Sunday, March 23, 2014

Getting Power View into Dynamics CRM


There it is, no Photoshop, this is real. Thank you to Microsoft’s CRM maven and top bloke Mark Rettig for inspiring me to revisit this and for giving me the ‘cross-scripting’ trick. This is how I do it.

Create Your Power View Spreadsheet

If you have Excel 2013, Power View comes as part of the package. Go to Insert-Power View to generate a pretty and powerful representation of your data. In my case, I browsed online and found some data showing industry sales by country.


After a bit of playing with the Power View I got the Map view you see in my dashboard.

Load the Spreadsheet into your SharePoint Site

Initially I tried using OneDrive but I could not get it to show the Power View sheet so SharePoint it is. As my long-term readers will know, I have an Office 365 subscription. Being cheap, this is a P1 plan which costs me US$6 per month and takes care of my email. It also comes with SharePoint which, until today, I had not done a lot with. Going to the SharePoint Team Site document store, I loaded up my spreadsheet.


As you can see, we get control of the permissions if we need to restrict access to the spreadsheet. Ticking it and selecting ‘View in Browser’ shows the Power View in my browser and gives me a URL to use.

Create a New Dynamics CRM Solution

This is where Mark’s trick comes in. If you try and add the URL directly to a dashboard in CRM it does not work; nothing shows up. This is because, cross-scripting is forbidden for dashboard iframes created against the base solution. To get around this, we create a solution and create the dashboard there. Now we can add an iframe to the dashboard and turn off cross-scripting


We are then good to go. We can add whatever else we like to our dashboard and it all just works. Have fun.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Marc’s Lemonade Stand


Last week I reviewed the Salesforce yearly results and, as usual, railed against their ‘growth at the expense of sustainability’ strategy.

This week I look at Salesforce from a slightly different perspective: where does the money go? To do this I am going to take the Salesforce yearly financials and represent them as a lemonade stand business. The idea being we can see exactly what Salesforce is spending their money on to deliver their excellent lemonade (or Kool Aid, you decide).

You Can Fake a Lot of Things But Not Cash Flow

If you open any annual report from a public company, you will see three financial reports:

  • Statement of Operations (talks at Revenues, Costs and Profits)
  • Balance Sheet (talks at the assets and liabilities of an organisation e.g. money in the bank and outstanding loans)
  • Cash Flow Statement (shows where the money has moved over the year)

Revenues can be defined in creative ways, as can costs. Assets can be overvalued and loans can be set up in interesting and special ways. Therefore, the first two financial reports, at least in the short term, can be massaged to be more favourable than they possibly should be. However, it is much harder to fake cash flow.

Marc’s Lemonade Stand

Here is the scenario: Marc is running a very popular lemonade stand held outside of his home in Hawaii. He buys the ingredients from the local corner store and gets his sister to make up the drink. She also sits with him on the lemonade stand, helping with sales.

Marc and his sister spend a lot of time taste testing to make sure they are providing a quality product and, to drive business to their stand, put posters up in the local area advertising their drink.

In terms of the money made from the stand, some goes into the bank to earn interest and Marc also buys old comics, as an investment, which he sells to make a profit.

His sister gets paid for helping out with the stand and, keen for a bigger slice of the action, is also constantly buying shares of the business and taking a profit share/commission on sales.

Most days, his dad will buy a lemonade when he comes home from work, but does not always have change on his and so he owes the stand a few bucks. Similarly, Marc does not always have quite the amount of money for his ingredients but the kind owner of the corner store lets him take the goods on credit.

His mom helps him with the finances and lends Marc money when times are tough.

Being an enterprising lad, Marc also offers a loyalty scheme where, if a customer pays for twelve lemonades up front, they get a discounted rate. This means Marc is often holding money for lemonades he has not made yet. He also has bought out other lemonade stands in the area, taking their equipment and ingredients, and gets the former owners to redirect clients to his lemonade stand.

Finally, around Christmas, his uncle Sam comes to visit. Sometimes uncle Sam takes a lemonade, sometimes he pays a little back but he always seems to take more than he gives and there are no clear rules about when uncle Sam will take money or give it. Marc’s mom and dad simply tell Marc it is impolite to question uncle Sam and to let him do what he wants; it is only once a year, after all.

The Lemonade Stand Finances

All finances are relative to the sales of one cup of lemonade ($1) (equivalent to the total annual revenue of Salesforce). In other words, a 2013 cup of lemonade is equivalent to $3b in Salesforce revenue while a 2014 cup is equivalent to $4b in Salesforce revenue.

Like a normal cashflow statement, a positive number is cash flowing into the business and a negative is money flowing out of the business.

  2013 2014
Revenue/Cost Items    
Sale of a Cup of Lemonade $1.00 $1.00
Cost of Ingredients From the Corner Store -$0.09 -$0.09
Taste Testing Costs -$0.14 -$0.15
Posters -$0.53 -$0.53
Paying Sister to Make Lemonade and Sit on the Stand -$0.14 -$0.15
Overcharging/Undercharging $0.00 $0.00
Uncle Sam Subsidising/Taking a Lemonade For Free -$0.05 $0.03
Operating Activities    
Selling Sister a Share of the Business $0.24 $0.19
Lending Dad Money for Lemonades -$0.06 -$0.10
Change in Profit Share Not Yet Paid to Sister -$0.08 -$0.07
Money Put in the Bank $0.00 $0.03
Bank Account Interest $0.01 $0.00
Bank Account Fees -$0.01 -$0.02
Change in Money Owed to Corner Store $0.06 -$0.01
Loyalty Program $0.16 $0.15
Investing Activities    
Buying Out and Taking Over Other Lemonade Stands -$0.19 -$0.65
Fixing up the Lemonade Stand -$0.07 -$0.08
Comic Purchases -$0.33 -$0.14
Comic Sales $0.28 $0.26
Financing Activities    
Borrowing Money From Mom $0.00 $0.33
Net Change in Cash (+/- 1c for rounding) $0.05 $0.01

The headings above are approximate as I have combined some line items in the Salesforce financials.

The Big Ticket Items

So, for every cup of lemonade sold for $1, in 2014, the business gained 1c. In the previous year, it was 5c. This does not strike me as a lot of cash. The big transactions in each area are:

Revenue/Cost Items

  • Sale of a Cup of Lemonade ($1) (Revenue)
  • Taste Testing Costs (-15c) (Research and Development)
  • Posters (-53c) (Marketing and Sales)
  • Paying Sister to Make Lemonade and Sit on the Stand (-15c) (Administrative)

For revenue/costs, obviously the big cost here are the posters. Marc is spending a lot of money getting the word out there to drive the business. Also, there is not a lot left over when costs are accounted for. In fact Marc only has 9c left.

Operating Activities

  • Selling Sister a Share of the Business (19c) (Proceeds and Expenses Related to Employee Stock Plans)
  • Lending Dad Money for Lemonade (-10c) (Accounts Receivable)
  • Loyalty Program (15c) (Deferred Revenue)

The largest operating activity is getting money into the business by selling shares to his sister. To do this, Marc takes his sister’s money then prints a certificate on the family computer saying she owns another share of the business. Of course, all Marc has to do is print off another share for himself and his sister’s total ownership of the business remains the same. His sister still has not caught onto this.

The loyalty program is interesting in that people are paying for lemonades today which they will receive tomorrow. This is helping put money in Marc’s pocket but he will need to hand over lemonades without payment later on.

After his sister and the loyalty program have propped up the business through operating activities, Marc has 29c in his pocket.

Investing Activities

  • Buying Out and Taking Over Other Lemonade Stands (-65c) (Business Combinations + Strategic Investments)
  • Comic Purchases (-14c) (Purchase of Marketable Securities)
  • Comic Sales (26c) (Sales and Maturities of Marketable Securities)

Marc was aggressive in buying other stands this year which cost the business dearly. To partly cover this, Marc sold off some of his comics.

After his investing activities, Marc is left short 32c.

Financing Activities

  • Borrowing Money From Mom (33c) (Proceeds from Borrowing on Convertible Senior Notes + Insurance of Warrants + Purchase of Convertible Note Hedge + Payments on Convertible Senior Notes + Proceeds From Term Loan + Principal Payments on Term Loan)

Fortunately, Mom is there to bail him out and offers to lend him 33c to cover the shortfall, leaving 1c in his pocket.

Big Changes Since the Year Before

Compared to the previous year, the items which have changed the most are:

  • Selling Sister a Share of the Business: Down by 19%
  • Lending Dad Money for Lemonade: Increased 74%
  • Buying Out and Taking Over Other Lemonade Stands: Increased 237%
  • Comic Purchases: Decreased 59%
  • Borrowing Money From Mom: Not Done in the Previous Year

Relative to the size of the business, his sister is not buying shares as much as the previous year. Could she onto Marc’s scheme? Is this an on-going trend with her purchases contributing less and less to the relative bucket?

Lending Dad money to buy lemonades has increased significantly since the previous year. It is easy to get people to buy lemonade when they do not have to hand over the money but collecting money from dad down the track may be tricky.

Buying other lemonade stands has increased massively relative to the previous year but, opportunities do not regularly present themselves, so this may be opportunistic. Similarly, the comic/mom funding may also be a once-off to cover the mergers and acquisitions.

Could Marc Run the Lemonade Stand Without Sister Buying Shares and the Loyalty Program?

We know that after costs are accounted for, the $1 from the cup of lemonade is reduced to 9c. Marc could stop most of the other Operating Activities without it adversely affecting the business. Dad may not be able to purchase lemonade each night but it is hard to recoup that money anyway so this may be ok.

Similarly, the loyalty program is good for getting cash through the door but it is robbing the future to improve present cash flow and it can be eliminated.

Marc can stop acquiring other lemonade stands but will always need to fix up his lemonade stand. Therefore, the 8c cost of maintaining the stand remains with all other Investing and Financing Activities going, leaving him 1c.

So, while it would be tight, Marc could sell lemonade but he would only make a margin of 1% on the sales.

In the previous year, Marc only had 4c after costs and after the costs of maintaining the lemonade stand are considered, we lose 3c on each $1 cup of lemonade.

Financial Calculations Used

For both of you interested, here is the conversion I used. Everyone else can skip to the conclusion.

  • Cup of Lemonade (Subscriptions + Professional Services)
  • Cost of Ingredients From Corner Store (Subscription costs + Professional Services costs + All Depreciation/Amortization)
  • Taste Testing (Research and Development)
  • Posters (Marketing and Sales)
  • Paying Sister to Make Lemonade and Sit on Stand (Administrative)
  • Bank Account Interest (Investment income)
  • Bank Account Fees (Interest expense)
  • Overcharging/Undercharging (Other+Effect of Exchange Rate Changes)
  • Uncle Sam Subsidising/Taking a Lemonade For Free (Tax benefit + Excess tax benefits from employee stock plans + Excess Tax Benefits from Employee Stock Plan)
  • Selling Sister a Share of the Business (Proceeds and Expenses related to employee stock plans)
  • Lending Dad Money for Lemonades (Accounts Receivable)
  • Change in Profit Share Not Yet Paid to Sister (Deferred commissions)
  • Money Put in the Bank (Prepaid expenses, current assets)
  • Change in Money Owed to Corner Store (Accounts Payable)
  • Loyalty Program (Deferred Revenue)
  • Buying Out and Taking Over Other Lemonade Stands (Business Combinations + Strategic Investments)
  • Fixing up the Lemonade Stand (Land activity and building improvements + Capital Expenditures + Principal Payments on Capital Lease Obligations)
  • Comic Purchases (Purchase of marketable securities)
  • Comic Sales (Sales and Maturities of marketable securities)
  • Borrowing Money From Mom (Proceeds from Borrowing on Convertible Senior Notes + Insurance of Warrants+Purchase of Convertible Note Hedge + Payments on Convertible Senior Notes + Proceeds From Term Loan + Principal Payments on Term Loan)


Marc is running lean. For every dollar of lemonade he sells, he only ends up with a few pennies in his pocket and this does not account for a purchase of a new lemonade stand sometime in the future when the current one wears out (depreciation/amortisation). Also, with his sister buying shares and the loyalty program, this is bringing money into the business but is not sustainable in the long term.

I maintain my concerns for Salesforce but the good news is it reversible if things like the loyalty program and ‘sister share purchases’ are wound down. As usual I wish Marc all the best with his stand and hope it with us for many years to come.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Salesforce: If You Always Do What You Always Did, You Will Always Get What You Always Got

Hot off the Salesforce press are the financial numbers for the full year. Did they make a quarter of a billion dollar loss like they predicted six months ago? Which prominent C-Level executive is  moving on? Will Marc say the p-word (profit) and burst into flames? All will be revealed.

The Numbers

These numbers are not taken from the Salesforce detailed financials on their web site because those numbers are now one year out of date. Neither are they from the annual report as this is not yet complete. These (unaudited) numbers are from the press release associated to the full year announcement and, as usual, are the GAAP numbers.

  2013 Q4 2014 Q1 2014 Q2 2014 Q3 2014 Q4 2014 TOTAL
Revenue 834,681 892,633 957,094 1,076,034 1,145,242 4,071,003
Subscription Revenue 785,495 842,221 902,844 1,004,476 1,075,001 3,824,542
Revenue Cost 183,362 208,994 217,717 268,187 273,530 968,428
Operating Cost 672,126 728,179 779,234 905,778 975,458 3,388,649
Salesforce Income -20,844 -67,721 76,603 -124,434 -103,746 -219,298
Revenue Growth # yoy 202,768 197,166 225,445 287,636 310,561
Revenue Growth % yoy 32% 28% 31% 36% 37%  
Total Cost % yoy 34% 31% 34% 39% 46%  
Staff 9,801 10,283 12,571 12,770 13,312  
Staff Growth (yoy) 26% 23% 43% 37% 36%  
Margin -2.50% -7.59% 8.00% -11.56% -9.06%  

NB: 2014 Q4 is November 2013 to January 2014, the quarter just passed, not a forecast for the future.

Salesforce can be congratulated for NOT meeting their prediction of a quarter of a billion dollar loss. They only lost $219m in the end, coming in $31m under their prediction.

Looking To The Future

Their prediction for the next quarter is for an GAAP EPS of between –$0.22 and –$0.23, which, for 613 million shares, generates a total loss of about $138m (the largest quarterly loss they have ever recorded if they achieve it). They expect revenue to be around $1.210 billion giving us a margin of –11%.

Their prediction for the next year is a GAAP EPS of about –$0.52 on 624 million shares which is a total loss of $324m. This makes this year’s loss of $219m seem like a drop in the ocean. They expect a full year revenue of around $5.3b, which means their expected margin is –6%; an improvement but still the wrong side of zero.

Revenues and Costs

Probably the biggest point of note in the financials is, in regards to the revenue growth and cost growth. Revenue Growth, year on year was 37%, almost a historical high. Unfortunately, the annual cost growth is accelerating and reaching levels which are also approaching record highs. Here is the historic graph.


Please note: In putting this together I realised I had previously miscalculated the revenue growth. I have adjusted the past three quarterly report blogs to reflect this, although it did not have a huge impact on the articles.

We can see in the graph that, traditionally, the two lines trend in a similar direction (with cost growth occasionally trying to break free) and cost growth outpacing revenue growth for most of the last four years.

What does this mean? It means that it is impossible for the company to achieve profitability until either costs are controlled or revenues accelerated to even higher levels than the crazy-high levels they are already. To approach profitability, the red line MUST go below the blue line. The margin at this stage is –9% meaning for every $10 worth of services they produce, they receive $9 in compensation. As mentioned, next quarter they are looking at a margin of –11%.

Does the CFO, Graham Smith, care? Probably not given he is leaving Salesforce next year in March. I expect he will keep revenues growing, hanging the expense. What about Marc Benioff, CEO? Marc says he is committed to improving non-GAAP profitability by 1.5% but, given you can do anything with non-GAAP numbers, it is like saying you are committed to improving the health of garden fairies. The company’s prediction for the next quarter shows a further deterioration in GAAP margins so while non-GAAP numbers may turn out ok, they expect the GAAP numbers, the real ones, to be worse.

Salesforce’s Current Assets

If things get tough for Salesforce, they will look to their assets to prop up the company until things improve. Therefore, I thought I would look at their assets this quarter to see what they have in reserve for a rainy day. Financial reports talk of ‘Current Assets’ (the stuff that is easy to sell such as cash in the bank) and ‘Non-Current Assets’ (the stuff you cannot easily sell such as office buildings). So, let us look at Salesforce’s current assets.

Cash and cash equivalents: $782m (29%)
Short-term marketable securities (shares): $57m (2%)
Accounts receivable (money owed to Salesforce): $1.36b (51%)
Deferred commissions: $171m (6%)
Prepaid expenses and other current assets: $309m (12%)

The percentages are how much each class represents of the total. Clearly, the big amounts are cash and money owed to Salesforce. Cash is an excellent current asset to have; it is readily available and perfect to weather a storm. Accounts receivable is not as friendly as a current asset because you have to chase the debt and, if the person owing you the money has an idea you are in financial trouble, they are more likely to act slowly and see if the problem goes away i.e. Chapter 11/bankruptcy.

A few years ago now, this famously happened to a company in Australia called OneTel, a telecommunications company. Like Salesforce, they had amazing growth in terms of revenue and market share and, unlike Salesforce, they were very profitable. Where they ran into problems was in paying their bills. Because so much money was tied up in their client’s bills (accounts receivable) and it was hard to chase up, they eventually ran out of available money to pay their debts and they went bankrupt. Even successful companies can go bankrupt if they do not maintain healthy current assets.

So how have these two asset classes (cash and accounts receivable) changed over time?


NB: These are the unaudited numbers until the annual report comes out but they should be right.

Other than a big stockpile in the first quarter last year, cash has stayed around $600-700m. The accounts receivable has shot up though. In fact, since last quarter, it has more than doubled. I will need to verify the numbers when the annual report comes out but, if true, this means twice as much debt to collect if they need the money. I will be watching this as part of future quarterly blog reports.

Earnings Call Buzzword Bingo

As usual, we take the quarterly earnings call transcript to see what is weighing on the minds of our two big ‘C’s (as in C-Level executives), Marc Benioff and Graham Smith.

Honourable two-word phrase mentions go to “cash flow” (mentioned 11 times) and “deferred revenue” (mentioned 10 times).

  2013 Q4 2014 Q1 2014 Q2 2014 Q3 2014 Q4
Number of words 3800 2800 3500 3700 3700
Customers/Customer 40 32 40 39 25
Revenue 45 32 37 37 29
Cloud 22 16 23 31 14
ExactTarget 0 0 24 21 15
Platform 10 12 19 21 12
Service 16 12 14 19 13
Sales 8 9 14 16 4
Growth 17 13 12 14 12
Marketing 9 0 12 12 11
Cash 13 10 10 10 16
Mobile 0 16 11 7 5
Operating 0 9 9 7 10
Enterprise 15 0 6 7 3
Social 9 10 9 6 3
EPS 0 7 10 5 6
Salesforce1 0 0 0 0 11

My rule for the words in this list is if they have 10 or more mentions in the most recent five periods. No words dropped off the list from last time and Salesforce1 got added.

Customer(s) and Revenue have consistently topped the mentions. Earnings and profitability got mentioned once each and, therefore did not make the cut.

Mobile is consistently dropping in mentions, as is social and the new ‘mobile app platform’, Salesforce1 is the hot topic this quarter.

Google Trends

“Dynamics CRM” continues to outpace “” in terms of Google searches.


Regionally, Dynamics CRM is truly the international CRM between the two products.


While, when comparing the ranking levels down to 70, is much more localised in the USA, with Ireland and Singapore being common to both.


Insider and Institutional Sales

Again, according to Yahoo, insiders have sold 0.5% of their shares and the institutions have sold 2.72% of their shares.

Here is the historical trend of the last three quarters.

  2014 Q2 2014 Q3 2014 Q4
Insider Sales 0.50% 0.50% 0.50%
Institutional Sales 3% 2.75% 2.72%

There is a lot of consistency here with both the executive insiders and institutional owners continually selling down although the institutional sales are slowing. These are the same institutions which often have a ‘BUY’ rating for the stock and, yet, they are offloading theirs, presumably to the people they are giving the ‘BUY’ recommendation to.

Graham Smith, CFO is still regularly selling and is now down to 90,341 shares, which is too small to measure meaningfully as a percentage of the total shares. Maybe his plan is to totally sell out before he retires. At this stage, although close, he is not yet a total sell-out. Assuming Marc Benioff, CEO has not sold any shares, he is the largest individual owner of the company with a 6-7% share of the company.


Salesforce continues, like the titanic, on a steady course. Institutions and insiders are preparing lifeboats, albeit slowly, by offloading ownership.

As the title says, Salesforce are being consistent in their disregard for profits and reaping the reward of receiving none. They are also talking about the same things they have always talked about (customers and revenue). However, complacency is not an option with Dynamics CRM being at the forefront of people’s minds, as much as Salesforce.

My advice to Salesforce would be, if this is part of a bigger strategy, get accounts receivable under control because, in tough times, no one runs away faster than the people who owe you money. Build up the cash reserves and set yourself up for a rainy day. Then, work out what it will take to bring the company back into GAAP profit and do it.

I truly believe that, if Salesforce can get their finances under control, they will be unassailable. It will be interesting to see whether Marc will be brave enough to put a new CFO in place to tackle these big issues or whether he will keep always doing what he has always done and keep always getting what he always got.