October 27, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Automated Budgeting and Planning Software Solution
About Centage Corporation
Centage Corporation is a leading provider of automated, budgeting and planning software solutions for small to medium-sized organizations. Since 2001, thousands of managers at all levels have utilized the Budget Maestro family of solutions to streamline their budgeting, forecasting, financial consolidation, performance analysis, and reporting processes. Centage Corporation is headquartered just west of Boston in Natick, MA.
President and CEO, Barry brings over 30 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business management of technology based companies. Beginning with IBM, Barry has held a succession of jobs with increasing responsibility in software and Internet related businesses. At DigitalGlobe, a satellite imagery company where he served as vice president, he was responsible for $25 million in worldwide sales and support. As vice president at Advanced Electron Beams, a venture-backed maker of electron beam generation equipment for the environmental and sterilization industries, he managed and grew worldwide sales. Most recently, he served as a strategic consultant to accelerate high growth of several early-stage companies, including Boston Technologies, a supplier of hosted services and high-volume transaction processing and execution for the foreign exchange trading market. As President and CEO of Source Recovery Company, an enterprise software tools company, he negotiated its sale to Allen Systems in 2000. Barry has a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration (Summa Cum Laude) from Nichols College and an MBA (with Honors) from Babson College.
Interview conducted by:
CEOCFO: Mr. Clapp, your website indicates a tagline of “Budget now, plan for the future.” How does Centage facilitate that and for whom?
Mr. Clapp: Our flagship product Budget Maestro®, empowers financial leaders to rapidly generate and modify their budgets and forecasts. Unlike anything else on the market today, Budget Maestro allows users to represent their budgets in a way that mirrors what they see in their general ledger. They are also able to replicate their company’s structure forward-looking as opposed to just backward looking. In doing so, they are able to easily understand, modify and make changes to their budgets so that it can reflect the business going forward. As a result, they are able to forecast forward the balance sheet and cash flow of their budget as well, so that they can see what the results will be and they can look at the financials of the company for the future.
CEOCFO: About how often do companies do a budget? When people are using Budget Maestro, do they look at it and project more often because it is so easy?
Mr. Clapp: There are some companies that budget just once a year because it is a big cross-departmental annual process, but the budget often ends up being somewhat static. Budget Maestro seamlessly integrates with any general ledger system, making it easier for customers to budget and forecast on a monthly or quarterly basis. With a static spreadsheet-oriented budget, created with formulas and links and without built-in financial intelligence, changes can be very hard to make. In addition, once changes are made, it is tedious and time consuming to go back and make sure all of the formulas and macros are still accurate. We enable driver-based budgeting, fueled by the key elements that affect the business.
CEOCFO: Are there many companies that provide a similar product? What is the competitive landscape?
Mr. Clapp: Our biggest competitor is Excel. Most 20 million to 500 million dollar companies still budget using massive, complex Excel models. There are few vendors in the marketplace that make similar tools, but the fundamental difference is that we have a pre-built budget model in our system that has all the financial and budget logic built in. Users just need to define the model at the highest level of the key indicators, or the key metrics that drive their business, and then the model generates itself based on those definitions. The competition is mostly companies who still use an underlying spreadsheet paradigm, that still require customers to maintain their budget model, and the formulas, links, and the relationships of the various data elements and the structure of the model. Budget Maestro generates that automatically and accurately, saving our customers valuable time and resources and enabling on-demand insight into the financial health of the organization.
CEOCFO: Does it surprise you that people would still use Excel?
Mr. Clapp: Excel is an extraordinary tool, but it is not a budgeting system. It’s just an empty spreadsheet. An empty repository, where you can create relationships between cells in an infinite way. While someone with a finance degree or MBA may have worked with Excel for years, the current business climate does not allow for these “Excel experts” to spend excessive time tweaking it. Businesses are moving fast, the marketplace and competitive challenges in the market are speeding up, and companies are trying to get more productivity out of fewer people all the time. As a result, people with less of those detailed modeling skills are being tasked with managing the budget. With built-in logic, Budget Maestro is an ideal solution to empower those busy, or “non-finance” oriented individuals with the insight necessary to build and maintain budgets and forecast for the future.
Mr. Clapp: We use very sophisticated online marketing tools and strategies. We understand the value of organic search and SEO, and have optimized our website to help prospects easily find us. We focus our content on the challenges facing financial leaders at small to mid-size businesses today, and the solutions we offer to address them. We pride ourselves on offering valuable resources including whitepapers, case studies and webinars on the topics that are most important to our customers and prospects, and work diligently to enhance our website, and all marketing vehicles, with meaningful and relevant content to clearly communicate our value proposition.
Mr. Clapp: Analytics Maestro is an add-on product to Budget Maestro, providing formula-free financial dashboard reporting. Once you have built your budget in Budget Maestro, Analytics Maestro allows you to slice and dice that information in any way that you want, without having to worry about breaking an underlying model structure. Similar to Budget Maestro, Analytics Maestro takes the data and puts it into an actual database, as opposed to a spreadsheet paradigm. Customers can change the labels, rows and columns infinitely and indiscriminately in an Analytics Maestro model, allowing for easy customization.
What is most
impressive about Analytics Maestro is that it is made to be used by end
users and not by IT people, or “power users”. Its simple user interface
allows for sophisticated reporting and analytics without the hassle of a
complicated tool. For example, if you want to change the format of a chart
or graph, a simple drag and drop, changes the format and you instantly have
a new report or metric. We have plans to add data from more back office
systems into Analytics Maestro to increase the value significantly.
CEOCFO: How have you succeeded in really making it user friendly?
Mr. Clapp: It is a challenge because budgeting is a complex application. Each company is different, and each company needs to structure their budget and model differently. But we’ve become experts, having helped our clients build so many budgets over the last 13 years, at understanding how customers want to approach such a tool. We know what questions they want to ask, what information needs to get into the budget, and how to help them to get it structured.
The very first thing we do is integrate directly with the general ledger, which other tools do not do, or do not do well. So customers are already starting with a corporate structure that looks like what they are accustomed to seeing, represented directly in Budget Maestro. The big breakthrough we had for this year is a brand new interface to our product, which makes it much simpler for customers to navigate the system, set up their rules, drivers, and KPIs to organize the budget in a way that works for them. The new UI is helping our customers simplify the process with a powerful and easy to use solution.
CEOCFO: Last year, you did work on you channel partner program. What has changed?
Mr. Clapp: In June 2013, we announced a formal channel partner program with overwhelming success. By the end of the year, we had signed on more than 20 new partners, including BT Partners, nationwide, and tripled our revenue from the channel from the previous year. In 2014, we continued to expand this program by adding additional headcount to our channel sales organization, and have again doubled the amount of partners nationwide.
We also focused on signing larger partners like OmniVue, Shea Business Solutions, and Cogsdale Corporation this year, many that are in the Microsoft Dynamics space, and have even bigger installed bases and vertical expertise in industries like manufacturing, supply chain, and non-profit organizations. We also signed some deals directly with ERP systems like Syspro and Sage to help drive awareness among their customer bases. We also integrate with their tools, so it is a strategic value add to their solutions. We have also started investing in the user groups and tradeshows of ERP vendors like Microsoft and the others. As a result, we will nearly triple our channel business this year.
CEOCFO: Why was this the time?
Mr. Clapp: As we were building up the company, we did not have the resources to support the channel from a marketing or a support standpoint. We were focused on selling direct and supporting those customers. To be successful, you need to invest in the channel. We waited until we had the resources in place to execute a successful program and are now in a position to better support our partners and offer our customers and prospects a value-added benefit through our partner network.
CEOCFO: When a company is working with Budget Maestro, is there much service involved? What is the customer support relationship?
Mr. Clapp: We are committed to offering our customers the highest level of personal service to help them get up and running quickly. At the onset, we offer instructor-led implementation and training sessions to educate users on how to use the product effectively. We do that in two ways. We offer face-to-face training where customers are welcome to come to our training facility, or we go to them and conduct training onsite. We also provide implementation support remotely, using the phone and screen sharing technologies. Either way, our professional services team help customers load Budget Maestro onto the system, structure their budget, and then to load the data into the system. Once up and running, our team is available to help with ad hoc requests whenever they arise to ensure our customers are benefiting from the value of Budget Maestro to better budget and plan for the future.
Mr. Clapp: Business is great. We are growing at 30 percent this year. We recently secured $9.5 million in Series A funding from TVC Capital & Northgate Capital, allowing us to grow our support organization, our marketing expenditures, and our product development staff. Everything is blooming, and I think the market is blooming in general for automated budgeting tools.
CEOCFO: What is the key to managing a growing company?
Mr. Clapp: First and foremost, it’s people. Finding good people that you can rely on to strategically and tactically implement the ideas and strategies that will help build the business. Then, it is a focus on ensuring that you are delivering the product or service that the customer needs. It is also important to secure the proper funding to invest in good people and resources, so as to support your customers. Customer service is critical - understanding and addressing your customer’s needs is paramount to success.
CEOCFO: What is next? What might be different a year down the road?
Mr. Clapp: We are going to start migrating our product to a cloud solution. More and more customers are looking for the convenience of software as a service type model, so we have begun already to formulate our plans for migrating the product to the cloud. We are also going to expand on our Analytics Maestro business intelligence and reporting offering to add more data availability. By expanding the data sources, we will be empowering our customers to do more discovery and drill through for root cause evaluation when they see variance from the budget in their actuals. With this level of insight, customers can easily identify what caused those variances and address the issue. As evidenced by our Budget Maestro version 7 S announcement earlier this summer, we are constantly working to enhance our user interface, and encourage operational users across the organization to engage with Budget Maestro. In the past, budgeting was primarily done by finance people. Now, many customers are pushing the budget generation out to the owners of the numbers, and the owners of the business. As a result, the budgeting process has become more collaborative. We are continually working to enhance our user interface to ensure any user, across the organization, feels empowered to work within Budget Maestro, streamlining the budgeting and forecasting process for improved visibility into the financial health of the organization.
CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Centage?
Mr. Clapp: There is more and more pressure on people to plan their business in real-time, with little room for error. The days of building a yearly static budget are over. The companies that have real-time budgeting, planning and forecasting capabilities can swiftly react to changes in the marketplace, and are poised for success. When companies build a budget with Budget Maestro, they can maintain and easily modify it to react to changing business dynamics. We take care of all the back end programming to ensure companies always receive accurate results. Not just a P&L statement, but a balance sheet and a cash flow, the lifeblood of an organization. Budget Maestro is a powerful tool for those financial leaders serious about improving the financial performance of the organization. With built-in logic and an easy to use interface, Budget Maestro eliminates the shortcomings of spreadsheet-based budgeting and delivers extraordinary efficiencies, deep visibility and increased agility to help today’s forward thinking executives better manage the financial health of their organization Budget Maestro’s ability to allow users to see the cash implications of decisions and assumptions to the budget is a significant competitive advantage for any organization.
“Budget Maestro is a powerful tool for those financial leaders serious about
improving the financial performance of the organization. With built-in logic
and an easy to use interface, Budget Maestro eliminates the shortcomings of
spreadsheet-based budgeting and delivers extraordinary efficiencies, deep
visibility and increased agility to help today’s forward thinking executives
better manage the financial health of their organization.”
24 Prime Parkway, Suite 202
Natick, MA 01760-1528
508-948-0088 or 800-366-5111
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