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Speaker Snapshot: 'You'll Always Hear Disparaging Remarks About Excel, Especially From The "Replace-Excel-Vendors"'

We speak to Clark Muse, VP, Corporate Development at Vena Solutions.

6Oct

Ahead of his presentation at the CFO Rising West Summit in San Francisco on October 16 & 17, we spoke to Clark Muse, VP, Corporate Development at Vena Solutions.

Clark is responsible for various corporate development initiatives at Vena Solutions including strategic partnerships, new product offerings, and other projects that drive inorganic growth at Vena. For the better part of two decades, Clark has helped hundreds of organizations streamline their decision making processes to become more effective. Clark has held many management positions within the software industry including sales, channel management, sales engineering, customer advocacy, and corporate development at companies such as IBM, Clarity Systems, OutlookSoft (SAP), and Comshare. Most recently, Clark was responsible for Global Channel Development for IBM financial performance management solutions. In this role, he was responsible for all aspects of sales enablement, execution, partner recruitment and partner demand generation activities. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and an MBA in Finance from Georgia State University.

How did you get started in your career?

I started in this space back in 1993 helping companies such as The Coca Cola Company, Bellsouth, and Oxford Industries deploy marketing and finance decision support systems. I have focused most of my career in the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) category of solutions. My career evolved over the years with increasing responsibilities in sales and sales management, channel management, and corporate development at companies such as Comshare, OutlookSoft/SAP, Clarity, IBM, and Vena.

Why is Revenue Performance Management important?

Revenue Performance Management is hugely important and in many cases difficult for many organizations to manage, especially fast growing technology companies with subscription-oriented business models. Many companies are challenged with aligning corporate objectives across the organization and generating 'over-the-horizon' revenue forecasts that are accurate and predictable. Further, it can be difficult to understand the impact of various investment decisions and how these decisions can affect the marketing funnel, sales pipeline, bookings, and customer care requirements. Lastly, many organizations spend an enormous amount of time and effort wrangling spreadsheets and data sets to help their decision making. This activity is often repeated each month and quarter, delivering risks, ambiguity, and uncertainty to the organizational leaders.

Imagine a solution that provides a flexible yet systematic approach to planning, forecasting, and monitoring revenue from multiple business perspectives in a holistic way. This solution considers all key influencers of revenue including Marketing, Sales, Finance, Customer Care, and others to provide a single business model with prescriptive business rules that drive predictable results. This single business model is fed from data sources such as the ERP, CRM, digital-marketing systems like google analytics, marketing automation systems, and customer care systems like Zendesk. This approach streamlines the various processes and auto-generates forecasts that can be compared to the long-term plan, identifies capacity gaps, and provides a decision support platform for investment decision making and optimizing customer renewals and expansions.

This holistic approach is Revenue Performance Management.

How can CFOs best drive the corporate revenue system?

Great question! CFO's can lead the charge by coordinating all the influencers of revenue to drive the performance of their organization to towards common corporate goals. With Vena RPM, CFO's can automate and streamline the repeated tasks of analyzing results of marketing initiatives, forecasting short-term and long-term sales forecasts and bookings, and identifying risks of customer churn and opportunities for customer expansions and cross-selling.

The CFO can pull everyone together for an integrated planning environment for investment decision make while illuminating capacity gaps in people and technology before they become problematic.

What challenges do companies encounter when managing revenue forecasts across the organization? How do you overcome these?

As mentioned, many companies are challenged with aligning of corporate objectives across the organization and generating 'over-the-horizon' revenue forecasts that are accurate and predictable. Further, various corporate departments tend to work in isolation with little coordination or sharing. And, there's always the issue of data integration, version control, and the manual tasks and risks associated with wrangling spreadsheets. Sales and Finance leaders are often trying to explain why their forecasts were wrong and constantly reacting to events outside of their control versus analyzing their forecasts for opportunities and optimization.

Vena RPM overcomes these obstacles by delivering a single, holistic business model that is tightly integrated with source systems used by marketing, finance, customer care and sales teams. This provides a single view of a customer, thus revenue, throughout the customer supply chain.

With Vena RPM, customers and revenue are carefully planned for and monitored from the initial marketing lead, through the sales pipeline, onward to a financial booking, and lastly to becoming an evangelical customer base who faithfully renews and expands their commitment. Vena RPM provides a flexible modeling environment for refining prescriptive business rules that deliver predictive results, with confidence.

What new technologies do you see as having the most impact on budgeting, planning and revenue forecasting in the future? You often hear solutions providers make disparaging remarks about Excel, but does it still have a role to play?

Another great question!

This biggest technologies impacting these types of solutions are the improvement in Cloud based technologies. For example, Microsoft Office 365 delivers a great browser-based and cloud-based spreadsheet solution. Vena is leveraging this technology to deliver device-independent interfaces for Vena users. Cloud infrastructure is evolving rapidly that greatly impacts Vena customers by providing improved performance and scalability at reduced costs.

You'll always hear disparaging remarks about Excel, especially from the "replace-Excel-Vendors". I remember around 1998 or so, at a FEI conference in Orlando, the CEO of a prominent software vendor proclaimed the demise of spreadsheets and claimed that Excel would no longer exists in 2 years. He predicted, in front of 350 finance and accounting executives, that internet based platforms would disrupt desktop solutions and Excel would simple go away. The fact is, Excel is use more so now that ever. Excel use to be considered the "language of Finance", but today, it has become the "language-of-business".

Vena leverages Excel for what it's good at, and the reason why people use it. Vena also removes the impediments of using Excel across the enterprise and enables collaboration and sharing of information without distributing files and spreadsheets. The result is an agile and responsive system that's actually maintainable by business professionals versus teams consultants that are required for legacy solutions. It's that simple.

You can catch Clark's presentation at the CFO Rising West Summit in San Francisco on October 16 & 17.

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