Recurring Revenue Technologies: Q&A with Sean Joyce
Earlier this year, we welcomed Sean Joyce to the Navint team. Sean has over 15 years of expertise in recurring revenue technologies, most recently hailing from Salesforce where he was a senior member of the product marketing team responsible for Salesforce CPQ & Billing. We sat down with Sean to learn more about his background, his views on the recurring revenue vendor landscape, and his first initiative at Navint: building the Salesforce CPQ & Billing practice.
Q: Sean, you’ve worked for some of the major software players in the recurring revenue technology space—Zuora, Apttus, and Salesforce. How do all these experiences prepare you for your new role at Navint?
I believe my experience at these well-known players gives me a unique perspective that can help Navint’s clients make the best choices for their recurring revenue technology stack. I know the vendor’s strengths and weaknesses, and I understand how they can be architected to work together for a frictionless operation. Navint clients expect vendor-neutral recommendations and best practices in implementations and integrations. I’m excited to be a part of the team and to be able to use my knowledge to help clients expand their recurring revenue businesses. (To read more about Sean’s background from this interview, click here.)
Q: Being in and around the recurring revenue space for so long, why join Navint? What made you want to be a part of this consultancy?
I’ve worked with Navint over the last five or six years, and they are the only consulting company that I’ve seen that has a specific focus on recurring revenue. While many vendors have brought products to market to address technology gaps, Navint was among the first to understand the business challenges of transitioning to recurring revenue. Their early experience in working with media and entertainment companies (including publishing), and pioneers in SaaS, helped them develop an extensive—and now proven—methodology of helping clients scale their recurring revenue businesses.
Solving recurring revenue challenges requires a unique perspective and skillset. A consultancy can’t just focus on sales or finance, and it can’t just have domain expertise with a single or a few vendors. Siloed approaches to scaling recurring revenue businesses ultimately fail because customers interact with companies across the entire lead-to-renewal continuum. Navint sees across the entire spectrum. When helping with sales-focused initiatives, we know how that impacts downstream systems and processes like billing and revenue recognition. When working with finance, we can assist upstream with product catalog configuration and with the create, renew, upgrade, and add-on pathways. As I said before, Navint is the only consulting company I’ve seen that has this unified view of business operations across all the functional areas. It’s something I wanted to join, and I’m really excited to use my experience to build something special at Navint.
Q: Let’s talk technology for a moment. Can you give us your perspective on the market?
The vendor landscape can be very confusing and hard to navigate for a prospective buyer of these technologies. We’ve seen a convergence of several vendors on the same basic market, but with nuances in features and functionalities. These nuances are based the origin of the vendor’s domain expertise—such as front-, middle-, or back-office—and on their market focus on B2B vs. B2C, low vs. high volume transactions, and subscription vs. consumption vs. hybrid business models.
Companies like Zuora built out their offering focused on the “middle-office” junction box between the CRM and ERP. Niche vendors span the spectrum in this middle office. Aria, goTransverse, BillingPlatform, and LogiSense tend to have robust functionality focused on sophisticated and hybrid business models, whereas vendors like Recurly, Chargify, Chargebee, and FuseBill are tuned for high-volume, simpler subscription business models.
In the back-office, ERP vendors have either built lightweight functionality or acquired companies to manage subscription and recurring revenue. Even traditional payment gateways like Stripe have brought forth subscription functionality, and these vendors are moving more towards the front-office. And we have the CRM vendors moving towards the back-office. With Salesforce CPQ & Billing, for example, Salesforce is investing heavily in the back-office space.
As you can probably tell, there is considerable overlap, but also interdependency between these systems. You need to understand which technology anchors your recurring revenue stack and then develop operational processes to support your desired future state. You need to have the right people and processes in place to effectively expand your business. So, you can’t just look at recurring revenue technologies in a silo, just like you can no longer isolate front-, middle-, and back-office operations. This is where Navint shines. Not only do we have a deep understanding of the technology landscape, but the entire lead-to-renewal operational continuum helps ensure these projects are successful.
Q: Your first initiative at Navint is to build a Salesforce CPQ & Billing practice. Can you tell us more about it?
Navint building a Salesforce CPQ & Billing practice is really about helping Salesforce clients, and Salesforce itself, accelerate their recurring revenue initiatives. In more than 15 years in the business, I’ve only come across Navint as a firm that truly understands and has built a proven practice dedicated to solving the challenges of transitioning to or scaling recurring revenue businesses. For Salesforce, the CPQ & Billing product is their first move into what traditionally has been considered the “back-office”—managing renewals, upgrades, and add-ons; generating invoices; and collecting payments. This practice makes for a great partnership for both Navint and Salesforce.
Building this practice doesn’t mean that Navint is a pure Salesforce shop. For over 25 years, Navint has been implementing ERP systems from various vendors and has guided subscription management solution implementations as well. Navint will remain vendor agnostic, even as Salesforce CPQ & Billing becomes another service area in our offerings.
Sean’s background, interview continued:
To give you an idea of how widely varied my background is, the first firm I owned focused on selling and implementing NetSuite and Intacct. Many of these projects involved an integration to Salesforce, and our expertise became connecting the front office to the back office financial systems. About 10 years ago, we started to see companies wanting to move to subscription- and consumption-based revenue models, and the CRM and EPR systems didn’t support these models well, if at all.
After I sold my company, I joined Zuora to lead their strategic account implementation practice, where I stayed for the next five years. What Zuora has done so well is educate businesses about the applicability of subscriptions and recurring revenue models in the broader market. And we’ve seen that play out with well-known examples such as Netflix vs. Blockbuster, and Spotify vs. iTunes. Zuora’s platform began to fill a gap between the CRM and ERP, connecting the front-office and the back-office for subscriptions.
I joined Apttus in 2014, which had a different take on filling the CRM-ERP gap. Rather than concentrate on the billing and finance side, as Zuora had done in the early years, Apttus focused on the sales side of the equation with CPQ. While both companies began the journey from different endpoints, both were looking to solve the entire “junction-gap” between the CRM and ERP.
In 2016, I joined Salesforce soon after the acquisition of Steelbrick. I was responsible for helping to bring the Salesforce CPQ & Billing product to market, which created a unified sales and billing platform designed to support the needs of companies looking to generate recurring revenue on the Salesforce platform.