TecHR Interview with Mark Robinson, Co-Founder at Kimble

Tell us about your journey into IT and entrepreneurship. What excited you to start Kimble?

An early hero of mine was a colorful character named John Harvey-Jones – he had a British show on TV where he would advise struggling businesses in the 1970s called ‘Troubleshooter’. My favorite quote of his is: “Nobody goes to work wanting to do a bad job, we just tie them up in so much red tape that they give up trying.” Since then, I’ve always tried to remember to empower people to make decisions.

I set up my first business in 1997 with Fulcrum Solutions. Two years later, it had 200 employees and four offices in the UK and New York. Fulcrum was acquired and I Co-Founded a second consulting business, Edenbrook, in early 2000. I went on to sell this business to another organization and stayed on to help continue its growth, and it was ultimately acquired by Hitachi in 2009.

With Kimble, the desire to build a world-class product and company had been the driving force for my Co-Founders and myself. We wanted to create an enterprise software business that truly challenged the large, established US players. There is a huge sense of satisfaction and pride to occasionally step back and say, “I helped build that.” As ever, the “building” is never complete, and there are always bigger and more sophisticated “extensions” to be added, and the motivation continues as we see new opportunities to grow. I am proud of the amazing team of people we have at Kimble that genuinely work together for the greater good. Every employee contributes hugely to our successes.

What is a Professional Services Automation software?

Professional Services Automation, or PSA, is collaborative workplace technology developed specifically to support organizations that deliver billable projects or managed services to their clients.

Running a services business differs from Product Sales in that it sells people, knowledge, and expertise. Accordingly, resource planning has to be spot-on; project-based consultancies can’t afford unpredicted spikes and troughs in activity – it can’t suddenly make its year’s revenues in the last quarter. We created Kimble to address these myriad challenges.

First-generation PSA tended to be about gathering data to assist operations (backward-looking). At Kimble, we believe that the real purpose of PSA is to empower people throughout a consulting organization to make better decisions and to improve business performance based on a forward view.

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How does Kimble PSA drive business efficiency and resource optimization? How can HR leaders leverage it to their advantage?  

The Kimble application connects three critical management domains – pipeline, resourcing, and delivery – in order to help business development, resourcing, project and finance teams sell and deliver successful and profitable engagements.

Resource Managers are supported to match supply and demand more proactively. More accurate forecasts mean they can look forward and see what skills are in demand. That gives scope for both re-training existing employees and recruiting new people.

What pointers would you like to provide to professionals involved in the purchase and sale of an HR software?

In purchasing HR software, I think it is important to be open to introducing new processes rather than trying to replicate what the system does today – otherwise, you may as well stick with your current system!

Sometimes, the way things are done at the moment is due to the limitations of existing technology – be flexible and consider what outcomes you are trying to drive. Too many people evaluating software say, “tell me how the new system you are demonstrating can do what I do today!” Why ask that question if you want a software to help you do something better than you do today?

When evaluating specific software, look for a vendor who will help you adopt the software over time, not just get you to the first go-live.

In selling software, I would focus on helping people to make decisions using their software and emphasize the adoption process. You have to be open about the fact that getting the best out of the software and achieving the benefits is likely to involve changing behaviors. Try to involve people from across the company in the selection and implementation process – workplace technology needs champions in the different areas which will be using it.

Monitor the “time to value” of your software closely – if that is improving, it is likely that customer satisfaction will be too!

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Tell us how to take a flexible approach to an over-detailed RFP.

Rather than an exhaustive feature and function review, focus your evaluation on high priority requirements.

Ask vendors to concentrate their demonstrations on business process scenarios directly related to those requirements. Left to their own devices, vendors may want to demonstrate their favorite slick product features and steer clear of their weaknesses.

Create demonstration scripts for your own use cases including end-to-end business processes and provide sample data so that product demonstrations are relevant and quickly understood by your evaluation team. Include anticipated future requirements in the scripts to ensure presentations cover both current and future state scenarios.

What makes you different from other players in the market offering the same solution as Kimble?

Yes, there are other PSA vendors on the market.

Other vendors talk about their PSA giving “one source of the truth”, with a 360-degree view of a customer, all data in one system. Yes, that’s important – this gives you the visibility of data and Kimble does that too. But the difference is what you do with that data. Kimble uses AI to surface trends and offer insights that can guide people at every level across the organization to make informed decisions in a disciplined and consistent way.

Which are the industries you currently serve? Any challenges you faced while catering to a particular industry?

Management consulting, IT services, technology – any industry where people are their greatest asset.

One challenge we have been working on recently is creating a global view for large, international businesses. Often, the functions, which a specialized PSA like Kimble is designed to do, are being carried out in a mixture of global and local IT systems complemented by many spreadsheets. Moving data from one to another of these systems generally require a great deal of effort. To meet the challenge of building a global solution from disparate systems, a large amount of effort has been put into creating an integration layer in Kimble with multiple interface definitions which include most of the common accounting, CRM, CPQ and HR systems.

How would you describe your Ideal Customer Profile?

Either a consulting organization or the embedded services team of a product business. A growing business employing hundreds or thousands of people, which is focused on delivering what they promise to customers at predictable margins.

Which Marketing and Sales Technology solutions do you use at Kimble?

We use the Salesforce platform because that is what Kimble is based on, we also use Kimble PSA for managing our own Sales process. As well as these we use a number of other tools such as Pardot, Demandbase, Drift, and CoSchedule.

What does your product roadmap for 2019-2020 look like?

We will continue to lead the market with innovative functionality designed to make life easier for consultants and other service professionals, the end-users of our system and the largest constituency.

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Can you share some use cases/case studies where your platform helped companies attain exceptional business growth?

West Monroe Partners is a dynamic business and technology firm that adopted Kimble a year ago. Over the last year, it has grown by 23%. ClickSoftware is a global leader in field service management solutions and a Kimble customer, which was recently acquired by Salesforce for $1.35bn.

Kainos is a UK based provider of digital services that more than tripled in size since introducing Kimble.

Any events or webinars you most occasionally attend, and why?

TSIA Technology Industry Association (TSIA) is an industry body which has a great track record in advisory work to the industry and attracts senior leaders in technology services who come to its large event, Technology Services World (TSW), to discuss and look for solutions to their challenges and strive for achieving best practice. It’s great to have the opportunity to talk to them at TSW.

We also always attend Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce conference. This is a great ecosystem meet-up. Having been at the birth of the Independent Software Vendor (ISV) community, it is great to see it continuing to innovate and grow.

What is the best advice you have received?

I am going to go back to another quote from John Harvey-Jones —

“People who don’t make mistakes are no bloody good to you at all.”

When encouraging people to try new things and to take decisions in your business, you have to accept that some will turn out to be wrong. Nobody gets it right all the time. What you want to do is to learn from these errors and try to create a culture where people don’t fear being blamed. If you have a good decision-making process, over time you will get more right than wrong.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

I am going to pick Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and many other excellent books about innovation and technology.

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Thank You, Mark, for answering all our questions. We hope to see you again, soon.

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Kimble Applications is a global leader in Professional Services Automation (PSA) software. Our solution helps professional services organizations scale faster and drive efficiencies. Our customers sell, resource and deliver projects in a more consistent and predictable way using a modern SaaS application built on the Salesforce platform. Built to work seamlessly with CRM, Kimble PSA drives a forward-looking focus and faster decision making with intelligent insights and guidance. Kimble is the only leading vendor that focuses exclusively on PSA so we’re able to put all of our energy into innovation, ease of use and adoption around our customers’ key service processes.

Kimble continues to grow fast – 400% over the last three years – following a significant investment from top growth equity firm Accel-KKR in 2018. We have been recognized, based on user reviews, as the clear leader of the G2 Momentum Grid for PSA for the last three seasons.

Mark has over 30 years of experience in the IT industry and is a serial entrepreneur. He started his career in management consulting before working for Oracle Corporation where Mark was able to witness first hand their rise from start-up to the software giant.

He started his first IT Consulting firm, Fulcrum Solutions, in 1997 with no external investment, and in just under 3 years it had reached 200 staff with offices in Edinburgh, Manchester, London and New York. It was acquired by Whittman Hart for cash and stock valued at $36m in November 1999.

Following the successful Sale of Fulcrum, he Co-Founded IT Consultancy Edenbrook, this time with external investment. At the time of its acquisition in 2009 by Hitachi, Edenbrook had reached over 400 people based in the UK and India.

Mark is a Co-Founder of Kimble, the world-leading PSA SaaS solution which enables forward-thinking Services firms to manage their entire business process and accelerate their growth. Kimble is used in over 40 countries and is backed by Accel-KKR.