RJ Smith, VP of Finance with Venture Technologies, speaks with CXOTalk at the FinancialForce user event Community Live 2017 in Las Vegas about digital transformation in the technology reseller industry. Venture, a Cisco partner, focuses on network and cloud solutions in the government, education, and commercial space.

One of the biggest changes in recent years is the evolution of customer service, as Venture utilizes tools like Salesforce and FinancialForce in the planning and data analysis process.

“We’re seeing increased margins because we’re able to deploy solutions that are a lower cost for our customers and also a lower cost for us to deliver,” Smith says. “Even at the same time, we’re being able to provide hybrid solutions to our customers that simply wouldn’t have been possible before. Some of that innovation is being driven by our manufacturer partners, those that are developing the software. And some of that innovation is occurring within our own team who are looking at solutions that may have been delivered a certain way for ten or fifteen years, and now we can deliver in a completely new way and solve problems for customers that they may not have even realized that they had.”

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, and we are here in Las Vegas at the FinancialForce user event which is called Community Live 2017. And I’m speaking with RJ Smith, who is the VP of Finance with Venture Technologies. Hey RJ, how are you?

RJ Smith: I’m good! It’s great to be with you!

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about Venture.

RJ Smith: So, Venture is a technology reseller. We’re a Cisco partner, and we focus on network solutions and cloud solutions in the government, education, and commercial space.

Michael Krigsman: So, what are you doing with FinancialForce?

RJ Smith: The primary interactions that I'm placing a lot of value on here are being able to impact the product roadmap to provide feedback to them about what matters most to our business. And then also, getting training and collaborating with them on understanding what we're doing as a business and how that can flow into future versions of the product. Those are the primary reasons why I'm here.

Michael Krigsman: RJ, you’re the VP of Finance. How do you look at this service economy, and how does this relate to your company?

RJ Smith: So, our revenue models are completely changing within this environment. Customers are demanding solutions that blend. Tangible, intangible services and different technologies being provided to them in ways that we never imagined before. And so, from my perspective, in finance, this is really opening up new ways to make sure that we’re responding to customer demands and to their requirements as their businesses change and evolved.

Michael Krigsman: And how about your margins?

RJ Smith: So, our margins in the traditional hardware and software resale are thinner than they've ever been. But in professional services and cloud and managed service spaces, we're seeing increased margins because we're able to deploy solutions that are a lower cost for our customers and also a lower cost for us to deliver. Even at the same time, we're being able to provide hybrid solutions to our customers that simply wouldn't have been possible before. Some of that innovation is being driven by our manufacturer partners, those that are developing the software. And some of that innovation is occurring within our own team who are looking at solutions that may have been delivered a certain way for ten or fifteen years, and now we can deliver in a completely new way and solve problems for customers that they may not have even realized that they had.

Michael Krigsman: So, you're innovating in your business in response to customer expectations for higher levels of service.

RJ Smith: That’s right.

Michael Krigsman: At the same time, parts of your business have lower margins. So, you’re making investments and juggling efficiency, I’m assuming. So how do you decide these investment decisions?

RJ Smith: So, there's a prioritization that has to take place. We're basically looking at our business holistically. We're spending a lot more time in the planning process than we did before. As a value-added reseller, fifteen years ago, you could plan and forecast based on historical data a lot more easily than you can today. Today, you're having to do a lot more analysis and thought and planning around how you're going to deploy your own capital, how you're going to deploy the capital of your partners, how you're going to utilize your human capital and resources within the organization.

So, we’re spending a lot more time in the really deep, analytical parts of our business that we didn’t do before.

Michael Krigsman: So, it sounds like data is the lifeblood and almost the driver, ultimately, of customer service.

RJ Smith: That’s right. And that’s where utilizing tools like Salesforce and FinancialForce have been key to governing that planning and data analysis process for us.

Michael Krigsman: Which FinancialForce products are you actually using?

RJ Smith: So, we’re using FinancialForce financial management

Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, and we are here in Las Vegas at the FinancialForce user event which is called Community Live 2017. And I’m speaking with RJ Smith, who is the VP of Finance with Venture Technologies. Hey RJ, how are you?

RJ Smith: I’m good! It’s great to be with you!

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about Venture.

RJ Smith: So, Venture is a technology reseller. We’re a Cisco partner, and we focus on network solutions and cloud solutions in the government, education, and commercial space.

Michael Krigsman: So, what are you doing with FinancialForce?

RJ Smith: The primary interactions that I'm placing a lot of value on here are being able to impact the product roadmap to provide feedback to them about what matters most to our business. And then also, getting training and collaborating with them on understanding what we're doing as a business and how that can flow into future versions of the product. Those are the primary reasons why I'm here.

Michael Krigsman: RJ, you’re the VP of Finance. How do you look at this service economy, and how does this relate to your company?

RJ Smith: So, our revenue models are completely changing within this environment. Customers are demanding solutions that blend. Tangible, intangible services and different technologies being provided to them in ways that we never imagined before. And so, from my perspective, in finance, this is really opening up new ways to make sure that we’re responding to customer demands and to their requirements as their businesses change and evolved.

Michael Krigsman: And how about your margins?

RJ Smith: So, our margins in the traditional hardware and software resale are thinner than they've ever been. But in professional services and cloud and managed service spaces, we're seeing increased margins because we're able to deploy solutions that are a lower cost for our customers and also a lower cost for us to deliver. Even at the same time, we're being able to provide hybrid solutions to our customers that simply wouldn't have been possible before. Some of that innovation is being driven by our manufacturer partners, those that are developing the software. And some of that innovation is occurring within our own team who are looking at solutions that may have been delivered a certain way for ten or fifteen years, and now we can deliver in a completely new way and solve problems for customers that they may not have even realized that they had.

Michael Krigsman: So, you're innovating in your business in response to customer expectations for higher levels of service.

RJ Smith: That’s right.

Michael Krigsman: At the same time, parts of your business have lower margins. So, you’re making investments and juggling efficiency, I’m assuming. So how do you decide these investment decisions?

RJ Smith: So, there's a prioritization that has to take place. We're basically looking at our business holistically. We're spending a lot more time in the planning process than we did before. As a value-added reseller, fifteen years ago, you could plan and forecast based on historical data a lot more easily than you can today. Today, you're having to do a lot more analysis and thought and planning around how you're going to deploy your own capital, how you're going to deploy the capital of your partners, how you're going to utilize your human capital and resources within the organization.

So, we’re spending a lot more time in the really deep, analytical parts of our business that we didn’t do before.

Michael Krigsman: So, it sounds like data is the lifeblood and almost the driver, ultimately, of customer service.

RJ Smith: That’s right. And that’s where utilizing tools like Salesforce and FinancialForce have been key to governing that planning and data analysis process for us.

Michael Krigsman: Which FinancialForce products are you actually using?

RJ Smith: So, we’re using FinancialForce financial management and professional services automation and their supply chain functionality, which helps us in our traditional hardware resale.

 Michael Krigsman: And why did you choose them?

RJ Smith: Because of their close and tight integration being native on the Salesforce platform. We have been a longtime Salesforce customer for CRM and for customer interaction with the service cloud. And so, we were looking for a partner that was closely aligned with the Salesforce ecosystem and FinancialForce met that requirement.

So, we now are collecting through the various tools that we have on the platform, data about our customers that they may not even know about. And so, having tool sets that we have allows us to parse out and basically prioritize how we're going to respond to a customer's request, how we're going to propose and respond to opportunities that may exist within the marketplace. We're basically able to use the tools as a much more reasonable framework to collect and organize the data that we're collecting about our customers.

Michael Krigsman: And so, there is this direct linkage between that data and the interactions that you have with your customers.

RJ Smith: Our business today, and our toolsets are now very customer-driven and customer-centric. We're able to take a transaction that may hit the general ledger, which matters to me within the finance role and drill all the way back to the interactions that our professional services team may have had relating to that transaction. We can take it even further back into the opportunity. So, when we're doing our predictive analysis and forecasting on what our business is going to look like in the future, we have a very rich dataset to draw from to be able to look at historical data. And, that's been one of the most exciting and powerful things about utilizing these types of tools.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like it’s not just about the financial metrics, but it’s about the customer satisfaction metrics equally as much.

RJ Smith: Yes. We’re basically able to look at and score customer satisfaction at different points in the customer life cycle than we were able to do before, and that has been particularly useful in being able to step in and intervene when a project may not be going as well as it should. And it also gives us points to jump off of and be able to propose new solutions, new opportunities for revenue to generate for our business.

Michael Krigsman: So, you have greater visibility or insight into what’s actually happening with a project once it’s underway.

RJ Smith: That’s right. We have a much more developed understanding of our project process. So, even though as a Cisco partner, we basically receive a lot of guidance as to how we should be delivering projects and that ecosystem is well-established. But now, we’re able to do a lot more analysis within the project delivery itself to be able to reach out and respond to changes and issues as they occur within project delivery.

Michael Krigsman: Where do you see this all going?

RJ Smith: So, the vision of where we can take it even further is being able to do much more rigorous analysis around our future forecasting. So today, we've got all this data and we're able to do so much analysis on it. But, a lot of times, that's human analysis of the data. And so, what we're looking forward to is being able to utilize tools like Salesforce's Wave Analytics to be able to do more predictive and prescriptive analysis, not only for our own use but also for our customers. Because in the world of value-added resellers, what makes us distinctive is what we can provide versus any other reseller in the marketplace. And so, we're really looking to leverage what we've developed to be able to offer new products and solutions to our customers that they can't receive anywhere else.

Michael Krigsman: Fantastic! RJ Smith, thank you so much!

RJ Smith:  Thank you!