How Parabola enabled Fulcrum to triple its growth

How Parabola enabled Fulcrum to triple its growth

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About Fulcrum

Fulcrum makes Enterprise Resource Planning software, a kind of master database for any company. It helps employees answer questions like “how many of Widget X did we make in Q1?” or “how many people who promised to buy Widget X in Q1 actually paid for it?” The biggest players in the category were all hitting their prime during that one decade where you had to stay home on Thursday to watch Seinfeld. Since then, they have not changed too much.

Fulcrum is building a new and modern kind of ERP, designed from the ground up to support manufacturers. Anybody using Fulcrum, from the team running the machines to the CFO, can get answers to those same questions above but also new, shockingly cool ones like “what is this particular widget supposed to look like in 3D?” or “what exactly are the big machines making right this minute?” With Fulcrum, the entire manufacturing business becomes 10x easier to understand.

The Growth Problem

Pretty much every manufacturer wanted to spin up Fulcrum as soon as they saw it. However, it’s extremely rare to come across a business that didn’t already install an ERP back in the Ross-and-Rachel-Friends era. A lot of critical reports come from this old and creaky piece of software, and if Fulcrum can’t match them exactly, it’s hard to switch.

Photo by Remy Gieling on Unsplash

So Fulcrum was faced with a difficult decision. They could assign their engineers to the humdrum work of re-creating these reports with code, so the company could grow faster. But then they would be taking resources away from building new features in their core product. Also, the engineers weren’t the ones who knew exactly what reports the customer needed - they had to go through the Launch team for all the details.

Fulcrum ran the numbers. If they couldn’t figure out some way for the Launch team to self-serve, a full 50% of their engineering team would have to be dedicated just to onboarding new customers. Going down that road meant extreme pain. Product development velocity would be cut in half, meaning that many critical features they’d planned to ship within the year wouldn’t make it. Launch times would be much slower as well, weakening their value proposition to customers. Revenue growth and unit economics forecasts looked worse, as more engineering time would be dedicated to just maintaining existing customers.

They had to find a different way out.

The Solution

As soon as Fulcrum started talking to Parabola it became clear that Parabola could transform Fulcrum’s Launch team into forward-deployed engineers.

Parabola has native connectors for the most popular legacy ERPs, but it can also ingest data from any API with a few minutes’ worth of setup. Once that’s done, the Launch team is fully empowered to build or rebuild whatever reports the customer needs to see in order to feel good signing on the dotted line. The feedback loop gets extremely tight. By the end of the meeting where the prospect explains what the reports are, the Launch team can actually build them for real.

In this example report, data about On-Time Deliveries comes from two shipping APIs and gets merged into one dataset, where it’s transformed in whichever specific way that the customer needs. If columns need to be renamed, moved around, lookup’d, pivoted, etc, all of that can be done by the Launch team in a Parabola Flow.

It only takes 15 minutes or so to set up a Flow - about the same amount of time to do the same workflow in Excel. But once you build a Flow, you can set it to run automatically, and share its components with others on your team to help them build their own Flows faster.

The value of that reuse compounds - when Launch team members create chunks of data transformations that are broadly useful, they share them along with messages about what each piece is doing. That shortens loops further and allows the Launch team to build reports much faster and much more cheaply than Engineering could do it.

An important thing to point out is that Fulcrum is using Parabola Flows as infrastructure. The Launch team hasn’t just built a temporary solution for these reports that an engineer has to rebuild later. The reports will run reliably forever, and Fulcrum has around 2000 of them in production now - of which their engineers had to build zero.

So by using Parabola, Fulcrum actually unlocked two significant business benefits. The engineering team had a whole troublesome workstream taken off their plate permanently, which freed them up to move faster on building the core product. But the bigger benefit was the Launch team was completely transformed. They were now working like a second team of engineers, building thousands of production reports with version control, unit testing, alerting, and so on. They were closest to the customer, and with Parabola behind them, they didn’t have to wait for anybody.

The velocity added by this team transformed the company. The time to set up a new customer quickly compressed from 12 months to 12 weeks, allowing Fulcrum to add 3x more new customers in a year. You can find recipes below for the same types of automations Fulcrum does, which you can tweak to fit your own business. More Launches, more money, more growth - we’re excited to help you make it happen.

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