The Move from Live to Virtual What to expect from remote User Acceptance Testing

The Move from Live to Virtual

What to expect from remote User Acceptance Testing

A typical Quote to Cash UAT used to mean up to 50 people in a room on laptops, coached by #teamVFP in person, as they learn and test their Quote to Cash implementation.

Those travel days are behind us for now. With restrictions in place and C-19 to deal with, we’ve made the transition to 100% virtual UATs and tailored them to fit each client’s needs across geographies, time zones, and teams.

We interviewed Heather Stewardson, Consultant at VFP, who has navigated virtual UAT sessions with five clients since the Covid-19 restrictions were in place to find out what works and how successful businesses are adopting their new systems.

What's the goal of a UAT?

When we are configuring software, we borrow the tried-and-true model of User Acceptance Testing common in the tech industry. First, we ensure functionally everything is working – no errors or gotchas in the system. Second, we test their processes from an end-to-end perspective to make sure all critical workflows operate as expected in the new system across all departments.

How important is UAT to the process of implementing Quote to Cash in a business?

It’s critical! At the beginning of any engagement, we focus our time on understanding the need and requirements for process improvements into the client’s workflow. This can be very simple or very complex depending on the project – but once we get to UAT we spend time with all of the users, showcase the functionality, and ensure that we have met all of the needs we uncovered during requirement gathering. It’s generally the first time the client has been hands-on in the system, and it’s crucial to make sure we’ve got it right.

How many UAT sessions does a typical VFP implementation team go through?

Typically we plan for two UAT sessions — and that’s true of most implementations. However, every project is unique and it can be anywhere from one to three. The first UAT is the “getting to know you” phase where we introduce the system, work out any kinks, and identify any new functions we may need to add. At the second UAT – everyone has more fun. The team is familiar and has some experience using the system – we focus on finalizing, re-confirming, and training everyone.

What changed when we moved to an all-virtual platform? Did anything surprise you?

Everyone in the UAT is trying to absorb so much information that’s all new to them: new processes, new steps, new buttons. Even if they are already using Salesforce or FinancialForce, it takes time. We have honed it into train-test-train-test on each piece, so we can keep everyone comfortable with bite-sized material while we still progress through the whole system. 

For example – we’ll go through a test case together – sometimes as simple as creating a new opportunity record, approving a timesheet, or creating a journal entry –  walk through it together and ensure everyone is comfortable with the function, and then talk about it before moving on. Comfort is built individually while working collaboratively with your peers across the same test case.

What's the biggest difference between a virtual UAT and an in-person UAT?

I’m surprised at how many clients love having a virtual UAT. It’s allowed us to ensure all parties hear when questions come up rather than having side conversations in other parts of the room. It means that everyone becomes a change champion and moves through all the test cases instead of just a few. That helps teams get and understand everyone’s role, which makes for a smoother transition.

Are there any tips and tricks you’ve learned to make their experience so strong?

Using the full functionality of a web collaboration platform like Zoom is a big part of it. By using virtual break out rooms online, we’re able to move into an “office” with a couple of people at a time and give them one-on-one attention. We also use Zoom’s participant icons – such as Yes/No and Raise a Hand. It’s allowed us to read the room, and we hear from everyone. So it helps us pace ourselves and ensure we know who needs more time, and who’s ready to move on. As consultants, it gives us a great sense of who’s paying attention and engaged, and where we need to focus.

What do your clients say about the virtual UAT experience?

It’s been four months since we started the 100% virtual UAT – and every client has been extremely receptive.

Individually, people have told me they’ve loved it, and some even prefer it. It’s allowed us to accommodate multiple time zones with varying breaks, and generate a sense of accomplishment and progress. They’ve felt that by testing functionally the first day or two and then end-to-end testing the following days on their own, the material and processes are sinking in.

What's the best advice you have for a company thinking about adopting a Quote to Cash system - knowing it's all virtual right now?

It’s possible! And it really works. Even in the “new normal” we’ll keep many of these new virtual processes to give our clients the choice and tailor the experience for them. Nothing is better than face-to-face consulting, but virtual UAT sessions are an excellent option now, and when the pandemic is behind us. You can still seize the opportunity to digitally transform your business without consultants getting on airplanes.

Any last thoughts?

I really want companies to see that the time and effort you put in now will truly impact your business, your employees, and clients in the future. 

Staying open, communicative, positive, and ensuring plans, agendas, and checklists are put in place for critical milestones – UAT, training and go live – keeps everyone accountable for their contribution to a successful system and a smooth transition. We are here to help companies grow and thrive, and this is a great time to put Quote to Cash in action.

Talk to the Quote to Cash experts on Salesforce and FinancialForce now!

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VFP Consulting Named “Best of the Best” by SPI Research

We’re excited to announce that SPI Research, the leading independent technology services research firm, has named VFP Consulting as one of this year’s Top 25 Best-of-the-Best Professional Service Organizations.

As one of the top 25 firms out of 513 organizations who participated in SPI’s annual survey, we excelled across five critical service performance dimensions including leadership, client relationships, finance and operations. VFP Consulting is ranked in the top 5% and eclipsed average firms in revenue growth, team augmentation, and operational excellence (thanks to excellent project delivery and many happy customers!)

At VFP, our core values anchor us in our decision making, our clients, and how we grow as a business

Every year, SPI Research releases its Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark to provide insights into critical business processes and key measurements so organizations can compare, diagnose, and improve their performance. “As we continue to expand our reach in the Salesforce ecosystem, SPI Research’s Benchmark report remains an important touchpoint for us on how to remain competitive and keep up the momentum,” says Stephanie Picardi, CEO of VFP Consulting.

The Best-of-the-Best recognition is significant because it measures professional service organizations not only on financial results but on leadership metrics to reveal exceptional, holistic performance.

At VPF, we’re a team that strives for operational and cultural excellence, always. Our people-first approach and core values have been our driving force since the start and have created a momentum that has seen a 45% growth per year since 2016.

“VFP Consulting has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, not only in revenue but as a team and industry leader. At VFP, our core values anchor us in our decision making, our clients, and how we grow as a business. It’s what has driven us in our goal of operational and cultural excellence,” says Picardi.

With a bigger team and more happy customers, come bigger deals and successes. This past year we’ve taken on more complex projects, reached more than 60 successful implementations, and seen great results coming in from both mid-market and enterprise-level businesses. We’re on a journey to set a new bar for excellence – and we’d like to invite you to be part of #teamVFP in 2020.

FIND OUT HOW TODAY

The 3 greatest perks of using a one-platform solution like Salesforce

The 3 greatest perks of using a one-platform solution like Salesforce

Are you having difficulties scaling your business?

Are team productivity and communication dwindling?

We’ve written an in-depth profile on how you can leverage a one platform business solution like Salesforce to completely transform your business. Implementing a one platform solution has been proven to not only help streamline business processes and accelerate cash flow but increase revenue as well!

We created this story with Mason Frank International and our FinancialForce partner to inspire you to think bigger and learn how to best utilize the Salesforce platform. Read on to discover the 3 greatest perks of using a one platform solution and how you can use these tools to transform your business for the better today.


The 3 Most Important Things We Learned at Dreamforce 2019

Team VFP is back from Dreamforce and what can we say? It was truly a dream! Over the course of the week, we took part in seminars, panel discussions, concerts, and even threw our very own VIP Happy Hour alongside FinancialForce.

There was a lot to take in but here are the three most important things we learned at Dreamforce 2019.

Be kind and be useful

The highlight of Dreamforce was Barack Obama’s very real and honest discussion on leadership in the modern age. The words that stuck with us the most?

“Be kind and be useful.”

It’s something Obama instills in his own daughters and has become a guiding point for him in recent years. “Regardless of our surface differences, there's a core humanity and dignity to each of us that has to be shared and respected.”

Obama spoke honestly about his worries that technology may be leading society astray, adding, “Part of solving big problems is not just a matter of finding the right technical solution, but also figuring out, 'how do we restore some sense of our common values?'"

“Part of solving big problems is not just a matter of finding the technical solution, but also figuring out, 'how do we restore some sense of our common values?" - Barack Obama

A notable takeaway from Obama’s fireside chat with Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff is that while technology and the internet can be a powerful tool to unify people, current internet companies have caused mass confusion about what is credible and what is not. It’s important we keep open minds about the information that is presented to us online.

VFP Consultant Tyler Gau at Dreamforce 2019
VFP Consultant Tyler Gau at Dreamforce 2019

Values enhance innovation

One of the discussions that resonated with us the most was Apple CEO Tim Cook’s invigorating talk with Marc Benioff.

In a conversation that included thoughts on mobile’s role in the enterprise, Cook expanded on the intersection of innovation and values. For Cook, values enhance innovation. And as a company that lives by its own core values (heck, we even put ours in our name!), Cook’s words hit close to home. While every business has its own unique values, the sentiment is the same none-the-less.

Talking about how he leads Apple to continue 40 years of innovation, Cook said, “At some point, you recognize the reason we are all here is to help someone else. That is the sole reason we are here. And once you get that in your head, life gets so much simpler.”

Diversity and soft skills will eclipse technical expertise.

Over the past few years, soft skills such as leadership, adaptability, problem-solving, and the ability to manage and control your emotions, have become just as important in the workforce as more traditional hard skills. According to a study, they could very well be more important than technical expertise and experience.

Keynote speakers Dr. Frida Polli, Co-Founder and CEO of pymetrics, and Lily Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer at the Kapor Center, discussed the need for soft skills in our industry.

Managing Consultant Nick Anderson and Consultant Tyler Gau at Dreamforce 2019 in San Francisco.
Managing Consultant Nick Anderson and Consultant Tyler Gau at Dreamforce 2019 in San Francisco.

When it comes to diversity, and more specifically, the tech industry’s lack of representation, Dr. Polli said, “When we have a homogenous group creating technology, if you’re not thinking of the unintended consequences, you’re doing it wrong. We’re leaving a lot of undeveloped talent on the table and that’s not good for anybody.”

Gangas agreed and added, “To create new systems, we need new founders. If someone isn’t asking tough questions, you’re building blindly. I think we can do better and we should.”

At VFP, we continue to learn and build our expertise (both in soft and technical skills) in order to become better implementation partners and leaders. We build our skills every year to stay on top, and attending Dreamforce is a great way we can expand our knowledge of quote-to-cash and the technologies coming out on the Salesforce platform (Customer 360 Truth! Einstein Skills!) in order to deliver the best service to our customers.

Marco Casaleina, Salesforce Vice President of Einstein Products, wrapped it up nicely. “It all starts with a question — one that makes sense for your business.”

Putting customers at the center of everything you do and asking the tough questions is the key to truly understanding your market and becoming a trailblazer in your industry.

Tell us: which Dreamforce takeaway resonates with you the most? Comment on our Instagram or LinkedIn


Accelerate Your Quote-to-Cash Implementation with these 5 Insider Tips

FinancialForce is designed to be an open and flexible single cloud platform that grows with your business. The entire purpose of the FinancialForce platform is to simplify your complex business process after all. Unfortunately, the reality is that many companies are still experiencing massive hiccups during their FinancialForce implementation that can easily be avoided with a few key steps.

 

A lack of customer focus, transparency, and communication are just some of the reasons implementation partners report experiencing serious churn before the first user ever logs in. With over 15 years of experience working in the FinancialForce platform, we want to share what we’ve learned so you can avoid the same pitfalls and experience the most seamless quote-to-cash implementation for your business.

Discover how to apply these 5 insider tips during your own FinancialForce implementation by entering your email below. We'll send the details to your inbox in minutes!




How quote-to-cash can boost your ROI today

How quote-to-cash can boost your ROI today

Discover how to shorten your sales cycle while doubling the size of your deals.

You’re hearing the term used more and more in the business world. You may even hear it referred to as simply, “QTC” or “Q2C.” But what exactly is quote-to-cash and how does it apply to your business?

Quote-to-cash is an end-to-end business process that covers your typical sales life cycle, from pricing and contracting all the way to invoicing and contract renewal.

Anyone running a company will recognize these steps as common elements in managing a business. And while many companies currently have manual processes in place for each of these important steps in the sales process, there is a more efficient way to manage an organization and, if we’re getting down to brass tacks, make money. This is where a quote-to-cash process comes into play.

Who does quote-to-cash benefit?

With the help of QTC software, a quote-to-cash business process will streamline your entire business from the comfort of a single cloud platform. It will give an entire organization, from sales reps to c-suite executives, a bird’s eye view of sales, contracting, and revenue management processes and make closing deals all the easier.

Any profitable company will benefit from a streamlined quote-to-sales process but a quote-to-cash solution will be especially effective for those currently dealing with:

  • Difficulty scaling a business
  • Missed sales opportunities (upsell, cross-sell, renewal)
  • Inaccuracies in manual processes
  • A limited view of customers

How does quote-to-cash work?

With a single Q2C platform, a business is able to view every stage of the sales process in one place. This includes: 

  1. Service configuration: Deciding on which combination of services or products to suggest to a customer.
  2. Pricing: Developing the appropriate price for a service or product.
  3. Quote and Contract: Presenting an initial quote that will move forward the sale and creating an official contract that lists the agreed-upon terms and conditions. 
  4. Amend and Renew: This stage includes finalizing the contract.
  5. Order: Confirming, processing, and delivering an order.
  6. Bill and Pay: An invoice is sent to the customer, with the necessary information being transferred to Accounts.

The ROI speaks for itself

By streamlining your business process with QTC, it leaves less room for error and money lost. A study done by the Aberdeen Group reveals the magnitude a quote-to-cash process can have on a business. 

The results of the companies featured in the study speak for itself:

  • 105% larger deal sizes
  • 49% higher proposal volume
  • 28% shorter sales cycle
  • 26% more sales representatives meeting their targets
  • 17% higher conversion rate

Aberdeen Group’s “Breaking the laws of physics: shortening the last mile through workplace automation” by Peter Ostrow (April 2013).

How to get started

At VFP Consulting, we’re quote-to-cash experts and we specialize in guiding businesses through their QTC software implementation. It’s a new concept for many which is why we’re here to help. Book your complimentary consultation to have a one-on-one chat with us about how we can help usher in a more streamlined business process for you today.


We know the secret to building a winning company culture

 

There’s been a noticeable shift in workplace culture over the past few years, with many companies reforming their views on company culture -- or lack thereof. In short, many organizations are realizing that their “can’t do” attitude towards company culture just won’t cut it anymore. The workforce is now made up of 50% millennials and this generation wants to work for companies that share their same values.

As COO of VFP Consulting, Doug Johnston understands the importance of strong leadership in growing a business. He’s been building scalable, large-capacity teams in enterprise environments for 20 years and has witnessed first-hand what can make or break a team.

Having a strong company culture is integral to a company’s bottom line for it affects every part of a business. Without aligned values and goals, employees will start to drift and question their overall happiness at their workplace and this can have serious consequences for your business. Recruitment, productivity, and financial performance will all suffer as a result.

Johnston brings a unique approach to employee management that’s based on a remote company culture focused on growth, sustainability, and loyalty. So what’s the secret to building a strong team and thereby, a company culture, from the ground up?

 

 

The VFP team at a recent company meet up in Vancouver, Canada.

Make organizational health and living your core values your top priority

In a world of financial results, key performance indicators, and rapid change, it’s critical to recognize that one priority must remain above all others. “The overall health of a company -- alignment, engagement, and trust -- should be top of mind for executives that want to build a winning culture and company,” Johnston explains. “Without a healthy organization, you’ll be hard-pressed to get the sustainable business results you’re looking for. It’s foundational, and if you neglect it then nothing else matters.”

Johnston’s approach is straightforward: whether remote or not, you need to have a good sense of your company’s values. “VFP stands for vision, focus, and passion, and we have a great definition of exactly what that means that we talk about every day. We expect everybody who wants to be a part of this adventure to understand what we stand for,” Johnston says. “We want them to bring our values to everything they do in their jobs, every single day.”

"Too many businesses think culture revolves around free beer and foosball tables, but in reality, it’s rooted in something a lot more personal.”

Johnston has noticed company culture thrives when employees start to take pride in their work. “People start to feel connected to the results of the business through their individual contribution, and the value they know they’re bringing to customers. People realize that they’re part of something special and that their contributions are meaningful. Culture starts to take on a life of its own, which is exactly what’s needed. Too many businesses think culture revolves around free beer and foosball tables, but in reality, it’s rooted in something a lot more personal.”

 

Create a communication plan

While having your employees aligned with your organization’s values and goals is an important first step, many companies fail to recognize that success goes beyond a splashy meeting and slogans written on a wall. It’s critical that culture is at the forefront of everything a company does, every day. At VFP, Johnston implemented a multi-tiered communication strategy to preserve and strengthen the health of the company. As the company grows, it becomes more difficult to keep everybody aligned and happy and effective communication becomes key.

VFP’s team lives and works all over the world, so staying in sync is no small feat. In addition to monthly All Hands Meetings and standard weekly operational meetings with teams, even more important are the one-on-one meetings that happen weekly between every VFP employee and their leader. “This is where the personal connection happens,” says Johnston. “It’s a chance to take everything the company is doing and make it relevant for an individual. We help them understand how they fit and how they can grow. And as importantly, it’s our chance to get feedback on things we might not be seeing given how spread out we are.”

 

Team meetings, whether in person or online, happen without fail once a week in order to stay personally connected with one another on company projects and goals.

 

Johnston also created VFP Consulting’s much buzzed-about ‘Virtual Friday Parties,’ where the company comes together in an unstructured, weekly video happy hour to connect with one another in a casual environment. “We shoot the breeze on what's going on around the company and tell some funny stories. You’ve got to have a sense of humor in this line of work,” Johnston explains with a laugh. “You spend a lot of time away from family, and there's a lot of pressure to get things done. We’re operating in a world of ambiguity and it's our job to bring clarity. You have to enjoy the people you’re on this journey with.”

Johnston acknowledges that effective communication starts at the top. It’s crucial that the executive team lead by example in order to maintain engagement. It’s the key to having your employees continue to push forward. “Disengagement can be a fatal blow to a company. I’m unapologetic for constantly reminding our team of what we stand for. If I don’t constantly show that culture matters to me, how can I expect others at VFP to buy in?”

These days, you can accurately measure financial performance, customer satisfaction, and even productivity. But how do you know when your company culture is having a positive effect on the company?

 

Effective communication and collaboration starts at the top, with the executive team leading by example.

Attitude counts

Data is important, and measuring things like employee satisfaction can be useful, but sometimes you have to put it aside and look at the employees themselves. Building a team that operates well together and follows a company’s core values is difficult but it’s also integral to a company’s success. Johnston is a big believer in attitude as the top trait in people who work at VFP.

“When we’re hiring, we hire for attitude first and experience second because we know it counts. It’s something that is constantly being looked at throughout the year to make sure people are looking at their jobs and their results the right way,” Johnston elaborates. “We make sure that the attitude we liked when they came into the position hasn’t slipped. If it has, we try to figure it out. It’s important to recognize that constantly realigning at all levels bubbles up to the results of the business.”

Organizations that put company culture at the forefront of their priorities will have a leg up on other companies in the industry, especially in the coming years when an entirely new generation of employees will dominate the workforce. With different values and attributes to consider, companies will need to adjust appropriately to ensure business growth down the line.

Tell us: what is your business doing to put company health and culture top of mind?


Using Einstein to Maximize the Value Your Services Business Provides

Using Einstein to Maximize the Value Your Services Business Provides

Using Einstein to Maximize the Value Your Services Business Provides

As a services business, providing value to your clients is a top priority. One way to do this is to utilize a tool like FinancialForce PSA, which runs on the Salesforce platform. This gives you a connected view of your business from lead to delivery to billing. Awesome, so that’s it, right?

What if your data could tell you more about your business than standard reports? What if you could learn about trends in your data and see which of your currents projects may be at risk of going over-budget before it happens? You could get ahead of your services business and drive client success! 

Sounds like a job for an expensive Data Scientist… Or Salesforce Einstein! Did you know that Salesforce has a tool that uses AI to analyze trends in your data, make predictions, and help you understand your business better? The possibilities are endless. Salesforce can help you answer questions that you never knew it could answer, such as:

How can I maximize utilization of my resources?

Einstein Discovery allows you to pick an attribute such as utilization, analyze your data, and then tell give you suggestions on how to maximize it! Imagine finding that perfect balance between long- and short-term engagements that leads to your ideal utilization for your resources!

How can I tell how my client is feeling about our work?

Einstein Sentiment can analyze the emails your client sends you and ascribe a positive, negative, or neutral feeling to it. You could use that data to identify potential issues and risks earlier and address them before they impact your delivery to the client!

How could I tell if a project is at risk of going off-track?

Einstein Prediction Builder can assign a value score to help you understand the probability of a certain event happening, such as passing the end date or going over budget. You can then quickly see where your biggest risks are, and allocate resources to ensure you deliver on-time and under-budget!

These are just a few ways that Salesforce Einstein enhance your services business and provide better value to your clients. It can also help avoid costly risks and keep budget down, which will provide value to your business as well! It’s a win for all.

Is Einstein Right For You?

To see if Einstein is right for you, let’s chat!

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What does it take to be a great Consultant - With Stephanie Picardi

What does it actually take to be a great Consultant?

Being a good Consultant doesn't mean chasing prestige.

What does it take to be a great Consultant?

Every year prominent business schools release waves of new graduates into the workforce, each of them hungry to put their knowledge to good use…and make a name for themself. Many will choose to pursue consulting, as, to some, the title of Consultant implies prestige. In reality, there’s no power in a title— reputation is something that you earn through excellence. A great Consultant must have the right attitude and display steadfast expertise if they’re going to earn (and maintain) the trust of the businesses they partner with.

Execute every time

Curiosity is key. Being able to see the challenges that your client is facing (and have the foresight to predict the challenges that they’ll need to tackle in the future) certainly requires a high level of skill. But you also need the ability to execute every time— to operationalize the recommendations that you’re making. Understanding the proper balance between innovation and reality takes a levelheaded, ego-free disposition, and expertise in the solutions that you’re providing. For example, if you work with software, your recommendations must always be the right fit. Whatever systems and processes you create for your client must not only serve them where they are— they must enable them to do more.

It’s your duty to keep focused on your objective

Do you know to stay on track? Building lasting relationships with your client means helping them navigate the changing landscape of their journey. Whether it’s acquisition, going public, or a structural re-org, it’s your duty to keep focused on your objective. As such, it’s vital that you know how to keep a project from derailing. Seeing your partner through the bumps along the way means knowing how to create and execute solutions, but it also requires a high level of emotional intelligence. Being a source of support in trying times requires a level head and a good heart— in equal measure.

Obtain and deliver new skills

You just have to like it. Technical ability means nothing if you don’t enjoy the conversation. When you’re passionate about what you do, it isn’t something that you turn off. A great Consultant can’t help but think about improving their craft. They find ways to repurpose what they’ve learned from their engagements, and are always seeking to obtain and deliver new skills as they move forward.

Great Consultants don’t play a singular role.

In the end, great consultants are the ones who recognize that their personal success is measured by the success of their partners. Sure, you have to possess a sales mindset and be a business operation expert, but you also need to be able to see outside of that domain. Knowing how your decisions affect operations up and downstream is only the beginning. Are you being helpful beyond of the scope of your own project? Consulting means forming a partnership, and as any business owner will tell you, that means wearing a lot of hats. A great Consultant wants to show up however they can— because when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.


Why MDA Needed an ERP and Why It Chose VFP Consulting: An Interview with Michael Kennedy, Chief Financial Officer at the Muscular Dystrophy Association

Why MDA Needed an ERP and Why It Chose VFP Consulting: An Interview with Michael Kennedy, Chief Financial Officer at the Muscular Dystrophy Association

I don’t give recommendations easily. But I can for
VFP – I appreciate that they are more than a software
implementation company, and have become my
partners in a massive transformation in the

way we use technology to make a difference.

MICHAEL KENNEDY, EVP & CFO,
MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY ASSOCIATION.

Mike Kennedy carved out an hour to talk to me in the middle of this year’s Dreamforce to share his vision: Evolve the way the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a nonprofit with a 64-year history, leverages technology to become a streamlined data-driven organization.

With a passion to make a difference and the drive to see it through, Mike has set in motion a clear innovative technology strategy aimed at providing best-in-class integrated technology solutions that further the MDA mission and drive increased fundraising.

With strategic and tactical help from VFP Consulting, the Salesforce/FinancialForce platforms will allow MDA to achieve two important milestones:

  • Reduced administrative overhead and the creation of a centralized service center executing more effectively within a unified technology
  • A way to provide constituents with additional opportunities to engage with the organization by implementing new channels and improving existing channels

These changes will be the backbone of MDA’s future and will empower tens of thousands of volunteers and staff in 84 offices across the country.

Kim: What is the business problem that VFP Consulting is helping you solve?

Michael Kennedy: The problem is twofold. In the beginning, MDA had antiquated and disparate front and backend systems. Once the extent of the problem was identified with VFP Consulting’s help, we chose FinancialForce to be the single end-to-end processing platform.

With VFP Consulting building the foundations of the technology architecture, we started the strategic thinking around moving MDA’s existing 60-plus systems into a single Salesforce-managed platform that will drive our fundraising and mission initiatives.

Kim: What other technologies is VFP working with to help you realize your vision?

Michael Kennedy: The front-end of fundraising will be driven by Salesforce partner platforms such as Donor Drive, One Cause, and Marketing Cloud, and MDA Care Centers and Summer Camps will have custom-designed Salesforce registries.  All of these programs will be supported by the FinancialForce platform implemented by VFP.

Kim: What aspect of the FinancialForce implementation will help you most in your job as CFO?

Michael Kennedy: Every organization needs reliable, timely and relevant financial information to help guide its goals. This is what FinancialForce can bring to MDA. In addition, it is important to me that MDA maximizes the mission impact of every dollar we raise. With FinancialForce end-to-end processing capabilities, we not only get superior financial information but we also achieve a streamlined process providing significant savings. VFP was able to quickly grasp these two critical requirements and help us build a successful platform.

Kim: What will a successful implementation look like to you?

Michael Kennedy: VFP has done a wonderful job in putting the FinancialForce implementation on a fast track. It was just too important to the organization to not have a state-of-the-art technology platform. For me, a successful implementation brings me the three key aspects every CFO wants to have:

  • House in order: processing systems deliver efficiencies and financial information can be relied upon
  • Relevant and timely financial reporting: a simple dashboard both for finance department overview as well as for front-end executives to understand where they stand
  • Influence: the right information will influence decision-making and allow my colleagues to achieve their goals

When the implementation is done, I’ll be able to look at financials and say, “Here is where we are struggling,” and make real-time recommendations based on accurate and timely data.  If we can access financials and metrics easily and see how things are connected, then MDA will be able to help more people more efficiently than ever before.

Shifting the organization to a single Salesforce/FinancialForce platform will allow us to become a more connected, efficient team. It will facilitate collaboration that just isn’t possible with our old systems.

Kim: From your experience, are the needs of nonprofits different than those of for-profit companies?

Michael Kennedy: Clearly, the end goals are different. For-profit companies are trying to satisfy the financial returns of shareholders, whereas nonprofits are delivering on a defined mission of help and support. Coming from a background as a CFO in both worlds, I can see so many similarities between how each gets to its end goal. Finance teams are relied upon to provide timely and relevant information of an organization’s activities. In addition, it’s just as important for a nonprofit to make sure that the maximum amount of every dollar raised gets to the intended mission. We have the same responsibility to our donors that a for-profit has to its shareholders.  Both for-profit and nonprofits need executive and financial leadership. Having the right technology in place, and insight, is critical in delivering that leadership.

Kim: You mention “insight.” What kind of insight will help MDA fulfill its mission?

Michael Kennedy: We are a large nonprofit organization operating in 84 offices with more than 600 employees and volunteers. Having timely insight into all those activities is critical to the management team to drive our mission and fundraising efforts in an efficient and coordinated fashion. It will answer a lot of questions: Are we doing things in a consistent way? Are we concentrating on the right things, working in the right areas? Where are we raising funds? Why do some regions outperform others? Are we maximizing our connections with our supporters and families? I have never looked at the CFO role as simply a policeman or the generator of data. Compliance and accurate reporting is important but being able to influence the organization is the bigger goal for finance. I come in every day ready to challenge how we do things and how we can become more efficient, never losing sight that each dollar saved goes to helping our community of individuals with neuromuscular diseases. Having the right technology platform is key to being able to achieve that.

Kim: What does the future of MDA look like with the help of this platform?

Michael Kennedy: MDA is about innovations in care and science for individuals with neuromuscular diseases. We are constantly evolving as an organization as new treatments are discovered to help these individuals. With a state-of-the-art technology architecture, we will be well positioned to support how we deliver on this evolving mission.

Kim: What’s it like working with VFP? How do they compare to other partners you’ve worked with?

Michael Kennedy: I give a lot of credit to Paul and Stephanie for building a team of professionals that provides clients with thought leadership and timely product delivery. VFP is recognized as a specialist in this field. I don’t give away recommendations easily, but I can with VFP. I trust their knowledge of business processes and I trust their dedication to what we are trying to achieve. They put business process first, then they zero in on a solution. Without that kind of active partnership and knowledge there would be a lot of wasted trial and error.

Kim: What do you see as the value of working with the VFP Consulting team?

Michael Kennedy: When I first met Stephanie and Paul, I was clear about what I wanted. I said,

“I’m not looking for an implementation service; I’m looking for a partner who can help me think this through and implement it.”

The advantage of working with VFP is that they see the bigger picture. They own it with you. I could only do this with a team that takes the time to understand our processes and how to improve them. The VFP team brings a valuable element to what we are trying to accomplish.

 

Coming soon: In Part 2 of the MDA story we’ll talk to Paul Rees, co-Founder of VFP, about the process of implementation, lessons learned and the all-important go-live on Dec. 1, 2018.