Taulia: Putting Discounting First to Slip Under the e-Invoicing and SCF Radar (Part 3)

Please click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Beyond offering tools to enable suppliers to visualize the impact of discounts across standard terms (from invoice date to due date/maturity date) and plan cash needs through a cash planner interface, Taulia also provides suppliers with a common environment -- based on all of the customer organizations using the Taulia system on the buy-side -- with the ability to search for and manage invoices, POs and payment records. Users can search based on a range of fields, including customer, payment amount, invoice number (or PO number), etc. This information can be viewed onscreen or downloaded as a PDF (or in XML or CSV). While this information certainly falls under the "structured information" bucket, users can also append comments, notes and descriptions at the line/item level (or the invoice level). It's a clever means of providing value to suppliers that their own accounting and AR packages are unlikely to provide (and where information is accurate based on their customer's own systems data).

Within this portal environment, users can also maintain their contact information, banking details, etc. In a sense, this supplier self-service portal capability essentially serves as a replacement for a supplier information management toolset aimed at the AP organization (rather than supply risk, diversity, etc.). Given its hooks into SAP, it provides an "inside SAP-like", self-populating front-end to an SAP vendor master, which we all know lacks sufficient supplier self-service capability. And since suppliers must maintain accurate information to get paid, vendors are likely to police themselves in regards to maintaining data accuracy.

For suppliers in this environment, changing details, such as banking records, is a snap -- and includes verification steps along the way (e.g., after bank names, country details, account numbers and holder information is submitted, supplier self-service validation provides AP with a hands-off method of gathering and maintaining accurate information). What Taulia describes as the "vendor master cockpit" environment that allows users to manage supplier information presents the familiar supplier information management (SIM) green, yellow, red graphical status (which is sortable) by a range of criteria including status/alerts, description (e.g., TIN number updates, bank account updates -- the system also provides automated validation services in the US (TIN) and banking validation in both the US and Europe). The vendor master team simply verifies the uploaded proof documents against the data entered by the supplier and updates the vendor master with a click.

The entire supplier experience with Taulia is simple and has a very "Web 2.0" look and feel. Yet the buyer side is all SAP (Taulia even uses the same cheesy SAP corporate environment stock photos that SAP uses in their marketing on their logon screen). In fact, users might not even know they're switching from standard SAP and into the Taulia environment in part because there is no need to log-off of SAP (Taulia uses the same authentication). AP organizations are greeted with a screen straight out of their ERP environment with a range of information at their hands (detailed invoice information, SAP master code information, posting dates, etc.). However, unlike SAP, it's easy to append messages and additional information into a payment, invoice and/or supplier record field in an unstructured manner that still creates an auditable trail of records and communicates in quasi real-time directly to any connected supplier.

The most nifty and surprising aspect of Taulia's AP/buyer interface is how easy it is to create this rich trail of information -- not to mention the enabling capabilities -- while doing so in a true-blue SAP environment where POs and other information are just one-click away. Moreover, the ability to enable two-way recorded communications with suppliers and to tag these at a specific level (e.g., invoice, vendor, PO) as a simple one-click punch-out to the SAP-integrated environment itself is like nothing else we've seen in the market. At the same time, suppliers (and buyers) can also access features more typical of P2P environments, such as the ability for vendors to flip a PO into an invoice.

Yet beyond managing transactional information -- and the unstructured data associated with a transaction -- Taulia also enables AP organizations to analyze trending, activity and performance on both the supplier level and aggregate overall discounting records. These access points also provide a complete audit trail of all discounting related activities. There are also tools within the overall Taulia cockpit for treasury organizations to access the application for review and planning purposes. Such a treasury query could examine, for example, the cumulative benefits of a specific program and the relative cost of capital and balance sheet impact of the program.

Treasurers, controllers, AP and procurement stakeholders also have access to examining total available capital committed to a program or supplier (queries are granular) including looking at existing (and forecast) reserved liquidity, average terms accepted (by supplier or program) historically, average margins and costs per day (to the supplier and the liquidity impact) on the buying organization. Basic charting can allow users to graph and visualize, for example, the total cost of a program for a particular supplier, group of suppliers or aggregate returns looking at the benefits and costs as expressed in cash terms (US dollar, Euro, etc.) compared with the actual timeline (historic) or period specific.

Stay tuned as our analysis of Taulia continues.

- Jason Busch

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