Sunday, April 30, 2006

42% of UK Small Businesses feel left in the lurch after purchasing technology

On January 2006, Cisco reported "British small businesses are receiving inadequate customer support and intelligence prior to making crucial technology buying decisions. According to the survey of 400 UK small businesses, the majority of small businesses (42%) feel left in the lurch after purchasing technology, due to insufficient post-sales support or training."

I came across this article on blog, and the author of blog comments " I think the above can be caused by the standard VAR (value added reseller) model, whereby the emphasis (and majority of the income and therefore profit) is centred on the initial sale with less attention given to the post sales period which is traditionally less profitable. The Software as a Service (SaaS) model should help to rectify this by having an income model which is interested in the long term for ongoing revenues (and less based on the initial income) which should ensure a better post sale and support experience. "

Spot on. ebdex Document Exchange is offered as a SaaS without any capital outlay or upfront subscription fees. Whilst we would sign each client for a three-year period, our revenue more or less dependent on the usage, which ensures we deliver a superior customer service. This is far better method than what can be achieved by licensed software model. The business case for SaaS is increasingly being accepted by both larger and small organisations.

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Sony Ericsson P990i - the waiting game

I have been awaiting for this phone since back end of last year. Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse is promising delivery in May 06. I am not sure I believe any of them, as they both promised delivery in Q1 06 before.

What do you use and why? I am looking for an alternative if SE 990i is further delayed. David, thanks for your suggestions through Skype and your blog.

Update 1: Signed up with O2 and got XDA Mini S. Vodafone just lost me as a customer, as they were not flexible enough to upgrade my phone free and sign up for a higher tariff. Looks like customer retention does not form a strategic part of their business. Pity!! In ebdex customer retention is No. 1. That's how our organisational culture will be built!

Ok. So what do I think about my new phone whilst its being charged. I have been told it has the same functionality of its big brother, the over weight XDA Exec. But XDA Mini S, is not a 3G phone. Will I notice the difference! No, as my old phone is GSM and I never used it for e-mails or web acess.

I know how I will spend my time tomorrow!!!

Update 2 It took me at least good 1/2 day to get the phone going. First, they had to e-mail me two files to set-up internet and e-mail access. O2 could have easily enclosed the contents of these two e-mails with the phone. I heard from other owners of having similar problems. My firewall stop synchronising with MS Outlook. O2 helped me sort this out by reading a help page from MS website.

I am disappointed with phone's ringing tones. I suppose these can be downloaded. Overall, very happy! I am hoping this will last..

HSBC Launches Accounts Payable Integration

Continuing from my previous article, Two Heavy Weights enter EIPP market, GT News reported in March that HSBC has launched A/P integration service. HSBC calls this service, Accounts Payable Integration (API). I wish they chose a different name. In our industry, API stands for Application Programme Interface. APIs are needed to build interfaces between different programmes, for example, connecting ebdex Document Exchange to Access Accouting, Mamut, Oracle or any other.

"HSBC API is an integrated accounts payable solution, the first in a series of a new suite of accounts payable solutions launched by HSBC. The platform accepts all types of invoice in whatever format, including paper and e-mail, and converts them into a useable data format as required by the accounts payable industry."

So, who is providing the technical know-how to HSBC? Could this be Bottomline Technologies? In Mar 05, GT News reported, Bottomline becoming the sole supplier to HSBC for providing BACTSEL-IP solutions. Both parties have at least been working together for 5 years.

Perhaps, its worth tracking development (relationships - perhaps not full EIPP offerings yet) within the banking sector (free research for our competitors!):
  1. Lloyds TSB with Causeway
  2. Deutsche Bank with Computer Sciences Corporation
  3. Royal Bank of Scotland with Accountis
  4. HSBC with Bottomline Technologies
  5. Nordea
  6. DnB
So, what is Barclays, Bank of Scotland, NatWest (part of RBS) and others are up to?

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

On Death Bed - How do you want to be remembered?

I learned yesterday that one of my business acquaintances father in law has passed away after illness. My wife also lost number of her family over the years. It is taking her a long time to come to terms with her losses. This got me thinking. How do I want to be remembered? What thoughts do I want to have just before I die? Obviously, we all want to be loved, and want to give the best possible opportunities for our kids. If you take family and close friends out of the question, what then?

I think I want to be remembered for leaving a legacy. How does one go about creating a legacy? My simple approach is to create a business (not an empire - would be nice though!) that at least the next generation can participate in. Is this ebdex? Time will tell, as this is my first business. Whilst the scope is there, is the structure flexible enough to allow internal change to meet future needs. I think the answer is yes. ebdex was set-up completely different to most other IT companies. In fact, ebdex is not an IT company. It is a commercial organisation with an Internet based technology solution offering. ebdex was set-up with two intentions, be the highest performing company in our market sector delivering superior customer service and be in tune to market needs (customer-centric market driven company). Obviously, we have to prove this point to our stakeholders. Only then can we truly claim "customer-centric market-driven" company status. The organisational culture must reflect this throughout from the most junior to the most senior. The organisation must also believe it can achieve this status. Only then can one have a chance of achieving it.

OK, so we want to be customer-centric and market-driven. What about product and operations? What about sales? Do we also want to remain lean? This is where we need our partners. ebdex believes in sharing risks and rewards with our partners. Can we get our partners to buy-in to the organisational culture we promote? What skills do we need to achieve this vision? Many questions...

I truly believe ebdex has a unique opportunity to change many aspects of the game. We must build the right framework today to allow that grand vision to be realised tomorrow. So if we do all that, will I be able to leave a legacy? Perhaps!!! What about you?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Should Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) be taken seriously?

I just came home from attending a lecture given by my friend, Felix Martin, Alum of Manchester Business School on CSR. For simplicity, he titled the presentation "Should psychology of CSR permeate management decision making?". Felix is corporate counsel at GE Commercial Finance. Based on the case studies and discussions that took place, I split companies generally into:

  1. Those who does not have the budget or has the inclination to see benefits CSR brings
  2. Those who has a budget but are bad executioners due to lack of senior management buy-in
  3. Those who build it into organisational culture, thereby using CSR to achieve competitive advantage

In my books, GE falls into the 3rd category. This is mainly due to the existing culture. GE wants to be the leaders in whatever they do. Therefore, senior management has taken CSR into the heart of the organisation.

Felix was kind enough to depart with the following image:

All I want to say with this image is that at the centre, we have "be open and transparent". Isn't that blogging!

ebdex continues to adopt an open and transparent policy - hence the start of this blog to get that message informally out into the public domain.

The image infact address two issues, corporate governance and CSR. Can you guess which squares applies to which?

How can a young company like ebdex promote CSR? Do we have time to even allocate few hours to discuss such? Perhaps not! But we can run the organisation as ethically as one can. Perhaps adapting BASDA code of practise is one way towards that goal. This is strictly not CSR, but it is in the right direction.

I will leave you with a quote from GE's Jeff Immelt "if you want to be the most admired company of the 21st century, you have to not just perform, hit your numbers, be great, but you also have to have a real connection with the world, be good". Doesn't this simply boil down to common sense?

If you are interested, further information on CSR can be found through Business in the Community website. Few interesting blogs on CSR: McDonalds and CSR in China.

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Sage Visma and Hg Capital

Few weeks ago, David Terrar and I got excited by the news of Sage eyeing Norwegian Visma, who we thought had a SaaS model. But now it emegered that Hg Capital may have beaten Sage in acquiring Visma. I see participation of private equity in accounts/ERP/EIPP as a positive step, given that ebdex is also seeking private equity funding.

It is worth analysing the portfolio of Hg Capital to understand the threat they pose to Sage, in putting a barrier to increasing Sage's dominance. Some of technology investments include:

  1. Addison Software - German Accountancy and business software software.
  2. Burns e-Commerce Solutions - competitor of ours, right in our neighbourhood. Do they know us, perhaps not yet!
  3. Checkpoint - another sort of competitor - now sold to Bottomline Technologies who competes with us in EIPP sector.
  4. IRIS Software - Accounting and business software - We need to establish partnership agreement with them

Visma might be the largest investment todate within the technology sector. What is the overall game plan? Sage does not have an EIPP product yet! They seem to be pushing Sage Transaction E-mail at present to address the gap. Does this mean Hg Capital is one step above Sage? Time will tell, who got the right strategy.

Getting mentioned on other blogs

I think this is my 13th blog. So thought of finding out who reads my blogs. So far only Dennis Howlett and David Terrar have mentioned my blogging activities on their blogs. Thanks guys. Is there a way to track who reads my blogs? Much appreciated for any help anyone can give. I am still learning "blogging"

Update 1 (17/05/06): To my amazement, this blog has now ranked at 733,456 on Technorati. Some achievement, given I only started blogging last month

Two Heavy Weights enter EIPP market

I just came across this article: Deutsche Bank and CSC launch electronic corporate invoicing service. Should we be scared! Hell no!! This confirms that market is ready for such innovative solutions.

Analysing the story....the solution seems to be aimed at Euro Top 1000. It is right for these two companies Deutsche Bankand Computer Sciences Corporation) to join forces together, as one complements the other. Deutsche Bank would never be able to operate an EIPP system alone without a technology specialists, who has experience of integrating complex ERP systems.

The solution is internet based, which is a positive. I presume it is offered as an enterprise solution. Refer to my article on EIPP segmentation. I agree with Steve Mitchener's statement "will deliver significant business results to those corporations that have the ultimate objective of truly integrating their financial supply chain". Recently, we at ebdex, have been speaking a lot about closing the financial supply chain.

Lloyds TSB has been offering similar services for number of years through technology provider Causeway. I believe this is a cash cow for Causeway. Philip, I like the new website (easy to navigate - not too sure about the orange) and new identity.

Of course, ebdex also have a desire to offer ebdex Document Exchange through a commercial bank. But first things first!!

I need to further investigate Nordea and DnB Nor offerings - especially to understand the technology providers.

Accountis also have an affiliation with Royal Bank of Scotland. HSBC has also recently been making statements regarding EIPP. Perhaps there is competition looming within the banks.

Update 1: Ovum finally covers the story in more details.

The solution comprises several modules, including electronic invoice creation, invoice dispatch to the debtor, intelligent (online) workflow solutions for invoice approval and/or dispute resolution, and helpdesk services. This combination of modules covers the entire invoicing process centrally for any location worldwide, and is able to handle a wide range of differing invoice formats (as specified by the creditor/debtor) as well as meeting the regulatory specifications required by different countries.

The first customer is due to go live in June 2006.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Zoli Erdos - Entrepreneurship and early-stage funding

I recently came across Zoli Erdos through Dennis Howlett's blog. Zoli writes extensively about entrepreneurship and early-stage funding. Couple of interesting articles I found from his site include:

  • Why Startups Shouldn't Bother About NDA's - This article took me to Dharmesh Shah's blog. Another guy who has done it and can proudly wear the T-shirt. Just dropped an introductory e-mail to Dharmesh. Need to identify synergies between the two businesses. With regards to NDAs, I still demand signing a NDA before going into lengthy discussion about ebdex. However, this does not always work with VCs, as they generally refuse signing such documents, let alone NDAs. I also know a friend, who is very protective of her idea and would not even reveal to me, after discussing many aspects of start-ups for well over a year. Also in the same article, Zoli states a very valid point "I mostly work with software startups, and I think it’s safe enough to claim that in this field concepts do not get funded. You need a prototype – partial functionality, alpha, demo (not slides!) ..etc, and some form of market / customer validation. Anything less is just fluff." I fully agree with him given the first hand experience now I have.
  • Blogging Essential for your Career - Not sure whether I fully agree, as blogging is time consuming. So you need to understand what ROI do you expect. So far, my experiences have been positive. I need to turn these positive experiences to commercial success. One might be with David Terrar. Time will tell.
  • Enterprise SaaS Startups from an Investor's Point of View - "It takes 70% to 100% more capital to fund a SaaS company to break-even than a traditional perpetual license company. It also takes 2 to 3 times longer to get there.” I am not sure that I agree with this statement. I assume the speaker has real experience to come up with these figures. Our business model is radically different. Cannot comment too much here without that all important NDA!! According to Zoli, "only SaaS gets funded today". I wish I am based in Silicon Valley!
  • Software 2006: Questioning the McKinsey Study - "Two major business models are vying for a growing share of software spend: Software as a Service and Open Source. …SaaS has already gained traction in number of application areas – such as payroll, human capital management, CRM, conferencing, procurement, logistics, information services, and e-commerce) – and should make gains across a much broader cross-section of applications over the next 3 years. Out of 34 application areas we have examined, only nine are unlikely to see some SaaS adoption over through 2008”. McKinsey identifies "document and records management" as an area that is unlike to be offered as a SaaS. This is the closest area ebdex comes into, and our offer is SaaS and we are in EIPP market.

I now have a RSS feed from Zoli's blog. Hope you enjoyed above - this proves that if you do not have anything worth saying, talk about somebody else's blog. Perhaps I will write about business plans tomorrow, as I just finished updating ours! Good night!

Who else blogs on EIPP or e-invoicing

I have tried to find other bloggers blogging on my favourite subject, i.e. EIPP and e-invoicing. If you do come across any, please let me know.

I found this article from Rich Miller's blog dated 02 July 2003 why old tech is beating new in B2B bill payment. Surely, there must be others out there in the wilderness telling stories about EIPP!

Update 1: 30 April 06:

I came across an article on ebdex on Blog. Key theme "The move to a near paperless office and more importantly the avoidance of data entry of information that is held elsewhere (usually with your supplier) still seems a long way off." Update: Now I know who wrote this article...

Update 2: 16 May 06
  1. Spend Matters - the business blog for spend management sponsored by Ariba and Procuri written by Jason Busch
  2. Justin Sully - Strategy Consultant of Ariba
  3. Tim Minahan - Supply Excellence - sponsored by Procuri

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Version One & Routes to Market

I recently had the pleasure to visit Version One, which provides document management, imaging, electronic fax, email and forms software. I have been meaning to visit them for over a year, as they are located in Poynton, few miles from where I live. What is noticeable is that Version One has been recognised as one of the fastest growing companies in the EMEA by Deloitte. In fact they have won many awards than one can remember.

Interesting point to note is that Version One has achieved significant success rate with its reseller network. What is the optimum route to market for a software product, licensed as well as SaaS? As far as I know Coda does not use resellers. Yet they are a significant player within the accounts/financial system market. Most of the other players including Sage has adopted a strategy of using resellers. Therefore, what lessons can ebdex learn from these two case studies and what should be our own route to market? Our success depends on achieving the right balance between direct in-house sales and indirect sales. I appreciate receiving any views you may have.

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Impact of key person falling ill

Since setting up of ebdex on 25 Nov 04, I fell ill (flu bug - not a common cold) seriously resulting in out of action for whole of last week. I have been trying to assess the impact this had on ebdex, as I am that individual who keeps the ship sailing in the right direction. We are at a critical juncture where Mark and I are steering the company to eventual product launch in Q2 06. Loosing couple of days can be davastating to a company in our predicament, i.e. product testing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

EIPP Market - Segmentation

EIPP market can be split into four segments, these being: supplier-centric (sending invoices electronically from A/R systems), buyer-centric (receiving invoices electronically into A/P systems), enterprise-centric (sending and receiving invoices electronically from/into A/R and A/P systems - a customised solution usually based on ERP solution) and exchanges.

The first three types generally cater for one party, usually the dominant player to the cost of its trading partners. They also provide partial solutions, which limits benefits that could be gained by parties involved in a transaction. The enterprise (and DIY) solutions are costly due to underlying ERP solutions and high consultancy fees usually charged by system integrators (including VARs, management consultancies, etc).

Exchanges have emerged over the last six years. Some of early exchanges have become supplier networks catering predominantly for larger purchasers, e.g. Ariba. Some are industry specific and caters for large buyers and tier 1 suppliers (e.g. Exostar for A&D industry and Covisint for Automotive industry). Some have become e-procurement platforms used by large retailers, e.g. Marrakech.

However, a number of true non sector based exchanges have emerged that cater for both end of a transaction (i.e. buyer and purchaser) equally irrespective of their size or geographically, i.e. they offer the same functionality to both parties. ebdex Document Exchange is such an EIPP solution. I truly believe that success of such a solutions lie when they can be offered to both large and small companies, where both parties gain substantial benefits, be they reducing of debtor days, early payment discounts, corporate governance, upto date information for sound decision making or improving trading partner relationships.

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Problem with e-invoicing

Do you use an e-invoicing solution? Is your solution simply based on sending an invoice via e-mail? Have you thought of what happens when this e-mail or e-mail attachment is received by the recipient? Unless the same system format is used by both the sending party and the receiving party, the invoice information cannot be easily interpreted by the receiving party's accounting/ERP system.

This results in recieving party having to re-key invoice data manually into the A/P system, duplication of effort leading to potential re-keying errors and delays. This method whilst may include buzz words like "e-invoicing" has no clear advantage than sending by post or fax other than in reducing the delivery time. Sage's Transaction E-mail as mentioned earlier is such a solution. It works well if both ends have compatible Sage systems.

Where as e-invoicing or EIPP systems that integrate tightly with accounts/ERP systems allow invoice data to flow from the sending party's A/R system to receiving party's A/P system without having to re-enter the invoice data. These systems can add significant benefit to both parties. E.g. headcount reduction.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What is e-invoicing or EIPP?

It is worth understanding what EIPP (or e-invoicing) means if you are thinking of stream-lining your Accounts Payable (A/P) and/or Accounts Receivable (A/R) function(s). Unfortunately, wikipedia does not have a definition or information on EIPP or e-invoicing yet. Google search defines EIPP as follows:

Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP). EIPP refers to the invoicing and payment process between businesses, or B2B applications, over the Internet and typically via a third-party EIPP vendor. See EIPP under Technology in the Main Topics section.

EIPP is an American term now used in UK and stands for Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment. Its definition includes three functions; an electronic invoice (sending an invoice electronically from A/R system), presentment of the sent invoice (on line and/or on the recipient's A/P system) and a facility for handling payment for the approved invoice. Modern EIPP solutions use internet technologies to achieve these three functions cost effectively.

On the other hand e-invoicing means sending an invoice electronically. This could be through a number of mediums (e.g. via e-mail). Most accounts and ERP systems can easily achieve this functionality without using a third party provider, e.g. Sage's Transaction E-mail.

ebdex Document Exchange or more accurately, ebdex EIPP, is such an EIPP solution. There are only a handful of players in the UK market offering innovative EIPP solutions.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Do you need to be inspired to start blogging?

Recently (actually 22/03/06) I attended BASDA CEO/AGM event, where number of speakers presented thier blogging experiences. Having read, Dennis Keeling's blog prior to this event, it was fascinating to learn the key reason why Dennis started his blog (simply to get a clearer informal message to his audience - BASDA members, press, etc).

From Dennis Keeling's blog, I came across professional blogger, Dennis Howlett. Dennis has immense knowledge of the software industry, especially of the accounts and ERP sector. After a lengthy discussion, it became clearer to me that if used wisely blogging may infact help ebdex Document Exchange establish its brand identity quickly - basically allowing more people to be aware of ebdex than otherwise possible without departing large sums of cash.

From Dennis Howlett's blog, I came across David Terrar, CEO of D²C Limited and Twinfield UK. David has launched Twinfield in UK recently, which is expected to revolutionise the way accounts software is used. Twinfield is another SaaS product. Let's continue our discussions David, who knows where this might lead to...

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Start of this blog

I started this blog to share my thoughts and views on Electronic Invoicing Presentment and Payment (EIPP) industry in general and the development of ebdex Document Exchange which addresses a number of corporate pains felt by both SMEs as well as multi-nationals.

ebdex's overall goal is to understand the market, as it changes and respond proactively at a faster pace than any of other whilst delivering a superior service second to none to all our clients irrespective of their size or geography.

I appreciate you joining me in our journey...


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