Revenue recognition standards for companies that use contracts are in the process of changing, as I covered in an earlier perspective. As part of managing their transition to these standards, CFOs and controllers should initiate a full-scale review of their order-to-cash cycle. This should include examination of their company’s sales contracts and their contracting process. They also should examine how well their contracting processes are integrated with invoicing and billing and any other elements of their order-to-cash cycle, especially as these relate to revenue recognition. They must recognize that how their company structures, writes and modifies these contracts and handles the full order-to-cash cycle will have a direct impact on workloads in the finance and accounting department as well as on external audit costs. Companies that will be affected by the new standards also should investigate whether they can benefit from using software to automate contract management or in some cases an application that supports their configure, price and quote (CPQ) function by facilitating standardization and automation of their contracting processes.
I recently wrote about six technologies that can help companies deliver experiences that live up to their customers’ expectations: an integrated multichannel infrastructure, analytics, a smart agent desktop, business applications such as workforce management and knowledge management, collaboration and mobile apps. They should be closely integrated to simplify system administration, to support processes that have been disconnected because they required multiple systems and to be easy to use. In my experience few vendors provide systems that meet all these goals so I was keen to learn about the latest version of the Genesys Customer Experience Platform which was the recipient of 2014 Ventana Research T Technology Innovation award for contact center in its works with IBM Watson Engagement Advisor.
Some new words can give the wrong impression. Take “gamification,” for example. It may sound as if employers are inviting their employees to play games just for fun, when actually this is a technique increasingly being used to recognize achievement and thus help improve performance. Several workforce management software vendors have introduced gamification systems that support setting targets, measuring achievement against those targets, rewarding players who meet their target and displaying winners who do best at meeting or exceeding their targets. This concept is not entirely new in contact centers, which long have used notice boards that recognize achievements such as “agent of the month,” which is also an award to the employee best meeting his or her targets. A new product called Verint Gamification supports similar capabilities but visualizes them in more engaging ways that link meeting personal goals with enterprise objectives.
NICE Systems is an established vendor of workforce optimization products that has long included analytics in its portfolio. Its latest release in this area, NICE Customer Experience Analytics, focuses on mapping, understanding and managing customer journeys and metrics. The product is built on NICE’s common technology platform, which consists of three functions: collect, understand and optimize. The Collect segment has tools to help manage customer-related data and ingest data from multiple data sources; Understand uses analytics tools to analysis the data and produce reports, dashboards and other forms of output; and Optimize uses the outputs to help users improve business tasks such as improve customer satisfaction and net performer scores, suggest next best actions and reduce customer effort.
For most of the past decade businesses that decided not to pay attention to proposed changes in revenue recognition rules have saved themselves time and frustration as the proponents’ timetables have slipped and roadmaps have changed. The new rules are the result of a convergence of US-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles – the accounting standard used by U.S.-based companies) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards – the system used in much of the rest of the world). Now, however, it’s time for everyone to pay close attention. Last year the U.S.-based Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB, which manages US-GAAP) and the Brussels-based International Accounting Standards Board (IASB, which manages IFRS) issued “Topic 606” and “IFRS 15,” respectively, which express their harmonized approach to governing revenue recognition. A major objective of the new standards is to provide investors and other stakeholders with more accurate and consistent depictions of companies’ revenue across multiple types of business as well as make the standard consistent between the major accounting regimes.
Recently, Infor held its second innovation conference with industry analysts at its New York City headquarters. Infor’s products include the major categories of ERP, human capital management and financial performance management applications. Behind the marketing aspects of its use of “innovation” is a business strategy for retaining existing customers, migrating a sizable percentage of those customers to the cloud and gaining new customers. (Because of the relative size of the installed base, renewals and migrating customers to the cloud are likely to be more important to Infor’s future revenues than adding new customers.) I think it’s useful to assess the content of the event in the context of the company’s business strategy.