RALEIGH – One of the more remarkable growth stories in the Triangle’s booming tech economy over the past two years is that of insightsoftware. With 16 acquisitions made, the firm that focuses on “the office of the CFO” has continued its blazing deal flow under CEO Jim Triandiflou, who was named the top executive last October.
Already this year insightsoftware has made two acquisitions, and in an exclusive interview with WRAL TechWire he says the company will continue to scoure the world for more deals.
Triandiflou replaced former LexisNexis executive Mike Lipps in a transition that the company has been underway for “months.” insightsoftware – formed by TA Associates, a private equity firm through the combination Global and Insight Software in 2018.
- Sixteen acquisitions in 2 years- why so many?
Since insightsoftware launched in 2018, our goal has been to provide the office of the CFO a complete portfolio of financial reporting and software tools to run a world-class financial operation. To achieve this, we needed to acquire additional products and expand globally so our acqusitions have been to fulfill this vision. We’ve worked closely with our private equity partners to select companies for acquisition that fit very specific criteria, including product capabilities and maturity, market penetration and reach, and geographic presence, as well as alignment with our own company culture.
- We realize you are relatively new to the CEO role – is it your vision to continue making buys? if so, why?
We do plan to continue making more acquisitions. Finance organizations use over 20 different categories of software to run their operations. We have products in less than 10 of these areas today, so the opportunity for growth is tremendous. Acqusitions, along with healthy organic growth, will help us fulfill our vision of being the go-to provider for CFOs. Today, our solutions work with more than 140 ERP and EPM platforms, and our acquisition strategy will ensure we continue to expand that number. Our strategy will also expand our presence globally, so that we can bring the widest range of solutions to the Office of the CFO at organizations all around the world – regardless of size or industry.
- What intrigued you as ceo most about the two most recent deals – the first acquisitions under your tenure?
Our two most recent deals – Certent and IDL Group – are good examples of the strategy I just outlined.
Certent expands our portfolio into the new areas of disclosure and equity management that complement our existing reporting and enhance our close and consolidation products. In addition, Certant serves thousands of public, private and pre-IPO companies worldwide, including iconic names like Barclays, FedEx, easyJet, Vodafone PLC and Chipotle.
Similarly, IDL Group is ranked #1 in the DACH region by the European Business Application Research Center for its financial consolidation and close capabilities. This fits perfectly with our goal to continue to bolster our portfolio with leading solutions while allowing us to reach more customers in every region of the world. In addition, IDL’s presence throughout DACH allows us to expand our presence in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and insightsoftware already has operations in DACH so this acquisition expands our operations in a very important European economic hub.
- Do you run a risk of making too many deals in terms of product adoption and adaption, integrating employees/HR/structures and making sure of customers have their needs met by a new provider? please answer each separetely.
While that’s certainly a risk for any organization that is highly acquisitive, we follow a methodical three step process for ensuring a successful result – discliplined selection, fanatical pre-close planning, and accelerated integration. In terms of selecting the right acquisition targets, we employ a documented acquisition strategy and prioritization process in collaboration with our private equity partners that is focused on proactive targeting of prospects that fit our value creation criteria.
This level of rigor in our selection process allows us to bring our companies together quickly. We always aim to leverage the best practices of each organization to evolve in positive ways while keeping the customer at the center of every decision we make.
Once a company has been acquired, we manage the transition period with a high degree of transparency, clarity, and urgency. We have an extensive onboarding process that includes orientation, training, as well as companywide monthly town halls to ensure we are constantly working to align our teams and our cultures.
From a customer standpoint, our satisfaction rate stands at more than 90% overall, which we think is a strong testament to how successful we’ve been delivering great products, seamless support, and exceptional services.
- Why did you decide to join this company? How familiar were you with it? Were you able to hit the ground running?
First, I have to say it’s really exciting to come into a company that is already performing incredibly well. The company has been on a strong growth trajectory that hasn’t relented, in terms of employee, customer and revenue growth, despite the current pandemic. The consistency and steadiness across all areas is a strong reflection of the need for the type of solutions that we’re offering.
Additionally, I’ve known insightsoftware’s Chairman of the Board, as well as the former CEO Mike Lipps, for a number of years. This transition is something we had discussed for some time, as we saw the company approaching an inflection point, moving from a smaller company to one operating at scale. This fits well within my expertise of growing and expanding distribution and market share globally. And because I’ve been watching insightsoftware closely and have been in discussions with its key leaders over time, my transition into the company has been very smooth.
- What are the factors/offerings that in your view make the company unique?
Before joining insightsoftware, I had no idea how many different ERP Systems existed in the world. Business people think about SAP or Oracle or NetSuite and a few others as the “big” ERP providers. However, there are dozens and dozens of vertical ERPs that serve very specific markets. insightsoftware works with over 140 different ERP systems. This is incredible and part of what’s unique about insightsoftware. In addition, the company is able to dig into the depths of all these ERPs and pull out transaction-level data at a more granular level than any other company in the world. This combination of pulling data at such a granular level and working with over 140 ERP systems is unique.
This is critical since companies invest heavily in their ERP systems to store incredible amounts of data. But this is meaningless if you can’t access the latest data at any given moment in time, combine it with data from other key business systems, and use that to make informed analysis and recommendations. Today, this process is far too lengthy and manual in nature, and we know that CFOs are struggling with this. For example, FSN, a leading provider of content, research, insight and thought leadership in the global finance community, conducted a survey that revealed that 46% of organizations struggle to respond to ad hoc requests, and another report showed that 70% are still doing financial reporting manually.
Our solutions change this paradigm, saving CFOs time, money and resources in the process. They do this by eliminating the traditional process of manually gathering and consolidating financial and operational data, building custom reports, and automating this process instead. They also allow users to connect to live data within their ERP platform, so they are always working with the latest information. Users can manipulate this real-time data right inside of Excel, which is widely used among financial professionals. This combination of automation and real-time business data leads to what CFOs need – business insights that are timely and actionable.
- How actively involved are your PE owners? Have they provided resources for more growth and initiatives?
Our investors play a big role in finding and completing acquisitions. They have people dedicated to sourcing acquisition opportunities and helping us execute on those opportunities. We work very closely to identify the types of companies we want to buy – the product categories or countries where we want to add to our portfolio. They also have relationships with many of the investors and investment bankers who work with target acquisitions, so they often make introductions for us.
They also help finance these acqusitions. We’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars making 16 acquisitions since insightsoftware was formed in 2018. Their financial support and relationships with debt providers is a meaningful factor in our success.
Finally, I’ve known the Chairman of insightsoftware, Mark Friedman, for almost 10 years. He and I were peer CEOs in the portfolio of another private equity firm and were “trained” on how to build a world class software company. We think alike. Mark has worked with our investors from TA Associates and Genstar for over 5 years. Those relationships and the philosophical alignment provide trust and help us work effectively together.
- How is COVID affecting your staff? Do most work from home? If so when might that change?
From a global perspective, most of our employees are working from home. Certainly here in the U.S., all our employees are working from home and this will continue well into 2021. Most of Europe is working from home while many of our Asia-Pacific team members in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are back in the office. We won’t rush employees back to the office and won’t make any decisions until the virus is clearly under control.
As a tech company, we are fortunate to have the technical and physical resources needed to continue to run our business smoothly and rather seamlessly and keep our team safe. We also have a culture that supports the personal and emotional needs of our staff, which is especially important right now. I’m very proud to see how quickly teams have adapted to the shift. Their commitment to our customers – and to one another – really shines.
- How is COVID affecting your a) business strategy and b) development of new products to meet the needs of customers adjusting to the new environment of a more dispersed work force?
COVID has not had much of an impact on our overall business strategy. It has impacted our work environment and there was a slowdown in business in Q2, but business has rebounded nicely and our strategy is unchanged. In fact, our solutions actually help businesses to adjust their strategy more quickly and to operate more effectively and efficiently during times of market volatility, which the current pandemic has certainly caused. In addition to gaining access to their data in real time, customers can use our tools for forecasting and scenario planning, which can help to mitigate business risk and ensure positive outcomes. As a result, we continue to see very strong customer demand globally and our business strategy hasn’t shifted significantly since the pre-COVID time period.
- What about NC makes it a good place to grow a tech firm?
Having lived in the Triangle for almost 12 years, and raised my four kids here, I can’t say enough good things. The Raleigh area is a great place to live and work. It’s an entrepreneurial hotbed, so we’re surrounded by technology innovation and opportunity, not to mention a built-in talent pool coming from local colleges and universities. There’s also great culture, with a diverse population, beautiful parks and a strong music and art scene. All of this really allows our employees to enjoy a great work-life balance, which we encourage as part of our company values.