Tag Archives: business process

Esker: Growing the P2P Suite in 2018 and Beyond

Company Background

Esker was founded in 1985 with the vision of helping businesses deliver paper documents electronically. Today, more than 30 years later, they have stayed true to its roots and are now one of the larger document process automation vendors in the market. Over 85% of sales now come from its on-demand (SaaS) solutions for Purchase-to-Pay, Order-to-Cash, and document delivery. Headquartered in Lyon, France, Esker also has operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Based on the strong growth of its cloud-based solutions (+21% YOY), Esker’s 2017 sales revenues increased by 15.3% over 2016. Another interesting stat from the earnings release is that the number of employees in R&D increased by 18% in 2017, and now represents an impressive 22% of the total workforce.

During our briefing, Esker spoke to us primarily about the newer solution for Purchasing but also covered the Accounts Payable solution as well. Below is a brief description of each solution.

Accounts Payable

Esker’s sweet spot has always been its AP automation solution for the mid- and large-market. The cloud-based AP solution is designed to eliminate paper, reduce manual processing of invoices, lower costs, and improve efficiency. As you would expect they can easily handle most invoice formats and delivery vehicles. The solution can automate the AP process from invoice receipt to 3-way matching, and through to, and including, approval and transfer for payment. They have also automated the exception handling process, which can automatically be routed around based on customisable workflows and business rules.

Esker offers adapters for a number of ERPs including SAP, Oracle eBusiness Suite, and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Over 50% of Esker’s AP customers have SAP as their backend ERP, not surprising since Esker has long provided integration to SAP. Two years ago they introduced an adapter for Oracle and this has resulted in good growth in this market segment as well. It is important to point out that Esker’s workflow sits outside of an organisation’s ERP, something they say is one of the major reasons clients select Esker for their AP automation.

Purchasing

Based on requests from its existing customers, and sensing market demand, Esker launched its on-demand Purchasing solution four years ago, in order to be able to offer full P2P functionality. The majority of Esker’s customers utilising the purchasing solution already had Esker’s AP solution or were sold the full P2P suite in the last four years. Esker Purchasing allows enterprises to automate the full P2P cycle, from the purchase request all the way through the payment process. Esker automates purchasing workflow and integrates seamlessly to the Esker AP solution. They provide out-of-the-box, role-based dashboards tailored to the specific needs of the user, and allow for easy switching between the AP and Purchasing solutions. Esker provides functionality to easily manage internal catalogs and is in the process of launching ‘punch-out’ catalog capability that will be available later this spring. Eskers purchasing solution is currently best suited to handle an organisation’s indirect spend but, Dupuy-Holdich said their vision is to possibly handle direct spend as well sometime in the future.

Final Thoughts

After a successful 2017, it was great to get an update from Esker to hear how they achieved such positive results and learn what they are currently working on and plans for the future. They have recently provided integration to SAP S4/Hana, Dynamics NAV 2017, and early payment discounts. Future plans include support for SAP S4/HANA Cloud and NAV 2018, punch-out catalogs, and contract management. They are working to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in all of its solutions. The ‘Esker AI Engine’ is currently being used to improve global field recognition, for an intelligent splitting of invoice batches, general ledger auto allocation, and improved supplier recognition on invoices and purchase orders. Esker R&D is looking to utilise AI to improve the functionality of its solutions wherever possible. Esker understands the importance of being able to offer a full P2P suite and is motivated to bring its purchasing solution on par with that of the AP solution. Esker has produced solid revenue growth over the last couple of years and has a plan in place to keep that momentum going in 2018. Ardent Partners is very interested to see where Esker goes from here and the traction they are able to achieve in the full P2P market.

 

Source: http://payablesplace.ardentpartners.com/2018/03/esker-growing-p2p-suite-2018/

 

Automated Delivery of Customer Invoices to AP Portals

Options for customer invoice delivery continue to modernize as companies experience the fruits of digital transformation. We have come a long way with invoice delivery methods — things are faster, easier and more cost-effective than ever before. In recent years, companies have been seeking efficiencies within accounts payable (AP) for the buyer, which led to the introduction of AP portals. Accounts payable portals continue to grow in popularity, so much that the U.S. Government, the largest buyer in North America, mandated that vendors must electronically submit invoices within one of their recognized portals by end of 2018. As more and more buyers transition to using AP networks to ease their own technology burdens, it shifts the problem squarely onto the supplier’s accounts receivable (AR) team.

Accommodating customers has been the key to many organization’s success, however, it can come at a cost and may not be an easy task. There are more than 250 complex AP networks used globally. New AP technology means that suppliers increasingly need to submit invoices directly into customers’ AP systems.  To manage this method, AR departments are often:

  • Manually entering each invoice using an online AP portal, one at a time — which is time consuming and resource draining
  • Hogging up already limited IT resources to build custom AP integrations with each system and provide ongoing support
  • Turning away business refusing to accommodate, impacting growth
  • Managing multiple invoice delivery channels, including delivery of statements and invoices via portal, postal mail, EDI, fax and email

Accounts payable networks and private corporate portals are not going away. There are real benefits to submitting invoices online, such as: visibility on payment status, cost savings by lowering or eliminating postal mailings and time savings of sending an email versus postal mail.

With the aid of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technology, suppliers now have the option to automatically deliver invoices to portals — no longer requiring manual data entry or taxing the resources of AR staff. The repetitive processes of data entry and invoicing naturally lend themselves to automation. Artificial intelligence can help companies timely and efficiently post invoices to AP portals, without input from humans. Automation of invoice delivery into AP portals eliminates the burden, giving both parties the efficiencies they want and need.

AP Automation Strengthens Manufacturer-Supplier Relationships

At its core, the relationship between manufacturers and supplier s in the semiconductor industry is based on how well the two sides can work together and, most importantly, making sure that invoices and payments are made on time. Issues with payments can ripple throughout the relationship. It has the potential to impact not only the financial sheets for the companies but also the trust and faith that make the partnership work. A semiconductor manufacturer needs to have faith that its suppliers will be on time with products; the supplier has to trust that if it sends out invoices, those bills will get paid in full and on time. A breach of trust and loss of faith can have a domino effect, leading to feelings of ill will, lost business or lawsuits.

For many companies, the accounts payable (AP) process has made that much more challenging by the manual nature of the processes. The inherently complex processes of invoicing and receipt of payment that are crucial to making businesses run smoothly and keeping relationships strong are made that much more difficult when those processes are inefficient and error-prone.

Many of the key touchpoints throughout the accounts payable process tend to be manual, which can lead to a range of challenges for organizations. They may run into difficulty retrieving invoice data on a timely basis and have little control or insight into that data. Errors can find their way into many of the points of the process, from incorrectly processing or misplacing invoices to inputting incorrect data or being late getting invoices sent. Even more, those errors can lead to too much time spent on fielding calls wanting to know the status of those invoices or payment, or on resolving disputes arising from those errors.

Such inefficiencies can harm a business. They can lead to late payment fees, low staff productivity, and a larger dissatisfaction in the relationship with vendors. Just as bad, the time spent on dispute resolution takes away from the time company representatives have to do the work of building and improving the relationships with its partners.

Automating the accounts payable processes can make a lot of these challenges go away and can go a long way in improving the relationship between manufacturers and their suppliers. For example, AP automation can enable such programs as dynamic discounting, where manufacturers are given greater flexibility in determining when to pay their suppliers and can receive discounts for products and services when they pay those suppliers earlier. The savings can be significant. We’ve seen customers save as much as $30,000 a month through early payment discounts, and those programs are possible because of the automation of their accounts payable processes.

Automating the AP system from start to finish creates the efficiencies that can lead to programs like early payment discounts, which in turn only strengthens the manufacturer-supplier relationship. AP automation touches every person in the system, from the accounts payable specialist and manager to the controller, treasurer, and CFO, reducing the amount of clerical work, making it easier to monitor team performance and budget compliance, managing payments and gaining visibility into spending.

Data needed for every step in the AP process can more accurately and quickly be collected, invoices can be sent out on a timelier basis and payments can be expedited to ensure that business between manufacturers and suppliers can continue to hum smoothly. Communication between vendors and their suppliers is improved through vendor access to self-service portals, and the archiving of data at every stage of the AP process can allow real-time reporting and analytics, giving buyers the information they need regarding their business relationships, including the vendors they’re buying from and how much they’re spending.

The greater efficiency means that manufacturer representatives can spend less time fielding calls about the status of invoices and payments, and any disputes that do arise can be more quickly resolved. This means more time spent nurturing and strengthening the crucial relationships with their suppliers, ensuring smooth partnerships moving forward.

Trek Bicycle Reduces DSO Thanks to Esker’s Global Collections Management Solution

Sydney, Australia — April 10, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced that Trek Bicycle, the largest bicycle company in the United States, has automated its global collections management process using Esker’s cloud-based solution powered by TermSync technology. The initiative went live in March 2017 and is currently being released to Trek customers in Europe and the United Kingdom. 

Trek has 16 international distribution centers and 5,000 independent bicycle dealers around the world, with 60 percent of its business coming from abroad. With Esker, the company finally has a global collections management solution, utilised by 32 collectors in 18 offices worldwide, to streamline critical accounts receivable (AR) activities such as payment reminders, account lookups, call logging, customer portal payments, collections forecasting, root-cause analysis and task management collaboration.

“We didn’t have a standardised collections tool before Esker,” said Andrew St Clair, global director of financial services at Trek Bicycle. “Everyday tasks, like sending reminder letters, were all done manually. We made it work, but there was no real consistency in our process. It was crucial that we had a true global solution and the other credit and collections vendors just didn’t have Esker’s international expertise.”

In an effort to meet its customer’s needs, Esker partnered closely with Trek to translate the interface into 14 different languages and even helpedin the design of a more user-friendly statement to send to customers. “Our worldwide rollout was a huge deal, and Esker kept up with us every step of the way,” added St Clair. “It was a true partnership.”

Benefits of automated collections management

Following the implementation of Esker, Trek has achieved numerous benefits, including:

  1. Reduced past-due percentage by 4 percent
  2. Reduced Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)
  3. Improved collaboration — users can now go into
    dashboards have helped in my day-to-day work, giving me access to indicators that greatly facilitate my daily monitoring.”
  4. Enhanced visibility — customisable monthly management reports can be accessed directly from the dashboard
  5. Increased productivity — several staff members were able to be reallocated to more business-critical positons
  6. Higher satisfaction — customers now have access to a self-service portal to make payments, manage preferences and more

“The discipline that Esker drives in the credit and collections process is phenomenal,” said St Clair. “In my 20-plus years, it’s the best product I’ve ever used based on its simplicity and ease of navigating. Esker has been extremely well-received within the walls of Trek and even with our customers. Everything we thought we were doing right before … Esker’s simply made it better.”

About Trek Bicycle

Trek Bicycle is a global leader in the design and manufacture of bicycles and bicycling-related products and accessories. From Tour de France-winning road bikes to tricycles designed to introduce the next generation of riders to the possibilities of pedal-power, Trek has a bike for nearly every rider. Trek believes the bicycle can be a simple solution to many of the world’s most complex problems, including obesity, traffic congestion, and climate change, and is committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent people from using bicycles more often for daily transportation, recreation, and inspiration.

Debunking the Myths of Sales Order Processing Automation

“We are already automated” is a common phrase many manufacturers and suppliers say consistently when I first start talking with them. At first, I was blown away by how quickly so many companies were adapting to this new digital order processing technology, but as conversations continued this proved to be incorrect.

For many organizations, being automated refers to back-end processes once a sales order is entered into the ERP system. For example: sending out a confirmation email with ship date, determining if a customer is in good standing with credit, ensuring stock is available, etc.

While it’s fantastic to have as much automated as you can on the back end, what about the front end? Would it be useful to have your orders automatically routed to the right person and no longer have to print or file them away? What improvements could come from customer service if they no longer had to manually key in all those sales orders that come in each day? Would it help supply chain performance if they had full visibility to all orders before they got into your ERP?

Some companies think they are automated because they use EDI. At face value, this makes sense. The EDI order comes in, seamlessly feeds into your ERP (i.e., no one sees or touches it) and your front end is 100% automated — awesome! Unfortunately, this is essentially a myth all of its own.

Companies can’t get 100% of their customers to send in EDI orders. There will always be those customers who prefer email or even fax. Even for those customers who are willing to send in EDI orders, it’s practically an IT project to simply get each customer onboarded; even then, companies typically still need to “touch” some of the EDI orders because they fail out. Also, for many organizations, it’s left up to IT and their already-strained resources to determine why the EDI order failed.

So … just how automated are you with EDI? For each company the answer will be different but, regardless, you will still have some fax and email orders coming in, and you will still have to manually touch at least some of the EDI orders. Could it be helpful to have a solution that can take in EDI exceptions, flip them into a human-readable format, and allow customer service to fix and handle the EDI errors? What if IT no longer had to onboard new EDI customers — could this be beneficial?

A funny thing happened as all these questions were being asked. Organizations who thought they were very well automated started realizing there were still many manual touch points in their process in need of automation. As digital order processing technology continues to advance, it now offers organizations the opportunity to revolutionize their customer service teams while, at the same time, removing the burden of EDI away from IT.

So, the next time someone brings up sales order processing automation, don’t be afraid to dig below the surface, you may be surprised just how helpful a solution like this could be.

Center of Gravity

Recently, I came across an excellent blog from one of our partners, Intelestream. The post was about  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and some things to consider when implementing a CRM solution. Something that really jumped out to me was what Intelestream referred to as the “Center of Gravity.” By this, they mean that in every business environment the workflow will revolve around two or three key pieces of software that have a huge impact on the business.

Where this can become a problem for a company is if the software being used is the wrong tool for the job. What can make it worse is that the longer employees have been using any software, the more resistant they are trying something new. This is true even if the new software solution is specifically designed for their business process and has obvious advantages. Changing the Center of Gravity within a department is not easy but it is an important consideration when looking to implement any new software application and ultimately improve how a department does business.

Here is an example. Many companies use Outlook for their email. This is a very effective tool for communicating, however, it is not always the right tool for the job. I have seen a number of companies that use a shared inbox to receive and manage orders that their customers send to them via email. Outlook is great but it was never designed to be a queue for processing incoming orders. There are limitations when you have the wrong tool as your department’s center of gravity. In this example, the critical information is on an attachment. It is not easy to search of a specific attachment or priorities orders. You may see hundreds of emails but how many are orders? How many customers asking for express shipping? Besides the limitations with any tool that is not designed for this specific business process, you also have limitations and the communication with other applications or interoperability. To learn more, check out the blog: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Manage Your Business Process via Email.

If you are looking to improve operations within your company ask a department what is their Center of Gravity. Then ask yourself is that the right tool for the job? Consider what this department could accomplish if they had the proper tools for the job.

eCommerce and the Digital Journey

With spending 15 years of my career in the eCommerce space, I’ve learned a lot along the way. One thing that has stuck with me is no matter how much a company believes the business case that this is going to be the only solution they need, you can’t force it.

You see, there is another entity involved that the company doesn’t control — its customers. For example, one of my chemical industry clients created a whole eCommerce site to sell its low-margin products. If a customer wanted that product they would have to buy through that portal. Other companies create significant campaigns to transition their customers to eCommerce, highlighting the benefits to the customer and offering discounts if they buy from their site. All of these are legitimate strategies, because, in today’s world, an eCommerce channel is a must.

The problem is an eCommerce channel is not going to work for all customers. Some of them are large, drive a majority of revenue, and want to buy through EDI so that the systems can talk to each other with no human intervention. Other customers have ERP systems that are spitting out their POs and they don’t want to re-key orders, or upload a spreadsheet to a website. Some industries have customers that don’t have the capabilities, nor do they want to deviate from what’s been working during the course of their relationship with you: sending their orders via email or fax (yes, there is still a lot of faxing going on).

Digital transformation usually begins with EDI and eCommerce sites, but it doesn’t end there. If neither of those channels work, email and fax orders can be placed into your ERP after validation checks for accuracy — all without manual intervention. This gives companies cross-departmental visibility to everything in the order pipeline, the ability to easily measure KPIs, and the actionable intelligence necessary to address priorities or concerns in real-time before they become big issues.

In today’s world, the customer experience is king. Figuring out how to efficiently cater to them is every companies’ challenge. Sometimes the easiest paths are overlooked for those more glamorous. It reminds me of a song I learned in Girl Scouts that says “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Every channel is important in its own way and can co-exist to provide a truly exceptional approach to business.

Promega France Enters the E-Commerce Era with Esker’s Accounts Receivable Solution

Sydney, Australia — February 27, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with Promega France, a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry, to automate its accounts receivable (AR) process in anticipation for the e-invoicing to public administration requirements scheduled to take affect in 2019. Thanks to Esker’s cloud-based Accounts Receivable solution, Promega France has been able to modernize its invoice processing process and improve customer service efficiency.

“By automating our AR process, we have taken an essential step into the era of e-commerce,” said Annick Dahlem, customer service manager at Promega France. “Esker has not only enabled us to improve and simplify our accounting process, but has also allowed us to prepare for upcoming changes. We particularly appreciate the collaboration with Esker France which facilitates our relationship with the support team.”

Benefits of AR automation

The solution was implemented in just six weeks and has enabled Promega France to send customer invoices as soon as they are prepared by email (in PDF format) or postal mail from Esker’s production facility. Fully integrated with Promega France’s SAP® ERP system, Esker’s solution also facilitates invoice tracking and archiving via an intuitive web interface available to all company stakeholders.

Since implementing Esker’s solution, Promega France has achieved numerous benefits, including:

  • Improved customer service representative (CSR) performance, freeing them up to spend more time on higher-value tasks
  • Increased efficiency when searching for invoices thanks to electronic archiving
  • Better information sharing — everyone involved in the process can collaborate on the same invoice
  • Improved activity tracking through customizable dashboards
  • Implemented sustainable development in the invoice routing process

“Over a quarter of our private sector customers now receive their invoices in PDF format, a welcomed approach that will most certainly continue to increase,” said Dahlem. “Esker’s customizable dashboards have helped in my day-to-day work, giving me access to indicators that greatly facilitate my daily monitoring.”

Thanks to Esker’s solution interoperability with Chorus Pro, the French public administration platform, Promega France can confidently anticipate mandatory e-invoicing to public administrations in January 2019. The public sector represents close to 70 percent of Promega France’s order volume.

About Promega

Promega Corporation is a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry. The company’s 3,500 products enable scientists worldwide to advance their knowledge in genomics, proteomics, cellular analysis, drug discovery and human identification. Founded in 1978, the company is headquartered in Madison, WI, USA, with branches in 16 countries and over 50 global distributors. Promega France has been present in the Lyon region since 1992 with 45 employees, and many distributors in overseas France, Maghreb, Egypt, Greece and sub-Saharan Africa.

 

IPC Global Solutions Processes Orders Faster and More Accurately with Esker’s Cloud-Based Solution

Sydney, Australia — February 20, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced that IPC Global Solutions, a manufacturer and distributor of automotive aftermarket filters and wiper blades, has automated its order management functions using Esker’s Order Processing solution. Implemented in the cloud, the solution is integrated with the company’s SYSPRO ERP system. 

Receiving more than 350 monthly orders in a variety of formats (e.g., EDI, fax, email, etc.), IPC’s process of entering orders by hand was costly and inefficient — particularly the duplicate data entry it took to create an internal purchase order for the company’s own manufacturing and distribution sites overseas. Some orders were up to 300 lines and took over 30 minutes to process, placing a burden on the company’s Customer Support Representatives (CSRs).

To help IPC handle the significant increase in business it was experiencing, it sought a solution that would accelerate order processing, reduce administrative spend and scale with the company. Esker’s solution met IPC’s needs and more, offering a superior easy-to-use interface, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology and a broad range of functionality at a better price than the competition.

Benefits from automated order management

Since implementing Esker’s Order Processing solution, IPC has achieved substantial benefits, such as:

  • Faster order processing: what previously took five to 30 minutes now takes two minutes or fewer.
  • Increased accuracy: OCR, combined with machine learning technology, has boosted order entry accuracy.
  • Improved customer relationships: orders are now being received more quickly and accurately.
  • Centralized workflow: all orders are accessible on a single platform and no longer tied to a single person, allowing others to step in when an employee is out of the office.
  • Expedited shipping: faster processing means orders are now shipped almost a day earlier.
  • Freed-up staff time: employees are able to focus on higher-value tasks, like a future Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system update.

“We had a staff member who was hesitant to make the transition to Esker’s solution,” said Darlene Mancuso, customer support manager at IPC Global Solutions. “Now that we’ve implemented it, she tells us she doesn’t know how she ever did her work without Esker. Our employees enjoy using the solution.”

About IPC Global Solutions

IPC Global Solutions, headquartered in Taunton, MA, is a leader in the private label filter and wiper blade business. With a 35-year heritage of supporting the very best names in the automotive aftermarket, IPC has built its success on delivering quality products and service to customers around the world. IPC is an ISO 9001:2008 certified company with manufacturing and distribution facilities in the United States and China.

Are You Losing the Potential Energy From Your Customer Orders?

A strategy of continuous improvement in the supply chain is necessary in order to maintain competitiveness in the world of med-device and hi-tech manufacturing. These specialized industries have highly experienced and educated customer service and inside sales staff that, often times, spend too much time trying to manage customer orders. What if, instead of expending energy on managing these orders, you could collect the order data and let that energy work for your organization?

Most of the organizations I work with are receiving some combination of orders via EDI, fax, central orders email box and phone. And then there are the orders coming from e-commerce sites, customer portals, and EDI transactions that are rejected by their ERPs. Sales guy Bob struggles with control issues, so his customers send their orders directly to his email box, not the general order box. All of a sudden, the omni-channel customer ordering experience becomes less of a way to help your customers and more of a risk for orders to be misplaced, accidentally deleted, and slow to enter the supply chain.

Med-device and high-tech manufacturers have the added complexity of an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions. Say a site in Pennsylvania is running SAP, that one in Washington is running Oracle, and the site in Houston is running AS400. Not only are orders coming in through multiple channels, they are routed to different ERPs. With order information spread out across an organization, it is extremely difficult for operations, treasury, supply chain, and executive leadership to have access to accurate organizational reporting. Manual reporting is rarely accurate reporting, and the results of demand planning based on it can be disastrous.

Forward-thinking organizations are investing in a singular platform for all orders, regardless of the way their customers find it easiest to send orders and to which ERP those orders are heading. With advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computing power, Esker is helping those organizations mine data from orders and provide visibility into orders as soon as they arrive. No more mishandled orders, inaccurate reporting, or surprise trends. Bonus kicker? The reporting power is in the hands of the users. No more submitting an IT ticket requesting someone else to magically dig information out of your ERP on their timeline.

With the omni-channel growing in complexity, it is important to have control and visibility into all customer orders to balance and accelerate the customer-centric supply chain cycle. Automating processes is the goal for many med-device and hi-tech manufacturers, but to what end? You can build a business case based on efficiency gains, but a complete order management platform touches so many other aspects of the supply chain. The ability to handle demand spikes and sudden rises in order volume, increased employee morale (leading to a better customer experience), a reduction in order-entry errors entering the supply chain, and a significant improvement in the cost to serve are just a handful of the realizations organizations experience when truly harnessing the power of their inbound orders.