October marked the one-year anniversary of the first enterprise deployment of Salesforce Billing. West Monroe was part of that exciting deployment on Oct. 3, 2016, when our client initiated a batch process – with the click of a “post invoices” button – generating more than 20,000 invoices representing millions of dollars in monthly billing. Automating this process reduced the time spent by the billing team on invoicing activities from days to hours. Our client was able to redeploy resources to revenue generating activities, reduce billing errors generated by manual intervention, reduce receivables days by enabling customers to view and pay invoices online in Salesforce Community, and lower operating costs by sun-setting an expensive Oracle billing system.
We were fortunate to lead the months-long business transformation that made this deployment possible, including the implementation of Salesforce Service Cloud, Salesforce Sales Cloud, and Salesforce CPQ that preceded it.
As we mark the release of Salesforce Billing 2.0 and reflect on the one-year anniversary of that first deployment, we want to share three lessons learned from that project. These lessons will help you reduce costs, deploy faster, improve user and customer satisfaction, and ultimately accelerate the quote-to-cash cycle.
1. Identify and invest in your Salesforce billing administrator
Identify your system administrator for Salesforce Billing before you begin the implementation process. Why? This individual should be actively involved in configuration and testing to become intimately knowledgeable about the billing system. This is critical for several reasons: There are very few experts on Salesforce Billing since it is so new. Accordingly, there is little available documentation. And finally, the Salesforce CPQ and Billing functionality is more complex than standard Sales, Service, or Community Cloud functionality.
Salesforce CPQ and Billing administration requires more advanced knowledge of Salesforce configuration – think calculus versus algebra – as well as learning many complex, less-intuitive features unique to CPQ and Billing. Your administrator should be a full-time member of the implementation team from project kickoff through deployment. Look for expertise in Salesforce CPQ functionality, as much of the Billing functionality will be driven by your CPQ configuration.
Following the go-live of Salesforce Billing, your system administrator should be dedicated full time to supporting the Salesforce CPQ and Billing functionality. Given the mission-critical role of billing to your business, as well as its impact on customer experience, investing in this role can actually lower your ongoing system costs. On the one hand, you can avoid the cost of outsourcing system administration to your Salesforce Billing implementation partner. On the other hand, you can create a more consistent experience for both internal users and customers. In other words, it pays to begin with this end in mind.
2. Focus on data integrity, execute multiple parallel bill runs, and invest in two full sandboxes
Together, the following steps can help you keep it “clean” by minimizing the number of billing errors once you launch the system. In turn, this helps reduce costs and the potential damaging impact of poor customer experiences.
- First, identify all source systems, tables, and records that feed the current billing process. To execute billing processes in Salesforce, you will need to migrate Customers, Contracts/Orders, Products, Open Invoices, and On-account Payments. These records will need to match the format and data structure of the objects and fields in Salesforce that drive the quote-to-cash process.
- Before beginning the Salesforce Billing project, you will need to identify any data inconsistencies and billing anomalies/outliers in your current billing processes, customer master, and product catalog. Identifying and resolving these items prior to executing your first test parallel bill run will cut down on the number of billing exceptions based on data issues (as compared to configuration issues). This will help keep project costs down by shortening the project duration and corresponding billable time for project consultants.
- Plan on executing at least two or three parallel bill runs prior to the go-live deployment. These bill runs should include calculating taxes and generating invoice documents in order to stress test the entire process. The number of parallel bill run iterations will depend on the cleanliness of your data and the complexity of your billing processes.
- Additionally, consider investing in a second full sandbox during the implementation process. This will allow you to troubleshoot parallel billing run errors in one full sandbox while launching a new parallel billing run in the second sandbox. Full sandboxes can be refreshed every 30 days, so you will need to plan parallel billing runs accordingly.
3. Leverage native CPQ and Billing functionalities on the Salesforce platform
There are a number of native features and readily available enhancements/add-ons that can help your organization accelerate payments and improve the experience for your sales team and customers. The key to doing so is to simplify and streamline business processes beforehand so that you can execute them easily within Salesforce and avoid complex customization.
In the inaugural Salesforce Billing deployment project, we utilized both native features and custom functionality to accelerate quote-to-order, order-to-invoice, and invoice-to-payment processes.
Native functionality used for acceleration:
- Invoice processing: Automated process to generate invoice records on a scheduled basis.
- Tax integration: Automated tax calculation (via Avalara) processing directly in Salesforce when the invoice records get posted.
- Cash allocation rules: Automated the application of customer payments to existing invoices based on business rules, including Pay Oldest Invoice First, Match Invoice Amount, or Do Not Apply. Applied “On Account” (unallocated) payments to new Invoices upon Invoice creation and posting.
- Integrated payment processor: Set up payment gateway within Salesforce to enable the PCI-compliant processing of credit card and ACH payments externally via the Customer Community or internally via a Virtual Terminal.
- Default payment method: Allowed customers to define their default payment method (ACH or credit card) to be saved for future use.
- Scheduled auto-pay: Set up recurring payment processing via ACH and credit cards to automatically pay any open invoice balances.
- Revenue recognition rules: Configured revenue recognition rules and applied to Product records to drive revenue recognition functionality.
- Automatic creation of contract, order, and renewal records: Leveraged native functionality to automatically create Contracts, Orders, and Renewals with the appropriate start and end dates.
Custom functionality used for acceleration:
- Online bill payment: Presented invoice records via Salesforce Communities and allowed customers to pay one or many invoices directly online.
- Online bill presentment: Allowed customer to review, dispute, and pay invoices directly through the Salesforce Community.
- Email notification: Notified customers of online invoice document record as soon as record is created/posted.
- Invoice documentation (Conga): Customized invoice PDF documents with Conga. Added OCR line for automated lockbox processing.
- Lockbox integration: Set up integration via Jitterbit to load, reconcile and automatically allocate lockbox payments received from the bank on a daily basis in Salesforce.
- Dunning and collections process: Leveraged the Case object to create Collections Cases once past due balances meet collections criteria. Leveraged Conga integration and workflow rules to send dunning and inactivation notices to customers on a scheduled basis.
- Product enablement and provisioning: Set up integration via Jitterbit to automatically activate/deactivate product licenses and features for customers based on order and billing activity.
- General ledger tracking and accounting integration: Enabled Invoices, Credit Notes, Payments, Refunds and Revenue Transactions in Salesforce to generate general ledger journal entries based on the applicable accounting rules and to transfer via Jitterbit integration to the accounting system.
- Validation rules and approval process to automate order review and processing: Improved data quality and reduced manual order processing time with use of native validation rule and automated approval process functionality.
While Salesforce Billing is still very new, our initial experience demonstrated it can dramatically accelerate the quote-to-cash cycle – particularly when applying the lessons described above.