AP Automation

I once lived in a house with a large kitchen with a white tiled floor that was difficult to keep clean. Dark colored soles on shoes would leave unsightly marks and even the slightest spillage would stand out like a sore thumb. We quickly got used to it however and we learned to remove our shoes and clean it very regularly.  The downside of the white floor was that we needed to work hard to keep it clean. The upside was it was spotless. An operating theater in a hospital was no cleaner. You could have safely performed open-heart surgery in our kitchen. Most people don’t choose white floors or carpets especially if you have young kids or pets. Darker colors or patterns camouflage the reality of life and it’s easier to live with a few grubby marks if you can’t see them and it’s exactly the same when organizations specify their business technology solutions. They specify solutions that fit in with the realities of a complex set of business process and design a solution that fits in with that. And quite right too you may say but I’d disagree. Sometimes you need a white carpet solution.

This is the year for e-invoicing. It’s been said every year for the last decade at least. But what’s the reality? If you refer to marketing texts you’ll find that the innovators and the early adopters make up something like 15% of the market. You don’t get to see mass adoption of a disruptive technology until the early majority start to take a new idea on board, but once it does, we see a the tipping point. There’s no going back and the world changes. And for the last 10 years the tipping point for e-invoicing has been just around the corner. Is this year any different?

Capture technology is old right? Scanning business documents for archiving, processing and workflow is at least a 20 year old way or working. And as we increasingly use email and electronic messaging, our reliance on paper for business is diminishing. So capture as a business technology has no future. Right? – Wrong. Capture is alive and thriving and, as a recent Forrester report explains, it’s got a bright future.

How can a banjo frailing ballad singer in Appalachia operate a more modern business model than a government department? Imagine that I am a finance director in the UK with personal tastes which run to “roots” music. Even for relatively obscure artists in any genre and any country, I will probably be able to find a website either for them or a distributor and buy their music directly as a cd or as a download. I will pay with my credit or debit card and get my cd a week later or my download almost immediately. The artist will get paid relatively quickly and pay a merchants fee which they will have factored into their original pricing. What I will not do is raise a requisition for the cd, have it approved and then issued to the artist, create and issue a goods received note when the item is delivered and approved, match the ensuing (paper) invoice against the receipt and the order and then promise the artist that I’ll instruct my bank to pay them 30 days thereafter. Yet, when I go into work the next morning, guess which process I will insist that my organisation uses?

SciQuest last week announced a new Accounts Payable offering as part of its “source-to-settle” solution suite. The new product features expanded functionality for automating accounts payable, “eliminating manual processes and providing powerful insight for finance and procurement staff.” I spoke to Max Leisten at Sciquest to understand a bit more about the new string to their source to settle bow.

Bloggers and tweeters don’t go too far off piste normally but there is nothing quite like sub-standard telco customer support to drive even the most focused to go right off topic and declare their frustration at their mobile phone operator or ISP. Customer support only needs to be a little bit wrong to make a dramatic difference to user experience and we are all so used to expecting best in class service that even a 10 minute wait to be dealt with by a call center can get us really piste off. It’s not just consumers that need to be kept happy. Business software needs to deliver a great user experience too. OB10 will hold their hands up and admit that their customer support hasn’t been their strong point in the past and that’s why they’ve invested heavily in customer experience. Their newly unveiled portal is a massive improvement both in substance and style.