The Platform Chronicles: 10 Questions with Prashanth Rajendran, CEO, ComplianceQuest
On creating a world-class EQMS and EHS suite and global team
Welcome to The Platform Chronicles, a series designed to introduce readers to some of the most innovative Salesforce customers, partners, and employees.
This issue welcomes Prashanth Rajendran, CEO, ComplianceQuest, the fastest-growing Enterprise Quality Management System (EQMS) and Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) software company built natively on the Salesforce platform. Prashanth directly oversees his company’s sales, marketing, partnerships, finance, IT, legal, and overall company strategy and direction.
Prashanth has more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing, engineering, and quality. He holds an MS in Industrial Engineering from the University of South Florida and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology in India. Prashanth resides in Tampa, Florida with his wife, daughter, and twins. When not working, he enjoys traveling, playing tennis, gardening, and experimenting with cooking recipes from India.
Fun fact: Prashanth used to fly single-engine planes for fun and earned his solo certification.
10 Questions for Prashanth
The following is a lightly edited transcript of our interview with Prashanth.
Prashanth, you were one of the pioneers in the QMS market dating back to 1994 when you co-founded Pilgrim Software. Can you compare and contrast what it was like starting a company then versus building a cloud-based product today?
As you would guess, the most obvious difference is the technology — multi-tenant cloud, improved user experience, superior integration tools and analytics, and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
The Salesforce platform enabled us to build and manage applications and to focus more on bringing value to the customer. We have best practices built into the core applications versus worrying about maintaining infrastructure. Integrations, which used to be complex and hard to support, are now easy with a services-oriented architecture. Analytics is built right into the platform allowing application workflows to fully synthesize the data to drive smarter decision-making in a seamless way. Salesforce focuses on the business apps platform allowing ComplianceQuest to drive more innovation into its solutions.
We are now able to leverage intelligent automation through AI/ML integrated right into work processes. This allows for consistent and smart decision-making, eliminating the reliance on a few specific experts.
Global harmonization is now possible and easy while allowing client resources to drive local configuration requirements because of regional requirements or changing business demands.
Another key difference is the maturity of the quality management market. Most established companies are on their second or third-generation systems. We’re mostly replacing legacy systems today rather than spreadsheets and notebooks like we did at Pilgrim.
Looking back over your career, how has the QMS market evolved and where is it heading?
In the early days, most of the focus was on quality control and the processes required to make it easier to manufacture without compromising product safety. This started in supplier material with the introduction of sampling inspections vs. unit-by-unit inspections. Then, came the total quality approach from Japan where the new strategy focused on improving all organizational processes through the people that used them. That led to the concept of total quality management or TQM. For years, this was the norm.
But now with the increased emphasis on risk and customers (ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485, etc.), quality has gone beyond manufacturing and touches everything from concept to customer satisfaction. As this expanded, other traditional platform areas also saw they needed components of quality whether it was CAPA or Training or Complaints, etc.
“The Salesforce platform enabled us to build and manage applications and to focus more on bringing value to the customer.”
One adjacent app we saw growing into the QMS area was Environmental Health & Safety (EHS). There is a growing demand for the digitalization of incident management, inspections, controlled documents, employee safety training, safety process audits, and safety risk assessments, with links to many other components of QMS.
In 2020, we acquired LifeGuard Solutions, a Salesforce-native EHS solution provider as a natural extension of our leading quality management system.
Manufacturers need the suite of products from ComplianceQuest and LifeGuard to maximize quality and achieve compliance in the safest and most environmentally sustainable way possible. Integrating EHS and EQMS data and workflow processes are critical to companies looking to create more mature quality and safety processes within their organizations.
In addition, quality needs to start at the foundation where new product innovation begins to be realized in the design and development process starting with customer needs and testing. This ensures the desired output throughout design transfer and all changes. CQ has already started to bring quality solutions into engineering — there’s a lot more to come!
Prashanth, ComplianceQuest was founded in 2013 and opted boldly to build apps on the Salesforce platform. I’m betting that not a lot of your early customers had heard of Salesforce. Can you tell us more about that platform decision?
Yes, for most customers we were the first Salesforce-based app they ever purchased and used. Even today, nearly 70% of our customers are new to Salesforce.
Why did ComplianceQuest pick the Salesforce platform? When we last started a company from scratch, we built an on-premises quality app. This time we knew the effort it would take to build a modern product suite and needed to make sure we would be leveraging a platform that would scale into the future.
“Integrating EHS and EQMS data and workflow processes are critical to companies looking to create more mature quality and safety processes within their organizations.”
The Salesforce platform provided the scalability, availability, performance, security, reportability, and no code “Business” platform configuration tools to build a new EQMS. In fact, that is the biggest advantage. Salesforce takes care of all the IT infrastructure, security, and the platform for its application developers and customers. This allows AppExchange partners like us to focus on innovation to solve our customers’ needs and pain.
We also like that Salesforce improves the platform and releases new capabilities three times a year. That provides us with continuous platform-level innovation which is reflected in the usability of our app. And with certified platform tools, it makes it easy to deliver a consistent user interface with the ability to easily connect to all Salesforce business applications. Our suite seamlessly connects to the Sales, Service, Experience, Analytics, Manufacturing, and Health Clouds. In addition to connecting to the Salesforce Clouds, our customers can further extend functionality for their specific needs by utilizing the thousands of third-party managed applications on the AppExchange.
What other Salesforce products are you leveraging?
ComplianceQuest uses Einstein and Tableau CRM Plus for analytics and AI. We have a plug-in connector to the different Salesforce Industry Clouds — Manufacturing Cloud, Health Cloud — to provide a complete closed-loop complaint process. We are working on integration with Slack and Teams for internal and external collaboration. With both native and ComplianceQuest-added REST APIs, our platform can easily work with MuleSoft to make it much easier to integrate with other corporate enterprise applications.
Today, you have more than 1,000 customer locations worldwide and over 100,000 end users relying on your software. That’s very impressive. What’s your “secret sauce?”
Our success is based on a combination of the Salesforce platform, the breadth and depth of our integrated EQMS and EHS solutions, and our deep domain knowledge and experience.
We deliver software that helps our customers mitigate risk and improve efficiency while satisfying regulatory requirements for ISO 9001, FDA, EU, and other country regulations.
Salesforce has been a big factor in winning new opportunities due to its ease of use — the Lightning user interface functionality, and configurability.
We put our customers first. You can certainly see this in the 4.9 rating (on a basis of 1–5, with 5 best) that customers have given us in Salesforce AppExchange reviews.
What impact, if any, did the pandemic have on your business?
ComplianceQuest has been a virtual company since its inception. We were used to working with our employees, customers, and prospects through remote tools.
Our customers were also able to take advantage of the mobility of our solutions. The Salesforce mobile app makes it easy to access data from anywhere and on any device. This and being in the cloud were certainly key elements in many of our customers’ operations during the lockdowns.
“The Salesforce platform provided the scalability, availability, performance, security, reportability, and no code “business” platform configuration tools to build a new EQMS.”
We never stopped during the pandemic. Compliance never ends especially for those Life Sciences companies under the scrutiny of the FDA or other authorities.
The pandemic did cause us to increase our focus on supplier quality — especially for collaboration and communication between a manufacturer and their suppliers. Over the last few years, our customers experienced shortages of raw material and labor, paid greater attention to supply chain resiliency, and increased their focus on sustainability. We are working with customers on these initiatives. Re-evaluating and re-onboarding suppliers will be a critical key to success for the ‘next normal.’
I saw one research report that estimates that the global QMS market will grow from $8.25 billion (2020) to $16.67 billion (2028). That’s a compound annual growth rate of 9.7%. Do you see any new factors driving future growth?
Digital transformation is a key component for QMS market growth. Whether still using manual processes or legacy systems, companies see that they need to move quickly into the next generation of automation, AI, and the accessibility and availability of data throughout the entire ecosystem.
Early-stage companies are seeing the benefit of starting with an EQMS while still in the design and development phase of their products — this is especially true for Biotech.
Larger enterprises are actively looking to replace their aging, costly-to-support systems. They want to move to a next-generation suite like ours so they can leverage advanced analytics, AI/ML, and be able to advance their global harmonization.
In addition to running ComplianceQuest, you’re also actively involved in the local community as well as some global initiatives. Can you talk more about this?
ComplianceQuest is part of Salesforce’s 1–1–1 initiative. We actively support a variety of causes in both our local and global communities. We are very passionate about helping disadvantaged children and families and have been involved in building needed toilets, schools, libraries, and health clinics, and offering educational scholarships in India, Nepal, and other Southeast Asian countries.
Personally, I’m very active in several global forums, including The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) forum. I’m a founding charter member of the Tampa Bay Chapter. I also founded the TiE Tampa Angel network that helps young companies secure funding and advise them as they continue their journey to their success.
Peter Sobiloff, Managing Director, Insight Partners is on your board. I’ve known Peter for 30 years. He’s very excited about your ability to sustain your rapid growth and your laser focus on customer success. He praised your “immense industry knowledge and experience” and your “world-class team.” Peter has a lot of insider knowledge, what does he know that our readers would love to know?
With the help of Insight Partners, ComplianceQuest is focused on delivering value to the marketplace by bringing intelligent automation to help with digital transformation across enterprises. We want to make a positive impact across the entire value chain: engineering, product and process quality, safety, ESG, and supply chain quality. We are very focused on not only continuing to bring newer capabilities but also expanding into enterprises and increasing our base of strategic global customers.
“Whether still using manual processes or legacy systems, companies see that they need to move quickly into the next generation of automation, AI, and the accessibility and availability of data throughout the entire ecosystem.”
With this continued expansion of the various stakeholders, we are able to pursue not only industries that focus on compliance such as Life Sciences, but also Consumer Goods, Food & Beverage, and Industrial Manufacturing enterprises. With our newly added safety capability through our acquisition of LifeGuard Solutions, we are expanding into Energy, Chemical, and other process industries which have a high degree of OSHA-related compliance requirements.
With the help of Salesforce, we’re expanding globally, too. We have customers now across Europe, India, Singapore, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. We are working to build our distribution channel to provide localized services to drive increased customer satisfaction.
Last question: Prashanth, what can Salesforce add to the platform or its product suite to make life better for you and your team?
Here are my suggestions:
- Add Quip to the core platform. Collaboration requires being able to work with documents, spreadsheets, and forms.
- Make the UI experience friendlier for multi-object transactions.
- Allow partners to leverage the In-App Guidance for apps to be adopted quicker and to make the app/platform stickier.
- Support automated translation for all custom-built apps for menus, labels, help text, etc., to make the platform truly global.
- We would like to see Salesforce accelerate the process to make its new tech available to its partners. This would help us get to market faster.
By Bruce Richardson, Chief Enterprise Strategist at Salesforce