for Cambridge Technology Partners, where he implemented complex solutions for a multitude of customers ranging from Internet startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Jan holds a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin.