12 Holiday Tradition Ideas from the Esker Family

The year flew by, again, and it’s already holiday season. If you’re anything like me, you’re running around like a crazy person trying to get everything in order.

As much of an anxiety inducer as the holidays are, one of my favorite things about them are the traditions. Old or new, holiday traditions bring joy to all involved … unless you’re Scrooge. Just saying.

Thinking about my family’s traditions made me wonder “What are the holiday traditions of my coworkers?” So, I set out to find out just that, and this is what I discovered.

Some holiday traditions start early:

“Growing up, my Mom would say we’d open presents on Christmas but then get too excited and we’d end up opening them on Christmas Eve — now we always open gifts the night before Christmas.” – Amanda Samuel, Marketing Coordinator

“On Christmas Eve we have some heavy appetizers and watch the movie “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby. After the movie, the kids make up a plate of goodies for Santa and his reindeer. Before bed, we gather on the couch and I read The Night Before Christmas. My children are now 17 and 15, but the tradition continues.” – Joe Hanousek, Customer Experience Manager

“My Mom used to wake us up at the stroke of midnight and we’d open presents.” – Jairus Harper, Customer Advocate

While others revolve around family:

“We have an annual Whobilation, based on the 2000 film “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Different competitions take place and the winner from the previous year is the Cheermeister, overseeing everything. There’s even a themed invite sent out.” – Will Bakker, Sales Demand Rep

“My family celebrates Hanukkah together every year. We’ll make potato latkes, light the menorah and end the night by playing board games.” – Josh Chaimson, Esker Solutions Support Specialist

“Before I got married, I’d spend every Christmas Eve at home with my parents and brother. We’d have my Mom’s homemade egg rolls and Grasshopper cocktails for dinner before opening presents. After presents, we’d have some more Grasshoppers, eat candy and play the board game Rummy Royal. Oh, the good old days!” – Kasey Schmitz, Marketing Director

“For the past 10+ years I have done a big Lego project during vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. It started because my daughter (now 17 years old) loved Legos like I did, and it was a special thing we could share and look forward to each year. She has since outgrown, but I carry on the holiday tradition and will be working on an awesome Mack Anthem tractor-trailer rig this year.” – Jeff Fritsche, Technical Architect.

or food:

“We came out with a spin on White Russians called “Fat Russians” in which the cream is replaced with eggnog. This is included in our traditional Swedish smorgasbord which contains items like: Limpa bread, Swedish meatballs, Bond Ost, lingonberries, pickled herring and Glögg.” – Joe Anderson, Sales Demand Rep

“Every Christmas Eve we have a big Polish party in Chicago. There are always homemade pierogies with different fillings (potato and cheese is my favorite), mizeria, salatka jarzynowa and other yummy dishes and desserts.” – Samantha Heavner, Creative Coordinator

Holiday traditions are something we’re all fond of:

“We’re starting a new holiday tradition this year — dressing up in ugly Christmas outfits!” – Steve Smith, U.S. Chief Operating Officer

“Holiday mad libs. It’s fun and silly.” – Joanna Honore, Strategic Alliance Specialist/Customer Advocate

“As a Christmas gift, my family goes to a sporting event. It could be Badger football or basketball, a Packers or Bucks game. It’s a fun holiday tradition because we don’t always know what to get each other and this gets us out together as a family.” – Renee Platto, Digital Marketing Manager

From all of us at Esker, we’d like to wish you a very happy holiday season. What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

Esker Named to Food Logistics’ 2018 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers

Sydney, Australia — December 17, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, has been named a 2018 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Provider by Food Logistics, a publication dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food supply chain.

The annual FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list serves as a resource guide of software and technology providers whose products and services are critical for companies in the global food and beverage supply chain.

“The digital supply chain continues its rapid emergence, bringing with it expanded capabilities that impact visibility, security, compliance and efficiency,” remarks Lara L. Sowinski, editorial director for Food Logistics and its sister publication, Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “Every aspect of the global food supply chain stands to benefit from new and innovative software and technology that is fundamentally changing the global food supply chain.”

Read more: https://www.esker.com.au/company/press-releases/esker-named-food-logistics-2018-fl100-top-software-and-technology-providers/

5 Fast Facts About Esker

In 1985, Esker was just another startup eager to establish a name for itself in a burgeoning sea of tech innovators. Back then, the company was focused on software consulting and began developing emulations and host access solutions shortly thereafter. But a lot can change in 30+ years. And it has. Esker has since gone on to become a global leader in cloud-based, AI-driven automation solutions that span the entire cash conversion cycle. Think you know everything there is to know about our company? Let’s put it to the test.

Here are five fast facts about Esker that even some of our most longstanding customers and employees may not know.

1) “Esker” is actually an acronym.

Black and white version of one of Esker’s early logos featuring the now defunct tagline, “Making Open Systems a Reality.”

When I tell people that I work for Esker, it’s not uncommon to hear a response along the lines of, “So, what does ‘Esker’ mean, exactly … does that stand for something?” Actually, yes. Yes it does.

The name Esker is an acronym derived from European Software Kernel. As geeky and esoteric as that sounds, its origin is fairly straightforward. A kernel is the central module of a computer’s operating system that connects the system hardware to the solution software. And, as stated previously, consulting on and providing host access software (to help PCs connect to mainframe computers) was Esker’s bread and butter in those early years. Lastly, Esker started out as strictly a European company, founded in Lyon, France, by Jean-Michel Bérard, our current CEO. Thus, European Software Kernel was born, shortened to Esker, and the rest is history.

2) We share our name with an ancient glacial landform.


Esker at Fulufjället, western Sweden. From Wikipedia.

It’s true. If you were to Google its dictionary definition, you may be surprised to learn that an “esker” is not a software company at all … at least not in geological terms.

In this case, an esker — note the lowercase “e” — is defined as “a long ridge of gravel and other sediment, typically having a winding course.” It’s argued that most eskers were formed from deposits of meltwater from a retreating glacier or ice sheet. Areas of Canada, Ireland and Sweden feature notable eskers, while in the U.S., Maine is generally considered the go-to location to catch a glimpse of these ancient glacial landforms.

3) Esker’s worldwide HQ is located in the “world capital of gastronomy.”

Famous view of Lyon from the top of Notre Dame de Fourviere.

France as a whole is revered for its culinary specialties, but there is a special place in foodies’ hearts for Lyon, the beautifully sprawling and historical city located in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. And lucky for us, Lyon just so happens to be where Esker was founded and the home to our worldwide headquarters.

Lyon’s unofficial title as “word capital of gastronomy” can be traced all the way back to 1935 when renowned French food critic, Curnonsky — fittingly dubbed the Prince of Gastronomy — famously bestowed the city with the flattering description. Eighty years later, the tag still sticks. From its legendary Michelin-starred chefs like Paul Bocuse to its modest bouchons and impressive outdoor markets, there are many reasons why Lyon continues to live up to its name.

4) In Madison, before Esker, there was Persoft.

A view of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.

In the mid-to-late 90s, equipped with its terminal emulation and host access solutions (which are still offered, btw), Esker had made some inroads into the U.S. market with a presence in both California and Oklahoma. However, it wasn’t until 1999 that its U.S. identity started establishing firmer roots. That’s the year that Esker acquired Persoft Inc., a Madison-based PC-to-host and Web-to-host connectivity solution provider. At the time, the merger was considered the best of both companies’ products and geographic strengths. It would seem that the prediction turned out to be quite accurate.

Today, Madison is home to Esker’s U.S. headquarters and is responsible for over 40% of company revenue. Well, technically, our headquarters used to be Madison. Following Esker’s “big move” in late 2016, when we moved just a few miles down the road, our address is now, technically, Middleton. Either way, we’ll always consider Madison home.

5) Esker just opened up its 13 country location in Hong Kong.

A snapshot of Esker’s worldwide presence.

Esker’s DNA has always been one of a growing global company. That’s why we’re proud to be one of the few mid-sized French companies to achieve international success. The most recent example of this was in September 2018 when we announced our new Hong Kong subsidiary.

This valued addition marks Esker’s 13 country location with more than 20 nationalities, joining: France (Lyon); United Kingdom (Derby); Germany (Munich & Dusseldorf); Spain (Madrid); Italy (Milan); Belgium (Brussels); United States (Madison, Denver); Canada (Montreal); Argentina (Buenos Aires); Australia (Sydney); Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur); and Singapore.

And, as Esker continues to expand internationally, our employee base is following suit. In just four years, we’ve nearly doubled the number of employees worldwide, going from 320 in 2014 to over 550 today.

Esker Expands Presence in the Asia-Pacific Through Partnership with IBIZ Consulting Services

Sydney, Australia — December 4, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced its partnership with IBIZ Consulting Services, a consulting firm specialising in business management solutions. This alliance will enable Esker to further develop its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and IBIZ to expand its digital process automation offerings.

As part of the reseller partnership, IBIZ will introduce Esker’s solutions to its existing customers, primarily businesses using Microsoft Dynamics™ ERP systems in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. With solutions that complement the existing business applications of IBIZ’s customers, Esker enables them to eliminate the use of paper and fully digitise their core business processes. The agreement could eventually expand to new countries with solution support by IBIZ’s in-house consultants.

Read more about the Press Release here: https://www.esker.com.au/company/press-releases/esker-expands-presence-asia-pacific-through-partnership-ibiz-consulting/

Building the Business Case for Digital Transformation of AP [Part 2]: 5 Key Points That Can Impact Project Success

Part 1 of Paul Tucker’s blog series on how to build a business case for accounts payable (AP) automation prompted me to share some trends that I’ve noticed over the last 20 years. In that time, I’ve seen leaders in finance and procurement both succeed and fail in getting projects funded, resourced and scheduled. In some cases, projects went ahead but there was a 3-7 year wait.

In Part 2, I go on to explore five key points surrounding this topic that have only grown more important over the last few years.

1) “No Brainer” Projects Still Need Bottom-Line Appeal for the C-Suite

In the book Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, Mahan Khalsa illustrates the benefit of breaking down the value of initiatives into time savings, dollar savings, and getting a sense of scale of importance from the top execs on a level of 1-5.

Projects are often decided based on emotion — the Shared Services Director may be passionate about this digital transformation initiative, however they still to need to take the time to list the savings that will come. For example, how many loaded FTE savings will come from absorbing growth or new acquisitions? Or from not having to hire or replace staff as they move on? What percentage of early pay discounts can be protected or realized for the first time if invoices are accelerated and approved in 1-2 days versus 10-20? Or, as more invoices are processed in a PO-like fashion and maverick spend is reduced, what is the value of better cost control and using the AP folks to research spend and buying patterns?

I’ve worked with CIOs who have commented that the AP automation project is a “no-brainer” in their mind — that’s when I know we need to team up to quantify when the savings will come. Because while many c-level folks are keen to launch a digital transformation project and they do want to free up their staff to do less mundane work that is beneficial to the P2P operation and employee morale, they need financial numbers to help them justify the project over other projects.

2) IT Resources — as Rare as Gold

It seems like over a decade since the norm was for companies to seek to build solutions themselves as the default. Today, most IT teams are stretched thin working on ERP upgrades, migrations, transport and warehouse management projects, or e-commerce initiatives, etc. One of the top reasons projects do not move forward is a lack of IT resources to work on the project. As Ardent Partners note in its 2018 research, common barriers to automation in purchase-to-pay (P2P) include lack of internal resources, lack of IT support and lack of a compelling business case.

A compelling business case will certainly help the leadership team influence the projects the CIO sanctions; after all, there may be 50-100 other projects the CIO is being asked to launch or support. And, even if the business is moving ahead with a “shadow IT” project, IT resources are needed to help with activities such as setting up security access for the vendor, replicating data, etc., pulling them away from other projects.

There is also a risk that if IT is not invited to be part of the project until later on, they may overestimate the effort that is really needed and could become defensive about getting another project dumped on them without an upfront conversation and time to strategize. Many IT Directors I talk to are overloaded on projects already and the thought of another one can be overwhelming and lead to push back/revolt. In some cases, I have seen that the expected effort can be cut in half by simply engaging with the IT folks early on, getting them up to speed, and providing simple, yet detailed project plans and resource requirements. With IT resources being as rare as gold nowadays, make sure the PMO and CIO understand when you want to use the resources and for how long — otherwise, they might assume you are trying to raid the bank!

3) Hitching a Ride on the “C Train”

They say that organizations going through pain or significant change are the ones that are more likely to invest and launch projects. In my experience, it seems that there’s often a trend, initiative or a directive that is a little like a train running through the organization. The trick is how can you get a seat on that train?

One of the most effective approaches I have seen procurement and finance folks use is to look at the projects that are going on and identify if their AP automation project might be seen as aligning with existing key business objectives. For example, many CIOs will regard P2P automation, order-to-cash (O2C) automation or simply cleaning up EDI exceptions as necessary steps of digital transformation. Alternatively, treasurers and CFOs may be seeking to extend their liquidity in order to make acquisitions or simply improve working capital and/or lower the weighted average cost of cash. I will often ask stakeholders how this initiative aligns with other key initiatives or approaches that their peers are working on or that the c-suite is keen on. Sometimes, those dots have not been connected and, yet, when they are, it’s amazing how fast your project can travel from the “idea stop to the approved stop.”

4) Efficiency & Savings Are Critical … But Execs May See Another Angle

I’ve worked on a number of AP automation projects where AP managers, directors, and finance leaders were focusing on one thing (e.g., efficiency savings, lowering invoice processing costs, duplicate prevention, etc.), yet the execs signing the project were endorsing the project for different reasons altogether. For example, we worked with a manufacturing company of doors and windows in the U.S. Its COO viewed the project as a means to scale and compete with a major competitor. While the COO was keen on efficiency savings, his goal for the project was different than that of the project team.

Sometimes, it has simply been that the CFO, after an ERP deployment or moving to your organization, may have lost the visibility of spend and cost controls they were was used to having and are willing to invest to get that control back. I’ve also seen c-suite offices move quickly when the average lead time to pay suppliers extends because they realize excellent customer experience extends through the supply chain. Organizations cannot afford to be put on credit hold or have raw materials restricted due to delays in approving supplier invoices.

5) Staying on Top of Market Trends

Last but not least, it’s my view that authorities in the market (e.g., Hackett Group, Gartner, Mckinsey, etc.) have a powerful influence on the c-suite and the direction of enterprise organizations as a whole. Currently, there is huge interest and focus in projects that will harness technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), especially if those projects can be shown to help the CFO: lower costs, prevent fraud, take advantage of early payment discounts, harness supply chain finance, or eliminate the costs of check payments. Therefore, it’s worth looking at market trends and describing your proposed P2P initiative in the right language.

One of the false assumptions in the market is that the sales rep providing AP automation can rustle up a business case that will ensure your project gets a rapid green light. Instead, I think good reps should help you identify areas that may need more research and to calculate the value that will come in terms of time, money and overall strategic value of a project. The real selling takes place when the rep has left — it is the P2P teams that need to discuss the project and effectively understand internal drives and initiatives, and carefully maneuver and sell the project to a consensus group.

At Esker, I feel our team can certainly help you generate ideas for the business case and also identify the common roadblocks and issues that often need to be onboard to ensure your project doesn’t get derailed.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, where Paul Tucker will pick back up where he left off after Part 1, covering how to identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and calculate ROI.