June 11, 2013
A few years ago I was an advise to BillFlo – a company that aimed to bring EDI kicking and screaming into the modern age. The premise behind BillFlo (later acquired by Taulia) was that organizations have a real need for a system that allows them to have a common approach towards invoicing so that whatever system of record the organization was using would recognize invoices from other organizations’ systems. In the same way that the Babel Fish in the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy helped everyone understand conversations regardless of language, so too would BilFlo “translate” invoices. I was always bullish about this space, in part because I believe that in the future organizations will use many different systems of record – thus the inefficiencies caused by manually entering invoice information would necessitate the adoption of some kind of interfacing technology.
Enter Nipendo which recently announced an end-to-end system for automatic invoice reconciliation. The idea of Nipendo is to replace paper based systems, and electronic systems that merely replicate the way paper based systems work, with a system that truly bridges the gap between supplier and customer. The Nipendo Supplier Cloud is a plug-and-play solution that allows rapid onboarding of suppliers and the creation of electronic procurement and invoicing from the enterprise to the supplier ecosystem.
So, what actual functionality does Nipendo offer?
- Instant Invoice Reconciliation – When a supplier submits an invoice, it is validated for data accuracy and compliance with the buyer’s requirements. In addition to data validation, invoices are matched with purchase orders and receiving records. Buyers can process close to 100% of the invoices straight through to their ERP system
- On-the-fly Invoice Correction – Nipendo allows suppliers to correct invoices that do not comply with buyers’ requirements, eliminating the need to cancel an invoice and resubmit it. Since data validation and compliance are done on the Nipendo platform, suppliers can be notified and correct the invoice before it ever reaches the buyer’s system
- Integrated Advanced Shipping Notice – Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) is a notification of pending deliveries, allowing the supplier to update a buyer with actual dates and quantities of shipped goods
- Real-time Supplier Visibility – Suppliers receive instant acknowledgment and confirmation that their invoice was accepted and processed correctly by the buyer. Suppliers then have real-time visibility to the status of the invoice, eliminating the need to contact a buyer’s Accounts Payable department
E-invoicing is an idea whose time should really be here. EDI is big and clunky and at the same time organizations have far more complex invoicing requirements. It strikes me however that the validity of a problem space and the success of a particular solution are two different things. Previous attempts to resolve this problem, either through e-invoicing or the promulgation of standard approaches towards invoice format have been less than stellar in their success. While many would put this down to the efficacy of the solutions at the time, much of the reason that this area has never really taken off is the fact that organizations generally have significant work flow built into invoice processing and payment – any solution which introduces an electronic version of invoicing without including flexible workflow around that invoicing is doomed to failure.
It’s interesting then that Nipendo is strongly articulating the workflow aspects of what it does – the key thing here will be for Nipendo to find a good balance between simplifying/automating the process, and delivering sufficient flexibility to allow customers to truly match the solution to their workflow. Nipendo is solving a real problem, and its approach seems to be the correct one. Time will tell if the world agrees with that analysis.