One of the big barriers to electronic invoicing is persuading suppliers to sign on. E-commerce solution provider Basware has launched a new cloud platform, Alusta, that the company says makes it easier for suppliers to adopt e-invoicing.
Basware, based in Finland, already offered a software-as-a-service version of its e-procurement and e-invoicing products. But John Webster, Basware’s vice president of global product marketing, says Alusta “has been built from the bottom up to be a fully multitenant cloud solution, as well as a solution that can be taken by a large corporate and installed behind their firewall.”
The multitenant aspect means Basware can give companies more flexibility. “Small organizations can start with a scaled-down version, very simple accounts payable automation,” Webster says. “As you grow as a business, you can select a bigger package with more capabilities.” Companies are paying only for what they use, he says, and “you can start small, grow fast, even retract if you have to.”
If a company’s suppliers aren’t ready to e-invoice, Basware will take paper invoices from the suppliers and scan and convert them. It also has virtual printing technology, where companies hit a print button and Basware captures that stream of data and converts it into whatever format the recipient of the invoice uses. Webster notes, though, that Basware doesn’t see such measures as the end goal.
“We often contractually commit to continue to move a percentage of those customers sending paper to scan and capture onto pure e-invoicing,” he says.
Scott Pezza, a research analyst in the financial management and GRC practice at Aberdeen Group, says anything Basware and other vendors can do to get more suppliers on board is a plus. “If that’s the use of cloud technology to lower those adoption barriers, then that will be great,” Pezza says.
But he notes that Aberdeen’s research suggests companies are focusing first on improving their internal processes. While Aberdeen’s survey shows 60% of companies that didn’t have an electronic invoicing in place said they planned to adopt one, companies evidenced greater interest in products like performance dashboards and business intelligence that aim to improve internal-facing process efficiency, Pezza says.
Webster says Alusta also combines not only procure-to-pay and order-to-cash processes but areas like expense management and travel management, and he argues that that range can benefit companies with multiple back-end systems that make it hard for them to get a single view of their spending and cash position. With Alusta, “they now have that single view, and they have a single database not only to improve usability but visibility,” says Webster, who's pictured at left.
Alusta also has a social collaboration tool that lets staffers chat with their colleagues about particular invoices or purchases. And executives can access Alusta on their mobile devices and perform certain tasks, such as approving invoices.
Basware takes an “open network” approach: It has connections to 130 networks worldwide and is willing to link its customers not only with other Basware customers but with any of the 1.9 million businesses on those 130 networks, while dealing with any data conversion issues involved. In 2011, Basware transferred 20.8 million e-invoice records, up 53% from 2010, and those records represented $175 billion in spending.
Aberdeen’s Pezza agrees that interest in e-invoicing is growing. He cites an Aberdeen study showing that high-performing companies get 52% of their purchase orders electronically, issue 64% of their invoices electronically and get 57% of their payments electronically, all much higher percentages than for other companies. “The example being set by high-performing organizations, that’s really pushing people,” he says.