Q: So Esker’s been around for quite a while, and you’ve been with them for more than 10 years - what’s the journey been like so far?
Well, one of the best things about it is that it’s a company that’s constantly innovating and changing. And in many ways the company that you see today is entirely different to the one that started out all those years ago. In fact, we’re really proud to be celebrating 30 years of Esker this year, so actually now’s a really great time to talk about the journey – and to be honest, I absolutely love it. I’ve been with Esker for around 12 years, and had connections via a previous company, for even longer. So it’s a firm I know well and have dealt with in one way or another for most of my career.
Q: In an industry where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd – what do you think is the main differential for Esker?
Yes, that’s true, and it’s quite difficult for those looking to implement a new solution to decide which is going to be the best for their own set of unique circumstances. And if you think about it, that makes perfect sense, deciding on what solution is going to work best is not necessarily a big part of a Finance Director’s day job. So that means the onus is on us, the providers to make that clear. I’ve been MD for around 3 years and really feel that our latest offering – AP Lite (the Esker AP Lite solution) offers something unique to the market. Essentially it’s aimed at SMEs that don’t necessarily need the full Enterprise solution, but at the same time need something that’s very quick to implement, and is flexible enough to scale up if the organisation needs it to. Perhaps a key differential for us as a company, is that the person who started it 30 years ago, is still on the Board and continues to play a pivotal role today. Esker isn’t a faceless corporate. It’s a company that thrives on challenge – but in a good way.
Q: And of course being an SAP Partner gives you great reach and leverage, but what about other platforms – Oracle etc?
Esker’s association with SAP goes back a long way – and of course, that does give us a broad reach – but we can work across many different ERP systems. Plus the beauty of AP lite is that if a company doesn’t have the time or the resources to implement a solution that plugs into their ERP, that doesn’t mean foregoing many of the other benefits of AP automation such as scanning archive and workflow. In fact, we’ve found that AP Lite addresses around 90% of an organisation’s requirements. It’s not going to be for everyone – but it will certainly fit the bill for most. And as I said earlier, it’s flexible enough to develop and so it can integrate with the ERP if need be at a later stage.
Q: One of the most common points of pain I come across is the tangled web of technology, with many of the solutions standing alone, and not perhaps talking to each other in the way an organisation would like – how does Esker overcome this challenge?
Well, yes – it’s a challenge. Organisations are not going get rid of legacy solutions so we have to work within that framework, trying to help streamline the processes as much as possible. We’re at an advantage at Esker because we don’t just offer an AP package; companies use us to remove the paper from other areas too, such as Accounts Receivable, Sales Order Processing and Purchasing. We spend a lot of time and money on providing a great user experience, so once someone’s got used to one area of the solution, getting to grips with another is usually a straightforward process.
Q: And what about your pricing structure, has that had to change to accommodate the shift in how organisations work?
Yes, of course. Like any organisation we have to adapt to the marketplace around us. So for the cloud solutions there’s a subscription fee, which is a monthly cost, based on a per page usage on a sliding scale.
Q: So, a little bit about you – as we know, you’ve been with Esker a while, so it’s obviously a good company to work for – what’s kept you there?
It’s such an agile company, one that’s always developing. And it may sound a bit corny, but we’re doing something worthwhile – and that’s a good feeling. Ultimately we’re helping businesses to save money, to keep the wheels of their businesses turning and to give them better visibility along the way. You’ve got to believe in what you do, and I think everyone here does – that’s why they stay.
Q: Ok, so finally – any predictions for the year ahead or more news for Esker?
We’ve got one or two things up our sleeve, yes! The roll out and delivery of the AP lite solution is very exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing that flourish. But on top of that we’ve recently launched a purchasing solution, though it’s still early days – it’s another string to our ever developing bow. About a third of the company are in R&D, so we’re able to develop and change very quickly. We support six languages out of the box, and from our bases in France UK, Spain, Italy, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Malaysia and the US – the future is likely to see Esker’s continued evolution and development of the solution and a further expansion into more countries.
Alistair Nicholas is Managing Director, Northern Europe at Esker