The cloud helps make business services more easily available, but what about making those business processes from a variety of service origins part of a cohesive workflow or complex objective? What’s still needed is a way for those closest to the work itself to create business process integration, extension, and coordination regardless of the services.
The latest BriefingsDirect discussion examines a case study that shows how account executives for a financial services firm are integrating their sales and fulfillment efforts across Salesforce.com customer relationship management (CRM) resources, as well as a diverse set of expanding cloud and legacy services.
Hear how it’s done from the IT Director and the Marketing Director at PSA Insurance & Financial Services as they build greater control and management of diverse and dynamic sales and consulting processes using Cloud Extend for Salesforce, a new solution from Active Endpoints.
These managed processes, built on a range of business development and consulting tasks, bind together critical sales and financial product delivery goals to better support long-term business engagements. The panel to describe this achievement consists of: Andrew Bartels, IT Director for PSA Insurance and Financial Services; Justin Hoffman, Marketing Director for PSA Insurance and Financial Services, and Eric Egertson, Vice President, Business Development and Strategic Accounts at Active Endpoints. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: Active Endpoints is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: It seems at PSA you have been thinking about how to do things better, and that you’ve had success with Salesforce.com. What was still missing from the way in which you engage with your clients?
Hoffman: We actually had tried a Salesforce implementation two or so years ago and we found that our adoption was not nearly what we would have hoped it to be. There were several reasons for that. One, we really didn’t customize Salesforce to the degree that we needed to. Two, there wasn’t integration with any other systems. And, three, the participation was voluntary. There was some interest, but it was somewhat sporadic, and overall the initiative just petered out.
We did know that that having right CRM for PSA is critical for how we do business and could help us capitalize on some lost opportunities and better manage our existing client base.
We didn’t give up on the effort. We said to ourselves that we needed to get this right the second time. We were open to staying with Salesforce and we were open to looking at other CRMs, but we’ve learned a lot on our first round and we knew that we had to do better the second time.
Gardner: What is it that you really weren’t getting from this that you wish you had?
Hoffman: We were sitting in a room with the whiteboard and said, “What should this thing be. What should this CRM system do for us, our account executives, our sales and service people that are going to be using it?” One of the things that really rung through was that it needed to be easy and unintimidating.
We have some people who are very progressive technology users and they very much embrace it. And we have other portions of the population for whom there is a bit of an intimidation factor. We knew that if we did it right, we’d have to find a way to wash that away, put things in plain English, make it simple and intuitive for people, and that would help drive adoption.
We’re an independent, multi-discipline financial services firm based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. We also have two satellite offices, one in York, Pennsylvania and one in the DC Metro Area, and we do a lot of things for a lot of different people.
On the business side of the house, we provide property and casualty insurance for businesses. We’re also brokers and consultants for employee benefit plans and retirement plans.
For individuals we offer every kind of insurance you could ever need, from homeowners and auto, to life, long-term care, and disability. We also have a private-client division that serves very up-market consumers, those that have multiple homes, exotic cars, special collections, and need very sophisticated insurance programs and advice. Finally, we also offer wealth management services.
We do a whole lot of different things for a whole lot of different audiences. For organizations that are laser-focused, that are in one industry, that serve one specific audience, I’d imagine pretty much everything is easier for them. We need to develop systems, protocols, plans, sales systems, and things of that nature that can work in all these diverse circumstances to support these different clients and support them all well.
Gardner: As IT Director, what is it that you did in terms of trying to fulfill this, and how did you end up being able to get closer to the true vision?
Bartels: As Justin has very eloquently put, we really present a value proposition at PSA, which is a truly integrated set of services. That’s a phrase or a word that you hear a lot, but unfortunately, in my experience, a lot of organizations fail to deliver where the rubber meets the road, which ultimately is the actual transactional systems that they have in place.
What you find is that a lot of those systems are completely segregated, and we at PSA faced that challenge. We obviously have a lot of transactional systems on the back-end to support various business units that present the services to our clients.
Ultimately from Justin’s vision and from the corporation’s vision, we wanted a system that could bring all of this together. We went out and looked at a number of different products knowing all the time that we had Salesforce.com in house, but that we had a troublesome initial roll out. Ultimately, we came to a conclusion that Salesforce was the right product for us, but we really had to roll it out in a different way, shape, or form.
Part of Justin’s vision, though, was that he and Senior Vice President-Business Development Ed Kushlis felt that even though Salesforce is a relatively easy user interface, because of the challenges that some of our users have, they felt it had to be easier. They felt it just had to, as I like to say, lead us down the garden path.
So Justin and Ed brought the idea to me of what we call a “Warm-up Plan,” and I’m sure Justin is going to address that more, but the more I looked at this, the more I realized that, given native Salesforce functionality, what they wanted to do wasn’t going to be possible. We weren’t going to be able to do it without a lot of custom code.
This was a path that I wasn’t really all that keen to go down, because in my past experience, when you attempt to custom code, a lot of money is invested upfront to develop a relatively static product. In my experience, the idea didn’t stay static. Ultimately, people wanted to change what had been created.
So you’d invested a lot of money to create something that then had to be changed and modified again, and I was very, very against this concept. Justin, would you say we had our moments there?
Hoffman: That’s right. We felt like we really knew what we wanted. A very large portion of what we do is work with the salespeople to coach them, to help them make sure that they stay on top of their opportunities, and really work their leads to fruition.
So we felt so strongly about it, but when we were presenting Andrew with our need, there didn’t seem to be an option that made sense. Once he educated us in what it really meant to bring to life our vision, we started to get our heads around it and to recognize that it wasn’t going to be something that we weren’t going to be able to build one time, invest all of these resources in this code and development, and then never be able to touch it again, never be able to evolve it.
Fluid and flexible
Just knowing us, knowing our organization, the way we’re opportunistic, the way markets shift, the way dynamics change, we needed to be fluid and have flexibility. Andrew helped us understand how we were really going to be painting ourselves into corner, if we were to push forward with the custom code route.
Gardner: So Andrew, what’s fulfilled that need for simplicity and ease of use?
Bartels: First, we looked at a product from Salesforce, which was something called Visual Process Manager, which I saw demoed at Dreamforce in San Francisco last year. I was very excited when I initially saw it. After we delved into it, for various reasons, including the maturity of the product and the fact that it wasn’t a true cloud-based product, we soon realized that Visual Process Manager at that time wasn’t going to fulfill our needs. We really needed something that was fully integrated into Salesforce.
As an organization, we spent a tremendous amount of time and resources getting our users comfortable with the Salesforce UI. I had obviously invested a lot of time myself in looking at options.
Finally, I’m quite a follower of Twitter. There are a number of people that I follow that I respect. I came across a tweet about something called Cloud Extend. It was literally one tweet by somebody that I follow on Twitter.
I clicked through and there I was on the Cloud Extend website. As I read about it, I suddenly said — obviously dealing with a webpage I clicked through to from a tweet — “You know what, if this does what they said can do, this is exactly what we need in order to achieve the goal of creating warm-up plans” that Justin referred to earlier.
I filled out the web form, and the next day in the office, I called Justin and Ed into my office and said, “You know guys, I’ve got to show you something.” I must admit I was almost giddy. I said I don’t want to get ahead of myself yet, but if this product does what I think it does, they’ve nailed it. This is exactly what we at PSA have been looking for to help drive adoption.
I can’t emphasize enough how important driving adoption is when it comes to the implementation of any CRM, never mind Salesforce. At PSA, we’re dealing with very successful individuals. We’re not dealing with anybody that’s got a broken system, that’s doing something that doesn’t work. Every single one of our associates has been successful in his career. So our objective with rolling out Salesforce was to improve their effectiveness, to make them more productive.
As Justin mentioned earlier, adoption is tough. When I looked at what I saw is the potential of Cloud Extend, as it was defined there, I thought “Wow, this really is going to help us drive adoption across the organization.”
Gardner: Eric, how did Cloud Extend for Salesforce come about?
Moving to the cloud
Egertson: Andrew’s comments here really illustrate the benefit of moving to the cloud for business process management (BPM) software like the software that Active Endpoints develops.
Active Endpoints has been developing a commercial-grade process automation platform called ActiveVOS since 2003, and our customers use this process automation platform to develop really high-value applications.
The barrier, though, to broader and faster adoption of products like ActiveVOS is that with on-premise software you have to go through acquiring the licenses and getting the capital expense approved and you also have to go in and interface ActiveVOS to the systems that you want to use in your process automation.
By moving to the cloud, there are two big benefits, and we’ve heard Andrew talk about those so far. One is that you can get started at much lower cost and much faster because you don’t have to provision hardware. You don’t have to acquire licenses through CAPEX expenditures, but probably, even more importantly, Active Endpoints does the interfacing of ActiveVOS to the systems that you want to use for process automation.
So with our product, Cloud Extend for Salesforce, which we formally introduced at Dreamforce at the end of August 2011, we built that product on top of the commercial-grade platform, ActiveVOS, and we pre-integrated it with the Salesforce web services interfaces.
So people like Andrew and Justin can get started with the product very quickly. They don’t have to worry about any integration or interfacing. They can just start building out their process automation flows, testing them and, as Andrew said, you can quickly change those around. Those interfaces use all open standards.
So they are very reusable, and it gives you a flexible platform, where Andrew and Justin can tweak, change, and modify their process flows. It’s all done in the cloud. They don’t have to buy licenses, but more importantly, they don’t have to integrate the services to the systems they want to use in their process automation flows.
Gardner: When I first saw the demo of this, what jumped out at me was the fact that you don’t know that you’re in Cloud Extend. You feel like you’re still in Salesforce. What is this visual benefit?
Egertson: Andrew, and Justin can speak to the user experience as well, but the user experience, when using Cloud Extend, is directly integrated into the Salesforce.com UI. As Andrew mentioned, you don’t have to go out of Salesforce at all. As you’re working on something in Salesforce, there is a section in the Salesforce screen, where you can choose what type of process flow you want to run as the user. You just click on a button and then you’re stepped through a series of screens, all of which appear within a pane within the Salesforce UI.
Developing the process flows is also integrated directly into the Salesforce UI. You go in and, through a set of guidance trees, set up the series of steps that you want to walk a sales rep or producer through. The sales manager, somebody like Justin working hand-in-hand with Andrew, do that directly in the Salesforce user interface.
Hoffman: We believe ease of use to be a huge driver in adoption, being able to just ask questions in plain English, present simple answers for them to choose or select, which then drives the next set of questions that they’re going to be asked.
It just couldn’t be easier. It couldn’t be less intimidating. It washes away any anxiety that people might have or any perception of “This Salesforce thing is a pain to use.” The way that you’re able to craft these guides is so straightforward, so easy to use, all that goes away.
I liken it to the concept of the airport kiosk. When you go to check-in, you punch in a few pieces of information and all you’re doing is answering the questions that are presented clearly and simply on the screen. There is actually very complex work that’s being done behind the scenes, but you, as the user, don’t have to have any comfort level with technology, it’s just there. There are questions. You answer them, and all the information falls into the right place.
That concept is working for us and Salesforce and it just drives the general perception of, “This thing is really easy to use and we’re getting all the information where it needs to be.” All of the reporting, all of the workflows, all of the views are populated sufficiently to support how we sell.
These workflow guides are really good about prompting people to take action, giving them options as far as how they’d like to warm up this lead. Use your discretion as a salesperson. Are you going to make a phone call? Then go ahead and here’s some coaching for that phone call. Are you going to send an email? Well, we make it really, really easy to send an HTML email through Salesforce. Are you going to invite them to one of our proprietary events? We make it really easy to do that through our guides.
Guiding, not forcing
But, we don’t tell them how to heir prospecting and we’re not directly reaching out to the prospect without our account executives because they know the relationship. They know the stage it’s in. They know the conversations they’ve had with the people. They know their pain points. We’re really guiding them, but we’re not forcing them. We’re not overriding. We’re respecting the fact that these are seasoned sales professionals.
Bartels: The corporate IT departments really have a lot going on. Nobody is sitting around doing nothing. One of the challenges that many organizations confront, when marketing or business development comes to them with an IT need, is where does that fall in the priority queue when it comes to the priorities that are in front of IT?
One of the things was really refreshing about Cloud Extend is that it literally is as simple as point-and-click. I am sure a lot of people listening to this have installed apps from the Salesforce AppExchange. Getting Cloud Extend up and running in your Salesforce Org really is as simple as installing one of those managed packages from the AppExchange. You click through it, and boom, bang, it’s done. It was amazing to me that it was as easy as they said it would be, and it truly, truly was.
It’s as simple as dropping the Cloud Extend UI into the various object pages that you’re looking to use it in. Something that is really worth mentioning is that Cloud Extend is truly cross-object. You get a lot of apps out there that you can use in leads, but you can’t use in accounts, or you can use them in opportunities and you can’t use them in leads.
One of the things that was amazing about Cloud Extend is they thought through that. They said, “Look, this workflow engine can be applied to almost any object in Salesforce and we need to make it point-and-click easy to get it in and make it happen.” From my point of view, it’s the ability to easily deploy an application this powerful straight into the Salesforce Org and then be able to hand it over to the marketing and business development folks and say, “Go wild.”
Justin and I have had a conversation backwards and forwards about how much support they would need. The wonderful thing is that when you install Cloud Extend straight into Org, it comes with a set of predefined guides that just work. You can pull up the guide design and say, “Okay, how did they do this?” It literally is point-and-click.
Salesforce likes to sell itself as 80 percent clicks, 20 percent code. I can say that Cloud Extend, to my amazement, was truly point-and-click. You don’t even have to install a separate application onto a PC. The entire experience, both from the user point of view and from the designer point of view, exists within the Salesforce UI. It is simply another app to click and select.
It ties into all your Salesforce profile permissions, and it just works. From an IT point of view, from having to support the myriad of applications that we support, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is. I think Justin would agree with me here. If you can design a process on a whiteboard, you can most likely design a process using Cloud Extend and the guide designer within the UI of Salesforce.
So from our point of view, the fact that we could deploy a workflow tool with the lineage that Cloud Extend has, coming from its roots in Socrates and things like that, and plug it in without deploying a single server or installing a single application was amazing for me and somebody that was responsible for prioritizing the tasks that my team need to focus on.
This was truly eye-opening and I said to Justin that when I see products like this I really realize that the cloud is coming of age. This is the future and this is what the future will look like.
Hoffman: To piggyback on what Andrew is saying here, I’m really excited that I’m going to be able to sit down with, say, our Senior Vice President-Business Development Ed Kushlis and talk through new ideas, changes in markets, and new opportunities. We can sit down with these guides and play with them, and you don’t have to have an IT background. I don’t know anything about code and I don’t have to, all I have to understand is what opportunity we’re seeing in the market and how our people sell.
We can get a good way down the road of building a guide without having to grab Andrew and engage him at least on the front-end. He is someone at the organization whose time is in very high demand. He is not your average IT person and when I say that, he has got a great strategic mind. He has got good business sense, it’s true, and there are a lot of different people from the ops side, from the business development side, from the administrative side who are coming to him and asking for his help, his assistance on how we streamline things and how we can be smarter about things at PSA.
So if Ed and I have to get in that queue, well, we have to get in that queue. Alternatively, we can get right in, work on these guides and get ourselves a good way towards creating these new guides that will be dropped into Salesforce. If we can’t get it 100 percent ourselves, we are going to get it pretty darn close. That gives us a lot of freedom and a lot of agility.
Gardner: Where do you go next with this?
Egertson: At Dreamforce, we made Cloud Extend commercially available. We’ve been working with PSA in our early access program and, as you’ve heard, they’ve had some success there rolling out the warm-up plans using Cloud Extend. I really liked what Andrew said toward the end of his last comment there, where cloud computing is what enables us to deliver the ease of use that customers always expect, but oftentimes do not receive.
If we had to roll this out all on premise and then have somebody like Andrew assign a development team to make the interfaces work, that’s a big barrier to adoption. That’s a big delay. By delivering this in the cloud, pre-integrated with Salesforce, it all just works. We’re able to get our customers up and running quickly.
All of the Cloud Extend technology is already cloud-enabled. It’s all based on open standards, knows all about web services. It’s multi-tenanted, so that we can host hundreds of customers and all of the data is segregated. It’s mobile-enabled. All of Cloud Extend guides will run on an iPad just as well as on laptop or a desktop and it’s socially enabled.
We work with Salesforce Chatter. We work with Jigsaw, and we can work with LinkedIn. So all of those things are there, as far as where we will take the product. We will continue to develop along the lines of social and mobile, but we also have the capability to pull in other SaaS applications.
Just as we’ve improved the usability and the sophistication of what you can do with Salesforce, we plan to do that for other SaaS applications as well. Cloud Extend for Salesforce is built on a commercial-grade development platform, and we can very easily, almost trivially, port this to other SaaS applications to enable process automation within any SaaS application.
In terms of where we’ll take this, we’ll keep our eye on the trends in mobile computing and social computing, as well as the plethora of SaaS applications that are out there. We’ll be enabling process automation and workflow in those SaaS applications as well.
Even today, as we work with PSA and other Cloud Extend for Salesforce customers, if they need to reach out of Salesforce to another SaaS application or to an on-premises application again because the underlying technology is our ActiveVOS process automation platform, it’s very easy for us to enable that.
You can envision, in the very near future, an ecosystem where Cloud Extend is set up to integrate with an interface to many different SaaS applications. With a little consulting work from us, we’re able to interface that to on-premise applications, which would be to integrate across cloud applications, from a workflow or process automation perspective.
You would probably always have one SaaS application as your host, say Salesforce, but it would be pulling data from other systems, perhaps NetSuite, if it’s an ERP system, or Workday for HR information. But, the host SaaS application could be one of those other applications that pulls data from Salesforce.
The future, and it’s a near future for us, is that we will enable integration and process automation across SaaS applications in the cloud.
Gardner: Do you have any either anecdotal or quantitative measurement that you can point to?
Hoffman: It’s a little bit early to point to that, but when you talk about the metrics that mean something to us, there’s something that we knew to be intuitively true that I came across in an article, and I’d like to read it to you. These are just some quick stats regarding sales, what it takes, and where actually sales come from. They very much back up the concept of the warm-up plan.
Again, these warm-up plans not only help guide people towards what they are going to do, but they are going to keep people on track. They are going to keep people diligent about their follow-up, so I’ll read them off to you quickly.
About 48 percent of salespeople never follow-up with the prospect, these are not industry specific or PSA specific, they are just general sales stats. So, 48 percent of people never follow-up with the prospect. Only 25 percent make a second contact. Only 12 percent make three contacts. Only 10 percent make more than three contacts.
Now, if you look at where sales come from, only 2 percent of sales are made on the second contact, 5 percent on the third, 10 percent on the fourth, and 80 percent of sales are made between the fifth and twelfth contact.
Knowing that to be true in our guts and then to see these stats that we have just recently come across, it makes us very certain that having these warm-up plans and the other guides that are going to be available to us now are going to be huge difference makers for PSA.
Bartels: From my point of view, I look at the amount of investment of time and resources that we have put into integrating our back-end systems and bringing data that is critical to the whole sales process into Salesforce, any tool, Cloud Extend being one of them, that really allows us to get the maximum return on investment on what we have done with Salesforce is huge. It’s absolutely huge.
Anybody who’s used Salesforce, customized Salesforce, and added custom fields that are specific to their vertical realize very quickly that Salesforce can become a very deep product. Cloud Extend really enables us to ensure that our account executives, even though they may not be technology efficient, are really applying best practices when it comes to utilizing Salesforce and collecting the information that we as an organization know is absolutely critical to collect.
So anything that helps and makes that process simpler is going to drive return on investment, both in Cloud Extend, but most of all in the huge investment that we’ve put into Salesforce. That’s just a big, big plus for us at PSA.
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