S2 Episode 6: Simplifying Salesforce for Better Customer Experiences

Welcome to the sixth episode of S2 of the LowCode Podcast! In this episode, we sit down with Zak Pines, Vice President of Partnerships at Formstack. 

Learn how Formstack evolved from a basic form builder to a robust platform offering workflow capabilities and HIPAA compliance and the platform's strategic focus on mid-market ventures while making impactful forays into specialized sectors like healthcare, financial services, and education. This episode is a must-listen for anyone eager to understand the transformative impact of no-code and low-code technology on modern business.


Jesus Vargas: Hello again and welcome to another episode of the LowCode Podcast. Today we have with us, Zak Pines. He's the Vice President of Partnerships at Formstack, which is a platform that has been around in the no-code and low-code space for a longer time than most of the other platforms we've had on this second season of the podcast. So Zak, thanks so much for joining us.

Zak Pines: Jesus, great to be here with you today.

Jesus Vargas: Thanks. So if you don't know, at LowCode, we're also partnered with Formstack for projects mostly related to HIPAA and healthcare. So anyway, why don't you start telling us a little bit about the history of Formstack. I remember it started like a social media, like a form builder software, and today does a lot. So walk us through quickly through that journey.

Zak Pines: Yeah. And you're right. You know, a long history and heritage at Formstack going back to 2005 when the founder of Formstack a day, he was trying to solve a problem of he was a developer and he just wanted a no code way to build, you know, a high volume of forms that he was being asked to build at that point to deploy websites. A few years after that, became the CEO of Formstack and has been for the last decade. And Formstack has kind of grown up. That form builder has expanded in incredible ways, workflow capabilities, HIPAA compliance, were some of the triggers of much more expanded data collection use cases. And then Formstack itself has become a modular platform that encompasses document generation, document automation, digital signature, and continues to evolve really with a strong focus in the workflow space and workflow capabilities. Integrations and ecosystems is a big area where I contribute. And Salesforce has become a major ecosystem, a major partner that our products are used with.

Jesus Vargas: Does that mean that you're mainly targeting enterprise clients?

Zak Pines: I would say, Jesus, I would say, I think mid market, you know, mid market is a good way to classify it. SMB into mid market is that sweet spot. So, you know, mid-size companies.

Jesus Vargas: And was that always the case or did Formstack started on the smaller side of the SMBs and then started to move upstream towards the enterprise?

Zak Pines: That's right. Yep. Definitely started with small businesses and has been, you know, growing up over time. We continue to serve a wide range of company sizes. But, you know, there's been definitely a set of verticals that have come into focus. Healthcare, you mentioned, is our top vertical. We work with some fantastic healthcare providers and payers, medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies. a lot of higher education institutions to collect information, nonprofits, financial services. But yeah, the profile of company from a size standpoint continues to go up, go up over time. 

Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm.

Jesus Vargas: So let's talk. I have a question, a couple of questions about that. Because with other no-code tools, newer no-code tools, they're still on the small, starting to go to the mid-size businesses. Formstack already more established, more robust. So you're at a different tier. How do either clients, these large enterprises get to Formstack? Are they looking for no-code? Are they looking for... Formstack in specific?, is it a partner that brings Formstack into the table? How does that work?

Zak Pines: Yeah. Well, I think a lot of what you talked about there. So I think, you know, our Salesforce partnership as an example, you know, that is going to help us get into mid market or enterprise companies. Big focus of my team is our consulting partner community, consulting partner agencies. So we have an enablement first approach, which is we get out to the community. And it's a focus on use cases. It's a focus on use cases. So we're not leading with no code Jesus. We're leading

Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm.

Zak Pines: with the use case of, you know, creating a HIPAA compliant patient intake experience that means, you know, your patients never have to fill out a blank form again. No code becomes the mechanism to do that with fast time to value and a lot of agility for how a customer could evolve that. over time. So we're working with SIs, getting them kind of enrolled in our products, jointly recommending how we can help customers deliver on improved customer experiences and or internal processes. And that becomes the driver of a lot of our customer acquisition.

Jesus Vargas: Yeah. Do you also have direct sales, like a sales team that goes directly after enterprise or everything is done through the partner?

Zak Pines: We do. Yeah, we do have a great sales team and there's a direct selling motion as well as a partner selling motion through.

Jesus Vargas: And how do you avoid conflict? Because I don't know, partners may be like, oh, we're competing, but you'll be better because you're a four sec itself and then we're a partner.

Zak Pines: Yeah.

Jesus Vargas: How do you make that? It’s a win-win for everyone?

Zak Pines: We've been really well aligned. I'd say because our partner, our focus on consultants, SI solution partners, the alignment is providing the best possible solution to a customer. And my team is very much focused on that enablement around our products, the ongoing kind of point of contact to make sure that. partners are successful with our products and a focus on repeatable use cases. You know, what are use cases that can be delivered in a repeatable way? So what I find is that the consultant, the SI, like they're not, they don't wanna get in the middle of the licensing, I'll put it that way. They, you know, they're, so it's a referral motion to our sales team to let our sales team do the heavy lifting on licensing and contracts. And so the alignment is provide great solutions. And really there is no conflict because there's full alignment with our partners and we're ultimately providing. 

Jesus Vargas: So the partner is selling the implementation, and you're selling the product itself.

Zak Pines: Yep, that's typically the way it works on the referral motion. We do have a reseller program, but we find that's a much more advanced level of partnership. And of the hundreds and hundreds of partners that we've brought on in the past couple of years, almost all of them have been in this referral partner motion with tight alignment through the partner team.

Jesus Vargas: What type of business is a good referral for you? These partners that you work in, it's something that I've seen you ramp up this effort about expanding the partner program with Formsat. Who do you see are the most successful partners? What attributes do they have? Maybe it's industry specific, maybe it's their team size, their location, I don't know. What do you see, like these guys are very good because of?

Zak Pines: It's really being, I'd say solution-minded with customers is really all it takes. That's the common denominator. We've, HeySue's done incredibly well with, I'll say really small, like really small consulting firms. It could be a single person, and it could be a team of three, five, 10, 20, certainly can scale up from there. It's gonna center around having a vertical focus where Formstack is especially valuable. So yes, I'd say the themes would be working in verticals where Formstack has a strong customer success. I'll quickly run back through that list, healthcare, financial services, education, nonprofit, public sector as five big ones, a bit manufacturing. And The Salesforce ecosystem has been a big focus for us. So if you're a consultant working in the Salesforce ecosystem, that's gonna be probably a big, big signal that we're gonna have a lot of success together, but it’s not a prerequisite, but it's not a prerequisite. We work outside of that as well. 

Jesus Vargas: Right! With your partners, do you see that they're focused on specific industries? Like you see partners working mostly or only on healthcare, mostly or only in government, or they target every type of industry.

Zak Pines: I find in general, the consulting firms are vertical specific, either at the company level or at the very least at a kind of sub, you know, division or team level, because that's what customers are ultimately looking for from a consultant. They're looking for the vertical know-how, expertise, the repeatable use cases, which plugs into again, how we're adding value to that firm If we can work together on a repeatable use case, I'm just, you know, again, let's say healthcare consulting firm. We want to have this kind of repeatable way of helping customers be more effective with their patient intake and their kind of ongoing patient experience and how data is collected in a consistent way that's very patient friendly. Repeatable use case for the consultant. That's a huge win for a couple of reasons. Number one. What do consultants want? They want quality delivery, a repeatable process that they can deliver with a high degree of confidence, a use case that they can use to win other customers, tell that story out to the market or tell that story even to the base of form stack customers or base of Salesforce customers to bring on more customers. So it's a win-win where it's a quality factor for a delivery team. And it's a growth factor for the consultant from a, you know, from a selling perspective as well.

Jesus Vargas: That's a good point. And look, we haven't figured that out yet. So we target everybody. Like everybody's our client. We haven't, we're young, so maybe we haven't got to that point where we wanna be industry specific. But no, that makes absolute sense. Now, coming back to a little bit of like form stack history, today you are on markets that are hard to get into. How was that process? Is that like a goal? like a form-stack goal since the beginning, like getting into the healthcare space, government space. Did it happen because there was an opportunity, there weren't tools out there that targeted those markets?

Zak Pines: I think the healthcare was a very intentional strategy based on market feedback. And the reason I say that is a lot has gone into HIPAA compliance, you know, Formstack getting, you know, HIPAA certified for our products, having a BAA agreement that, you know, is between Formstack and the end customer. So that became a very intentional strategy as we realized that. what we do serves a lot of value for that market. Healthcare companies wanting to move away from paper. Healthcare companies wanting to make their processes more digital and do so in a highly secure, high confidence way.

Jesus Vargas: What about government? That's an interesting target market that we don't see a lot in this space.

Zak Pines: I think we've done well. We've done well with state governments, local governments. I think that was a byproduct of probably maybe a little bit of having the same characteristics of healthcare where looking to remove paper, looking to make processes more digital. And also, as it happens, Asus, one customer success leads to another. So I think a lot of this, going back in time, was more organic. One success leading to another. in some of these verticals.

Jesus Vargas: You have a large team. You mentioned earlier, before we started the podcast, that there were almost 300 people working at Formstack. How do you define the features and the strategy of the product with such a large team? Is it market-driven or is it internally driven in order to target a new niche or new industry?

Zak Pines: Yeah. Yeah. And the team, I believe, is up over 300 right now. We have a great product leader named Rich Yu who joined Formstack about a year ago. I think a very, very integrated process for product roadmap. A lot of it is kind of fed by customer feedback. I think a lot of it is our vision for making what we're delivering from a product standpoint as user friendly, as integrated as possible. I think the sales.

Jesus Vargas: So that means that you're focusing a lot on integrations, or is that something that's already there?

Zak Pines: I was going to say also the kind of how the products work together. So if you think of collecting data, generating a document from data, collecting digital signatures, let's say, Jesus, because we acquired different companies that became the form stack platform, maybe something could be done, but it took, you know, six minutes to configure. before, but now we can make it take six seconds.

Jesus Vargas: Yeah, okay.

Zak Pines: Improving the time to value of our products has been a focus. Integrations, a big focus on Salesforce. So I haven't specifically mentioned it in this conversation, but we have a native to Salesforce forms product called Forms for Salesforce. You download it from the Salesforce app exchange. And where I really see our product strategy taking really beautiful shape is the combination of native and off platform products. Most companies choose one or the other. They both have pros and cons in for a Salesforce customer. Imagine being able to get best of both worlds where there are certain things I'm doing natively in Salesforce because it's tied closely to my Salesforce data model, I want to pre-fill information. I want it to automatically update, but maybe there's other processes that are not as tied to Salesforce, but selectively need to sync data into Salesforce. I've, you know, in all my travels, we're one of the few companies that can really balance that in a way where it's kind of native plus, um, very unique, uh, very unique, uh, differentiation for us for that reason, when working with a Salesforce customer.

Jesus Vargas: That makes sense. And we, right now we're building a Salesforce related project or a client uses Salesforce and we're building like a client portal. And I definitely see the opportunity in the market in that space. Especially because Salesforce is a huge platform, but closed at the same time. So you always need like a third party thing to interface, to do a client portal, stuff like that. So why do you think there's so much opportunity in the Salesforce space? Why doesn't Salesforce. to more, I don't know.

Zak Pines: It's funny, man, because you think about it, you know, Salesforce, when they were founded 20 years ago, you know, end of software, you know, all of it was around speed, ease of use. Look, it's 20 years later. Salesforce is now the entrenched product.

Jesus Vargas: Yeah.

Zak Pines: That's more of a foundational product, but there's opportunity because there's ways to make it easier and faster for Salesforce customers to set up use cases, evolve those use cases, surrounding processes. So I think it's really now Salesforce is that foundational ecosystem, but there's massive opportunity to help deliver value for Salesforce customers in ways that make them more agile and give them faster ways to set up and manage. processes, workflows, collect data through forms, generate documents, then they would be otherwise.

Jesus Vargas: Do you think, now that you…

Zak Pines: And therefore get more value out of their Salesforce investment. So that's one of the themes I have is, you know, deliver on the, you bought Salesforce for a reason. If you asked a Salesforce customer, why'd you buy Salesforce? It was because I wanted to have a single view of my patient. I wanted a unified database of all my students. Well, Formstack can help you achieve that probably in ways that you wouldn't have been able to before. So it's achieving that initial vision for kind of why you invested in Salesforce in the first place.

Jesus Vargas: Yeah. Now that you mentioned that, do you think if we look at, you, you, let's say you run your marketing based on case studies and industry specific case studies, then on the other hand, you might have the Salesforce ecosystem. Do you think it's easier to sell to the Salesforce ecosystem because you already know what companies use it, how they use it, how it works, and the value app that forms tech provides rather than This is a use case on the healthcare sector and maybe the company is not at that point. Maybe they're not looking for that solution. Isn't Salesforce like more targeted marketing or a more targeted sale?

Zak Pines: It is, yeah. It again, it yet layers in the fact that they're already using Salesforce. Vertical use case solution selling is a big part of it as well. So yeah, everything we've talked about in terms of verticals, use cases applies in a huge way, even more strongly when we're working with Salesforce consultants and Salesforce customers.

Jesus Vargas: So now getting to the no code and low code world, do you consider Formstack as part of the ecosystem or since you don't market yourself as a no code tool, how do you see Formstack in the space?

Zak Pines: I consider form stack, yeah, I used the no code, low code, no code, low code, no code, low code, I'll say it again, it's keeping those two phrases together.

Jesus Vargas: It's one thing together, right?

Zak Pines: Yeah, and the reason I say that is like, there are cases where you're gonna use code with form stack and I consider that a positive, not a negative. So I wouldn't call it no code, but absolutely no code, low code. And again, I consider that a positive because you're gonna be able to do more customization through code in certain areas. So we can allow someone to do a no-code configuration, absolutely. But there may be spots where you want to supplement that with some light coding. And we support that as well. And I definitely would consider FormStack in the no-code, low-code space. The point I was making earlier is from a sales value That's probably not the headline. You're going to see

Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Zak Pines: in a, like, you know, in a, in a, in a, in a, it's not the elevator pitch probably, but it's backing up the elevator pitch. That's the how it's the how, how we doing that through a no code, low code product, we're delivering on a better patient experience. We're delivering on a better way to manage your student data throughout the student life cycle. Uh, we're delivering a better way to capture. you know, intake information for new wealth management customers. How no code, low code. Why does that matter? Time to value, you know, faster ways to deploy and set up solutions than you've realized before. And like I said earlier, the agility of being able to evolve, be responsive to the market, to customers, you know, set up new solutions. We had a customer, Jesus, that was a, a national bank. In the heart of COVID, they needed to launch a new application form that tied to some of the relief programs that were being offered by the government. This is a bank.

Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm.

Zak Pines: They were able to deploy that in less than a week. New form, all the business logic, the documents generated from those applications, the routing of that through internal systems. That would have been unheard of. probably in a more of a legacy banking environment, but with Formstack as a no-code, low-code solution, it was possible.

Jesus Vargas: Who do you think that is not a Formstack customer? Who should not use, and this might be too, I don't know, but who's not a customer? Like, are you still, like, who's not going to get the value prop form Formstack if they use it?

Zak Pines: Look, we talk about it internally. I mean, in some respect, our challenge is any business could be a FormStack customer. The need is universal.

Jesus Vargas: Okay.

Zak Pines: I guess all I might say is I'd say it this way. Like there's a lot of people that are good customers, but maybe don't want to be hands on. And that's okay. And that's where the consulting community. Great. You know, great. great folks like yourself come into play. So any business can be a FormStack customer, but they may not be a power user if they're reliant on consultants. But that's the beauty of our partner program is there are great resources out there that have the expertise, that do the configuration, that help customers. So that's how I think about that question.

Jesus Vargas: That makes sense. That makes sense. Final question. You mentioned the bank. That was a great use case. Tell us about another favorite use case of Formstack or maybe unique that you were like, oh, this is a great way.

Zak Pines: Look, there's a lot of healthcare. I think of, you know, there's a woman, a big form stack champion named Denise Davis, who's really kind of modernized Emory Healthcare around, you know, patient data collection. I'll give you another one. We work with the NJCAA, which is the governing body for 525 junior colleges, community colleges in the country. their entire process whereby athletic departments, number one, kind of register their prospective students who are qualifying for scholarships, get those approved. But then the automation of every single scholarship letter that is automatically customized, based on a form-based data input, which also is saved to Salesforce, generating that scholarship letter, giving the choice to the athletic director if they would like to send that out as an email or text message, having it sent from their individual form stack sign account out for

Jesus Vargas: Okay.

Zak Pines: digital signature, captured, saved, and then kind of redistributed to the students, saved to their master system, is a fun use case we've been working on over the past couple of years. And...

Jesus Vargas: How many letters are being sent every year through the platform? Hundreds of thousands?

Zak Pines: Tens of thousands, tens of thousands, letters sent and signed. Yep, every year.

Jesus Vargas: pretty cool. Zach, thanks so much for joining us today.

Zak Pines: This has been fun, Jesus. Great questions.

Jesus Vargas: Thank you.

Zak Pines: Uh, good to see you. I'll, I'll, to your audience, uh, find me on LinkedIn. If you reach out and mention the podcast, I will definitely connect and we can continue the conversation there.

Jesus Vargas: Absolutely. Thanks, Sec. All right.