By Jim Staats, Senior Account Manager at Zuora
Automation as a revenue management solution is experiencing a bump these days, but it’s not just because of the impending arrival of ASC 606, as we learned from the recent sit down with Bob Walstra, Zuora’s Regional Sales Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area. Walstra, who has been with the company for four years, offered his ‘in the field’ perspective on corporate motivation, new guidance readiness and what concern matters more than cost.
Q: The audiences you face are at least open to consideration of a revenue automation solution. What is the biggest driver for this consideration, in your opinion, and why?
A: Typically, it’s the target company’s audit firm which is suggesting automation. Things may be more pronounced now due to the accounting change, but the very idea of taking on revenue automation is not typically part of the portfolio of IT organizations. There’s nothing out there that puts it on an IT organization’s project list. The main two reasons why a company usually would take on automation is either (1) because IT identified automation as an area (and if IT doesn’t do it, it’s because nobody introduced it to them), and (2) the other big moving factor comes from the finance team. In the case of the latter, it would have to be a revenue director or possibly a controller who initiates the idea of revenue automation in order to make it to the project list for a company. The big reason automation is getting more traction is because audit firms have introduced this idea as a way of doing things better than doing things in spreadsheets. The reason it is more obvious now is because of the accounting change, along with a much greater willingness of audit firm clients to look into automation.
Q: Based on the trend you’ve witnessed, what vertical is most open to a technology-based automation solution for revenue management?
A: Any sector or industry is open to automation, especially if they’re selling technology-based products and services, bundles in particular. That includes the ‘traditional’ hi-tech, biotech/life sciences/medical devices, subscriptions in financial services, health care, etc. Our solution (RevPro) really is industry agnostic. Every single market sector has adopted technology solutions. Every sector is embracing bundles and the moment that happens, it opens up complexity in revenue management. Clearly, there is a role for us to play in addressing the complexity of revenue automation. Every sector is a candidate for what we do. Everywhere you look, corporations are adopting technology, so we can be in every single industry.
Q: At this point in time – start of 2017, a year away from effective date – where do you find the majority of the companies are in their adoption efforts for ASC 606?
A: Apart from a (very) few exceptions, most companies – public, private, large and small – are still in the (very) early stages. Everybody will be scrambling to adopt. Companies really are scrambling to think about how to do this with the time left. I’m hearing of folks that are just now kick-starting their assessment. I’m surprised of how early on in the process most companies still find themselves. Some of the biggest firms, even the ones that embraced automation early on, have just started.
Q: What is the most common concern you field about implementing an automation solution, and what is your response?
A: Cost aside, the biggest concern is time-to-operation. The people I talk to understand the need to invest in a solution. Cost will always be an issue, but its not the biggest issue right now. The alternative to automation is to hire additional staff and that can hardly be cheaper to automation costs. The first immediate question I hear is how long does it take to implement it. What is the time to get to go-live? We tend to do our implementation projects broadly in 5-6 months, but now we have been tightening it to 3-4 months. Our customers seem OK with that time frame. They all appreciate the complexity of these projects. There’s always going to be leakage in terms of resource hours, but all that aside. the biggest concern is the time necessary to go live. If indeed we can present evidence we can accomplish implementation in 3-4 months (or in 6 months within a calendar period), that is OK.