XU Magazine - Issue 17

Q&A with Neil Robertson CEO, Compleat

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XU: Hi Neil, it is great to finally catch up with you. I’ve heard Compleat has had a very exciting and busy year?

NR: Thank you, it’s great to be here with you, and yes, these are exciting times!

We’ve been working for the past couple of years on delivering the full release of our latest product, iCompleatInvoice and now with Xero accreditation. iCompleat is about to change the way businesses manage the accounts payable function forever!

XU: That sounds great, but what makes iCompleatInvoice so special?

NR: Our first release is iCompleatInvoice which is unique in the way it brings together the invoice capture, processing, approvals and reporting into a single platform, saving finance departments a huge amount of time and money.

But our focus has equally been on the benefits we can simultaneously deliver to MDs, directors and senior management through much faster and easier invoice approvals, query management. But most of all, the real time reporting on cash requirements and supplier management from the moment an invoice is received.
As a self-service product, it is incredibly easy to implement and utilise, but it always helps when all the senior management are equally keen to change!

XU: Looks like a completely new offering; what was the idea behind this product?

NR: The concept is in fact very mature, reflecting the 20,000 users of our eCompleat Purchase to Pay software which focuses on larger, more complex organisations and the £6.5bn of e-invoices we are already processing.

So the goal of iCompleat is to automate the same slow, manual, paper-heavy processes whilst improving spend visibility, productivity, accuracy and control, but at a price point that every business can both afford and justify.

We realised that most SME businesses require the agility and simplicity of a self-service platform, and then applied our knowledge, expertise and technology from our enterprise product suite to developing a product that achieves an incredible level of automation, but without the cost of consulting services to deploy.

XU: That makes sense, however, what benefits can businesses expect from this solution?

NR: Oh, where to start! Our objective was to automate every aspect of the accounts payable process that we could. That includes both the manual labour of dealing with paper but also

automation of the repetitive knowledge work.

iCompleatInvoice removes the need to handle any paper which saves all of the labour time to print, approve, scan and file invoices. However, iCompleat takes this one step further and enables the automation of a significant part of the knowledge work, as so many supplier’s invoices are always posted to the same department and nominal ledger codes and always approved by the same management.

By capturing every invoice as it is received, iCompleat makes every one of them instantly accessible to everyone that needs to know, retaining them as far into the future as required by securely storing them within our document management functionality.

This is delivering up to 90% more efficient processes, whilst delivering the senior management a very simple approval process and the real-time visibility of the status of every supplier, every invoice, including whether it has been paid and for then MD, real time cash requirements reporting.

iCompleat is also MTD compliant as we retain the full digital audit trial of every invoice through the process including the VAT treatment at invoice line level.

XU: I see, there’s quite a lot to gain from it then! Which takes me to: Which type of business would benefit the most from adopting this solution?

NR: Most of our customers are small and medium sized businesses that are growing and have an increasing number of people that order and approve the invoices. Plus, those organisations who currently have a bottleneck in the accounts department and want to automate rather than recruit more administration staff. But in reality, every business that has more than a couple of people ordering and approving invoices will benefit from having a transparent, streamlined process that saves everyone involved a great deal of time.

XU: Great, it seems to be perfect for a lot of UK businesses. I’d like to know now how easy is it to sign up and roll out this platform?

NR: It is extremely simple, you just click the link from Xero or iCompleat website and sign up for a 30-day free trial.

To make it even easier, the free trial includes a Xero “test” environment for users to play and get comfortable with the software.

When they are ready, linking their Xero accounts only requires a couple of clicks and the relevant Xero password!

Once linked, just add your users and approval processes and you are operational. Most organisations can be fully up and running in just a couple of hours.

XU: Sounds simple enough, but do you ever encounter any challenges to implementation?  If so, what are the biggest?

NR: Not from a technical perspective, but we’ve encountered significant challenges from an ideological perspective. People in general and especially finance folk are often reluctant to change, irrespective of the obvious productivity and cost benefits.

This has certainly been our biggest challenge, but from my own perspective, that has been true over the last 40 years of selling accounts automation, but eventually, when the benefits are so compelling, even the most reluctant are forced to make the change.

Today, it is changing the perception that all financial information should be kept hidden from the senior management team, apart from month end reporting which is out of date on delivery and well over a month out of date before it is updated.

We all live in a real time world where everything is instantly accessible, so it is about time finance was given the tools to catch up. The current manual processes can really damage a business.

XU: Why kind of damage are we talking about? Why is this resistance a problem?

NR:  When management need to make business decisions based on weeks or months old data, mistakes are made that come back to bite you. The most common are damaging relationships with critical suppliers through late payment, restricting cash flow because of insufficient credit limits with critical suppliers and the most obvious one of over committing the cashflow, simply because the information was not available on exactly what was already owed before a significant purchase was made.

But then there is the day to day risks which cannot be done manually as there simply is not time. Increasingly industrialised fraud requires more diligent checking of every invoice to validate the source of the invoice, the accuracy of the bank account information, the correct VAT number, stopping duplicate invoices that lead to duplicate payments, speeding up the approval process to enable timely payment – the list of why automated processes are better is endless.

We fully understand that people don’t like change, but in an increasingly competitive world, is there now any justifiable reason to hold the entire business back from a better way of working?

XU: Would you then say that on a national scale these attitudes affect competitiveness?

NR:  Without doubt! According to a report released by the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) at the end of 2017, the UK lags behind the rest of Europe in tech adoption. This means productivity and competitiveness is hit, so much so, that it is estimated that it would be possible for the UK to get a £100Bn boost to the economy if businesses embraced mobile, cloud computing, and automation platforms.

Business resilience is also affected as companies that can forecast and control spend to manage cash flow with full transparency will be more likely to withstand times of uncertainty than businesses whose manual processes leave them in the financial dark.

XU: I see your point now, so what does iCompleat do to ease this transition? 

NR:  We remove all the financial risk with our 30-day free trial and provide full access to all the product features and unlimited users. As it is important, every organisation can test processing invoices and check the speed and accuracy we deliver.

We are also growing a reseller channel, enabling these Partners to offer iCompleat to both their existing customers and help to win new ones. We offer attractive margins and the Partner can add consulting services where appropriate to enable their customers transform their accounts payable process.

In terms of commitment, we have flexible subscription plans on monthly or yearly payments and transaction credits with a long life (3 years). We also offer support and an extremely comprehensive knowledge base which can be accessed for help at any time.

XU: I see that you’ve really thought about the impact of this solution and worked to ease any challenges; have you taken extra steps to simplify the adoption for Xero users? 

NR: As a matter of fact, we have! iCompleatInvoice has made best use of the Xero integration capabilities which is delivered as part of every set up. Once linked, iCompleatInvoice accesses Xero suppliers and general ledger information to ensure every transaction is always allocated correctly and therefore posted successfully. However, the level of integration achieved is also used to: validate supplier information, including email addresses for the ever-increasing number of invoices sent this way, bank account details to reduce the risk of fraud, stop duplicate invoices even when an invoice was processed by iCompleat, but also posted direct to Xero right down to flagging whether an invoice has been paid.

It is truly a simple, seamless and better way of working.

XU: Why did you choose Xero as one of your main integrations? 

NR: Why wouldn’t we? I mean, Xero has changed the world of accounting for the SME with a beautiful, highly usable platform. My son uses Xero for his small business and is an absolute fan. Xero has helped him understand how to financially manage his business and the business is doing better because of it.

iCompleat takes growing Xero users to the next step in their evolution by automating the entire accounts payable function, saving them so much time whilst delivering real time information to everyone that needs to know.

Our ambition is to help every business be more efficient, effective, productive and enable smarter decisions, which Xero customers already understand.

XU: Wonderful! May I now take the conversation into the future, what can we expect from Compleat in the coming months? 

NR: iCompleatInvoice is just the beginning. Next year we will be adding iCompleatOrder free of charge to every existing user. We will also be rolling iCompleat out globally with multiple language support at user level. There is also an initiative to give iCompleat to every accounting practice for internal use free of charge for 12 months, although we do charge for processing e-invoices, as we believe every Practice that automates their paper-based invoice approval process will instantly become a convert and be in a far better position to accurately advice their client on the benefits of this new technology.

XU: That sounds very exciting! Can I be cheeky and ask for a timeframe?

NR: Ha ha of course you can! However, the best advice is stay tuned by registering at our new dedicated website, icompleat.com and be the first to know of these and other game changing announcements.iCompleatInvoice is just the beginning. Next year we will be adding iCompleatOrder free.

 

To find out more about iCompleat, please visit:

icompleat.com

 

 

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About the author

Neil Robertson & XU Magazine